Thursday, 6 December 2012

100k London to Leighton GUC ultra

Just  a quick post on the weekend's long run. A friend decided it would be a good idea to get the first train from Leighton Buzzard to Euston (3:51am!!) and run back! So that's what ws did. On a freezing cold day we set out along the Grand Union Canal to cover the 100k route from London to Leighton.

Our strategy was to run 25 mins and walk for 5. It worked really well as we maintained a constant pace. At half way we hit the Tescos carpark in Rickmansworth where Rod and Steve's wives were waiting with a massive buffet lunch. Including ham and cheese sarnies, peanut butter and banana (lush!!!) malt loaf. We filled ourselves right up and set out for the second half.

My legs weren't working particularly well as they stiffened up a little in the break. It was fair to say that I slowed in the second half with my recent track marathon still in the legs.  I struggled on with Rod and Steve looking far fresher. At 40 miles in Hemel I was half considering jumping on the train back to LB. The relief would have been instant but I couldn't seriously consider letting the boys down. This was there very first ultra distance run and I was there to support them.

The last 20 miles weren't actually as bad as I imagined as I managed to get out of my funk and lift my spirits. I was enjoying myself again.

We continued the 25/5 run walk strategy through out which worked really well. With darkness falling we arrived back in Leighton Buzzard 12 1/2 hours after setting out from London. It felt very satisifying to get the job done. The boys were thrilled and so they should be. To complete a 100k run as your very first ultra distance run is amazing so very well done to Rod and Steve.

Its Wednesday now and my legs are recovering. It was great to get this final LONG run in before the year is out. I will relax in December and just tick over, and then start my UTMB training in January. 2013 is going to be the toughest year yet with one month separating the Lakeland100 at the end of July and the massive Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc at the end of August. It promises to be a very special year!!!

A very Merry Christmas to all (a little early I know but not sure when I will blog again...)

Monday, 19 November 2012

Track marathon

So what do you do three weeks after the Snowdonia marathon having got a new PB? Well run another marathon of course but with a difference...

I got up Sunday morning and to be honest was struggling to motivate myself for my usual long run. I didn't have anything specific planned and was wavering between staying in bed, playing with the children or going out for a slow plod. But I soon realised i needed something more to motivate me outside. So as a spare of the moment decision decided to hit the local track (an oval concrete path) which measures exactly 1/4 mile and run a marathon  (105 laps) Not only this but i also decided to really go for it and have a crack at my recent new PB. I would be a millionaire if i had a quid everytime someone has said how quick i could go if i ran a 'proper' marathon. What they mean by this is 'flat'. And so here was my chance to prove them right or wrong however you chose to look at it. More so though i was just doing this coz i thought it would be fun and a good mental challenge as well as physical.

There were of course no pre-race nerves or preparation. No worrying about what to eat for breakfast or whether I've drunk enough or too much. No dwelling over what to wear. No gels. Just me in my usual Sunday kit and two bottles of drink. Sometimes it the simple things in life that bring the most pleasure and this was one of those days.

My strategy was very simple. Aided by my Garmin i was to set out at 3hr pace and simply hold on. Without the pressure of screwing up in a big race i was free to take a risk and just see what i was capable of.

I'm not going to wax lyrical about the 105 laps around the track because there is little to say that will excite. I think my splits tell the story below. I completed the distance in 3:06.36. 11 minutes quicker than Snowdonia :-) i was thrilled with this result and really pleased with the equal effort i put into this run. Its amazing what you can achieve if you simply let yourself. It maybe unofficial but i think i had something to prove to myself on Sunday morning that i could run the kind of times that others have expected of me. All along i have said that i don't care about time but after a while it does grate on you a little especially when others can't relate a hilly marathon time like Snowdonia to a pancake flat London. And with that I can worry no more... Accept of course when 'they' will now say well.that not official so you have to prove yourself in a proper race now... That's road runners for you!!!!

Mile splits:
6:58,6:46,6:47,6:51,6:54,6:58,6:55,7:00,6:55,7:02,7:07,7:11,7:13,7:04,6:55,7:05,7:20,7:16,7:20,7:15,7:27,7:19,7:24,7:34,7:30,7:14,6:26 (last 0.2 miles).

Monday, 29 October 2012

Snowdonia Marathon race report

This weekend was my new annual pilgrimge to Llanberis in North Wales to take on the mighty Snowdonia Marathon (second year in a row). Its such an amazing marathon course that I see myself coming back again (and again) for many years to come.

This year caused much debate on the very lively SNOD RW forum due to the unusual weather conditions in that it wasn't going to rain! What to wear is usually an easy decision because every year its chucking it down from start to finish with gale force winds, hail etc etc so you just wore everything you had! The forecast this year was very very different. There was a big orange shiny thing in the sky radiating heat and light onto mount Snowdon. Weird! The temps however were on the low side making gear choice very difficult. You don't wanna wear too much and over heat but too little could be a disaster on the more exposed parts of the course. I packed for all scenerios and left the decision until as late as possible on race morning. I stepped outside the wonderful house that we were staying in on the high street to assess the temperature. It simply wasn't cold enough to justify the layers and woolly hat that I was planning to wear. In the end it was just lyrca shorts and T. Jacket and long sleeve top were useful for the walk to the start but disgarded before we set off. Wore gloves which I disgarded within a few miles and Buff around the neck which offered some protection from the light winds. Fuelling wise I had my new gel belt with 4 SIS gels. They worked a treat!

Everyone else in the house had left long ago but Nick (Ham) and I didn't want to hang around the start too long so left the short 1/2 mile walk up to the start line until just before 10 for a 10:30 start. It was a truly glorious morning with the sun shining. You simply don't get days like this at snowdonia very often so I made a mental note to make the very most of the 'ideal' race conditions. My target time was sub 3:20 which would better last year's time by 6 minutes or more. Quite ambitous perhaps but I was gonna give it my all.

We ventured right up to the starting arch and met a few known faces from the RW forum. Nick and I had 10 seconds of fame as we stood right next to the presenter of the welsh S4C marathon coverage as they filmed an intro segment that was broadcast last night. The atmosphere was fantasic and before long we were set on our way.

For those that don't know the course profile there are basically three 'signifcant' climbs. One at start (mile 2 to 5), one in the middle (mile 13 to 15) and at 22 miles they save the best for last. 2 miles straight up which is the steepest and toughest session.

Back to the start I was soon ascending Llanberis pass and holding a steady but keen pace. I reached the top with a 7:30mpm average pace. The views at the top of the pass over the valley before us were breathtaking thanks to the crystal clear morning. I tried to take it all in whilst keeping the pace as I quickly descended down the otherside.

Thanks to the next few miles of continuous descent I improved my avg pace further to 7:05 by mile 8. My gel strategy was to take one every 5 miles. The first one certainly did the trick as I picked my way along the first off-road section which is a continuous 1 mile descent. So much fun especially with the added caffine in my gel :-)

I hit halfway at Beddgelert in 1:33 in 104th place. 5 minutes ahead of my target pace. I would need that cushion as the 2 mile ascent out of Beddgelert was long and hard thanks to the constant steady climb and strengthing wind which was now head on and making the going extremely tough. This climb isn't too steep but just goes on and on zapping your energy. By mile 16 I was starting to suffer with my legs feeling heavy and right hamstring quite achey. Nevertheless I was still running sub 8 pace on the tough bits and closer to 7:30 on the flatter sections. I slogged out the miles on the twisting turning section between 17 and 22. This was undoubtedly where I had to dig deepest and not mess up. It helped that everyone immediately around me were evidently having their own battles too so I was able to slowly move up the field. Approaching Waunfawr at 22 miles marked a real turning point in my race. Despite the inevitable climb ahead I was actually really looking forward to this part the most. I had visualised it many times in my preparation for the race and I think this triggered me into action and find another gear that I didn't think I had as I approached Waunfawr. You have to experience this climb to believe it. Describing it simply wouldn't do it justice. It doesn't 'belong' in a road marathon and positioned at mile 22 I think this is what really sets Snowdonia apart from any other road marathon in the toughness stakes.

I took 5 seconds to stop and gulp down an electrolyte drink and gel at the aid station at the foot of the climb. It did the trick and I flew up without hesitation passing many more ahead. I knew that the finish was getting closer and closer and this propelled me forwards and upwards. The 24 mile marker marks the top of the climb where it flattens out for 1/2 mile or so before descending for a full out assort off road and downhill all the way to the finish. I was like a man possessed. Unlike last year where the rain made this section impossible to 'let go' and descend without fear this year was different. I blasted down at full tilt overtaking many who weren't so willing to disengage the brain. The final part goes back on road and gets even steeper in some sections as my toes were rammed into the front of my trainers.

The garmin gave up the ghost at 24.2 miles exactly so I have worked out that my final two miles were run at 6 minute avg pace probably with the 26th mile being the faster of the two. You certainly can't say that about many marathon finishes. Because of the broke garmin I didn't have any idea what time I was on for. I hadn't looked at the time since halfway (only looking down at the occassional mile split) so I would have to wait until the finish line clock came into view. I swung around the final corner onto Llanberis High Street and flew along the final 200yrds. I love a sprint finish and was quickly gaining on a chap infront. He knew the game too so we both cranked it up another gear and hammered it along. And just then I spotted the rather small official clock to the right of the finish line. Wow 3:17! I had no idea I was on for this time and the grin across my face was wider than Snowdon itself! What a rush. I finished in 71st position out of 2,200 or so starters. I'll take that :-)

I can't recommend this marathon enough! For anyone that likes their races a bit different to the boring flat roads common with marathons then this one is for you! I'll be back next year for sure.

My mile splits were as follows;
Mile 1 - 5: 6.41; 6.56; 7.37; 8.13; 7.49
6 - 10: 6.06; 5.58; 6.51; 7.19; 7.15
11 - 15: 7.18; 7.18; 7.15; 8.13; 8.51
16 - 20: 7.56; 7.28; 7.45; 7.38; 7.39
21 - 24: 7.57; 8.03; 9.58; 9.27
25 & 26.2; 6.00; 6.00 (avg pace)

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

SNOD training update

I touch wood as I say this but I don't think my marathon training has ever gone as well as it has/is this time around. Previously I have trained just as hard but the timing has been off and I either peaked too early or worn myself out prior to race day. This year things feel different and it all seems to be coming together very nicely indeed. I'm two weeks out from SNOD now and just finished my biggest week of training - 72 miles in 7 days. This included two sub 2:30 20 mile training runs of the hilly Leighon 10 course which has been my playground over the past month or so. My pace is the best its ever been and I think I'm finally finding the missing part of the jigsaw to my running - speed endurance. Definitely something that was absent in past campaigns.

The trick now is to consolidate my training in the final 2 weeks without going over the edge. I'm dropping the mileage but will be keeping up the intensity in all my remaining sessions. Last night I completed a 6 mile blast around the track in the dark with metal music pounding my ear drums. It was great and my perceived effort was low considering I maintain just over 6 minute miling all the way. Today is another track session. This one will consist of 10 x 400m reps. Should be fun.

So all being well I would like to think that I can better last years PB of 3:26 and go sub 3:20 which for SNOD would be awesome! But the greatest unknown will be the weather and if history is anything to go by it doesn't usually favour the PB hunter....

Monday, 8 October 2012

SNOD Training - 3 weeks to go

Training for SNOD has been a bit hit and miss of late. I managed to go down with Tonlislitis a few weeks ago which was terrible timing as I was just starting to get into my training and had logged my first 20 miler. That was 3 weeks ago. I then lost 2 weeks of training time and missed out (again) on running our club Leighton 10 race. The third year in a row this has happened.

Anyway fast forward to the present day (or yesterday to be more accurate) and seemingly fully recovered I hit the Leighton 10 mile loop. This is not a flat course with plenty of testing undulating parts and a few short sharp climbs thrown in too. It was a cold foggy start so I wrapped up warm in 3 layers, gloves and hat and set out to run 2 laps of the course. This was make or break time now as I have little time left to train and so wanted to know what kind of shape I am in. So the plan was simple. This wasn't a LSR instead I would run it pretty much in race mode.

My target finish time was between 2:20-2:30. But that could be wildly optimistic. The first loop was much harder than I had counted on. My breathing was hard and my pace not quite where I wanted it. I completed the first loop in 1:14 (7:25mpm pace). 25 secs per mile off where I ideally wanted to be but the hills took some of this time and it was still a soild first 10 miles. The second 10 miles would be tougher but I dug deep and was determined not to let my average pace drop below 7:30mpm. I ran the second loop in reverse to keep things more interesting and attack the hills from the opposite direction which was definitely harder on some sections.
I just focused on one mile at a time running hard and keeping my pace high. It worked and whilst I was getting weary I held my pace, attacked the hills and maintained a good pace on the flats. I finished in 2:28 and maintained a 7:25mpm avg pace for the 20 miles. I was dead pleased with the way I ran the second 10 miles, whilst hopefully bodes well for my speed endurance at SNOD. So maybe just maybe I'm still in with a shot of challenging my PB (3:26) set at SNOD last year but its not going to be easy.

I'm planning to maintain the intensity of my training over the next 2 weeks and only really thing about tapering in the final week. Hopefully this way I will arrive on the start line in race form. We shall see....

Monday, 17 September 2012

Bucks 100 race report

I've lost track of what week it is in my SNOD training schedule mainly because I don't have a schedule. Nevertheless after last week's uneventful week due to work commitments I was back pushing myself to my limits on Sunday. It was the Bucks100 (miles) cyclesportive which I was riding on the EllitptiGO with my mate Dave who was pacing me on his Canyon carbon racer. I wanted to go sub 7hrs which is an average speed of 15mph. There were 3 stops on route for fueling and filling water bottles. We only planned to stop at one of them at half way to refill are bottles. We had everything else we needed in terms of gels and bars. It was a good route through rural buckinghamshire passing through many villages and hamlets. We covered the first 50 miles with an avg speed on 16mph which was well ahead of target pace. I wanted to push as hard as I could go and thats exactly what I was doing. The second 50 miles was inevitably a lot tougher not because of the terrain which was actually flatter than the first 50 but the head wind which was constantly in your face. My legs were definitely feeling it by now too.
However we pressed on and after a bit of a purple patch where my pace dropped to 12mph I found a second wind with 20 miles left to go. I pushed on now joined also by Alan who we had caught up with who is a fellow ElliptiGO rider. Its always fun riding with others especially at this stage in the race when everything is hurting.
The course was actually measured at 101 miles but I wanted to know my 100 mile split so kept an eye on the Garmin which we completed in exactly 6h:30m. I was well please with that. Six minutes later dave and I crossed the finish line. It was job done, a new PB and the second fastest 100 mile time in ElliptiGO history! Only bettered by the co-founder and CEO of ElliptiGO. I'll take that.

Its the Leighton 10 in two weeks time so its a bit more of the same with more speed sessions planned whilst also turning my attention to the long runs with just 6 weeks to go til SNOD

Monday, 10 September 2012


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Saturday, 25 August 2012

SNOD Week 1 Marathon training

With the summer of Ultras now just a distance memory I'm looking ahead with much excitement at the prospect of returning to what is easily the BEST marathon in the UK - The Snowdonia Marathon!! Ok so I haven't run that many UK marathon but Runners World readers agree with me voting it the best marathon in 2011 and for very good reason.

My recovery from my recent trail adventures has been swifter than I had imagined so this has meant that I was able to launch into marathon training mode 1 or 2 weeks ahead of the plan which means that I have (had) a full 10 weeks to prepare my body and mind for all that snowdonia will throw at me.

My training plan for the 10 weeks is to get in 4/5 runs per week and keep the consistency high which has been so lacking from my training throughout the whole of 2012. In Week 1 finishing today I completed the following:

Last Sunday - (first run since NDW100) 12 miles slow/steady at 9mpm pace
Monday - Rest day
Tuesday - Speed session. 4 miles. splits: 6.00, 5.45; 6.34: 6.34
Wednesday - 2 runs. Lunchtime 5 mile  recovery run/ Evening club run steady 7 miles
Thursday - Rest day
Friday - Speed session on track - 5 miles in 30:14!! Splits: 6:10, 6:03, 6:06, 6:04, 5:52
Saturday - Rest Day

Total mileage for the week is 34.

The 30:14 five miler yesterday around the track was a total surprise. I never thought I was anywhere near this pace so this has given my confidence a nice boost and showed me that despite my lack of training and zero speed training in recent months (possibly the whole of 2012!) I haven't lost nearly as much as I thought I had.

Bring on week 2 of training

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

North Downs Way 100 Race report

The start of the North Downs Way 100 (Mile 0)

DNFs are like buses... You don't see one coming and then two come along at once! And this is the painful reality of what I have had to endure over the past 6 weeks with a DNF in the SDW100 (83 miles), hotly followed by another in the NDW100 (90 miles!) this past weekend. However the key difference with the NDW is that I never gave up and pushed all the way to the end (the end being the 90 mile aid station where I missed the cut off). This is despite being in far far worst state physically than I was in the SDW. In fact the contrast was so great physically and in pace that I will never know what possessed me to pull from the SDW when I was doing so well. In contrast I was not doing well in the NDW in the latter stages yet persisted as every ultra-runner should when it matters most (this is what we sign up for after all isn't it!?).

But anyway that was the prologue which rather gave the ending away I know however I'm gonna skip back through the race from start to finish so that no one reading this makes the same mistakes I did out there so here goes: Pre-race training: (and mistake no.1) is that you really must train for a 100 miler. Sounds daft and obvious but its true. I didn't and hell did I pay for it. I wasn't trying to be a super hero or thinking I was invinsible or anything. I simply decided that I would test the limits of the ElliptiGO as a cross-training device and use this exclusively in the 6 week lead up to the race between the SDW and NDW. Part of this was recover time anyway. This is not to say that the GO isn't great though or let me down. It is awesome and a fantastic cross trainer that definitely boosts fitness and performance (just not on its own). It can't replace running or the training effects that the body gets when running. There was one simple reason why the NDW trashed my body and thats because it wasn't use to the 'impact' of running after such a long break. The GO is zero impact so whilst it strengthens muscles and boosts lung/heart strength through high intensity exercise it doesn't teach the muscles or body to adapt or cope with the impact you experience when running (nothing can!) This is why at 40 miles and 9 hrs into the race my quads were already trashed from the impact on the ups and downs. So in future its back to what worked for me so well in 2011 which is to mix up the running and ElliptiGO sessions. Together they are stronger than either one in isolation.So to race day and I was feeling ready for it. I was full of confidence and targetting a sub 24hr finish again as I always have and will, but failing that I simply wanted to finish at all costs (or so I thought). I wasn't going to go out hard like I did in the same race last year (finished 7th overall in 22:51). I held back this time and happily watched what felt like the entire field pass me in the early stages. These early stages include the infamous Box Hill which was the scene of recent dissapointment for TeamGB cycling and Cav! I love it though and enjoyed the challenge of climbing the 200 odd steps to the top (but then the climbing actually continues some more after them!!). The views at the top were awesome.

Top of Box Hill (26 miles in)

As it turned out I was positioned exactly mid pack in the first half of the race and I wasn't as far back as I thought. However I knew that I was still having to work harder than expected even to maintain a very conservative 11 mpm pace. However there was worst to come. In fact the pace that I thought I had been running and maintaining over the first 30 miles to Reigate Hill wasn't 11mpm like I had calculated in my mind but a minute per mile slower.

Reigate Hill @ 31 miles in
I had made up a pace band for the race which I always do. This had splits for each aid station for 10/12/14 mpm pace. However sweat washed off some numbers and for some reason I started reading off the 12 mpm splits thinking they were 11. To the point where I was convinced that I could keep this pace going and actually PB the course. Haha how wrong was I on that one. So anyway I eventually worked out that I was infact going much slower than I had thought but quickly put this to the back of my mind and carried on moving forward abet still at a slow(ing) pace.

Enjoying some melon at Botley Hill (43 miles in)

I could feel the effort I was putting in wasn't something that I could sustain (even with the Melon!) and knew that I would be walking in the latter stages of the race. I accepted this early on I think which probably helped prepare me for the inevitable. I reached the half way aid station to the cheers of my mum and dad in 11:30hrs. 2.5hrs slower than 2011! Ouch. That is a huge difference and has highlighted to me just how good a run I had last year (better than I had thought at the time).

Halfway at Knockholt Pound (50 miles in)

I filled up with pasta, hot dogs, chocolate milk, and tea and prepared my mind for the next 50 miles to come which were quite clearly going to take a lot longer than it had taken me to cover the first 50. Just as I was leaving so were 3 other runners and I quickly joined them as I was already thinking about the night stage and not wanting to particularly run alone. John, Dan (john's pacer) and Russell were great company over the following stages and hours and made the time and distance go much faster than it would have otherwise. We were all in similar shape so the pace we settled into suited everyone, and I was so relieved I found a group that I could keep up with as I was not moving particularly well.

All three of them were also local to Kent and knew the towns and villages we were running through and some of the trail. This was a real bonus navigationally because whilst the NDW is well marked with the National Trail Acorn finger posts it is very easy to miss one in the dark when your head is down and ploughing on through. Russell's local knowledge especially saved us on two distinct occassions and almost certainly saved us walking (which we were doing a lot by this point as it approached midnight) many extra miles which would have been extremely hard to take.

Me, Russell, John and Dan.... thanks guys!
The fact remained however that every mile was painfully slow and whilst we slowly racked up the miles so did the time as hours would past by one by one by one. Its at this point that you start doing the maths based on your predicted avg pace and what distance you have left to cover to work out time left on the course and predicted finish times. Sub 24hrs was long gone, but we were all confident of finishing in nearer 26hrs as we continued on our way along the North Downs Way racking up close to 65-70 miles by this point.

By now my pace was the worst in the group and I was just hanging on to Dan, John and Russell. But they never left me too far behind and didnt make me feel like I was holding them up. This is the camaradie you often find in ultra running which is so nice.
Dan the pacer left us after 20 or so miles and so John, Russell and I continued on our way with them still out in front and me clinging on. This pattern continued all the way to the 76 mile aid station where surprisingly Russell dropped due to a very painful ankle and knee which he did well to cover up as He was still moving faster than me. I had the decision there are then to carry on or drop. I made a right meal out of this and sat there for a good while nursing my aching limbs in a comfy camping chair sipping hot tea and contemplating whether to continue. John had already gone ahead with some other runner as was faster than me. So in the end I latched on to another group and set off into the deep dark night. I didn't stick with them very long as I shuffled along trying to immitate a runner but failing badly. Even my walk was laboured by this point as the sole of my right heel was painful with each step. However I simply continued one foot in front of the other. This was all I could do.
Those 6 miles to the 82 mile aid station took forever for me and I was a broken man when I arrived at the warm cricket club pavillion just as dawn was breaking. All I wanted to do was stop, lie down and sleep. And this is what I did taking up a comfy spot on the bench sofa.

The bench sofa in question and what killed my race! (82 miles in)

Mistake no.2! Never lie down! EVER. The will to continue was draining away from me but I composed myself drunk lots of tea got my drop bag and changed my t-shirt and socks. Had a choco mik and was going to go when I got a call from my mate Glyn who was also out of the course. I knew he was behind me and it turned out he reckoned about 2 miles from the aid station I was at. So I agreed to wait for him so we could run the remaining sections together. But when I agreed to this I wasn't quite aware of the cut-offs and how close we were getting to them. I waited and waited and when Glyn eventually appeared who then needed some convincing to continue at all I had been at this aid station for an hour. This was time that I simply could not afford to lose and it turned out to be the fatal error in my race. Glyn and I left the 82 mile aid station at 6am only 25 minutes ahead of the cut off. The next 8 mile section was extremely tough with very narrow single track and loads of steep steps up and down. It took us 3h:43m to complete this section but the 90 mile cut off was at 9am. We had missed it by 43 minutes and our race was over but we were still smiling.

Me and Glyn at 'our' finish (90 miles in and 27:43 on the clock!)

I only have myself to blame for the decisions I took out there. It was actually great to run the last section with Glyn but ultimately the time I lost cost me my race and third belt buckle. The game plan I should have had going into the race which I have been very good at sticking to in previous Ultra's is to get in and out of aid stations as quickly as possible however crap you are feeling its still best to load up with food and move on. Otherwise you can get caught up in your own self-pity. I was there to run and finish this damn race and not DNF so its so annoying post race to look back and see how much time I wasted at aid stations. In total well over 2hrs would be my estimate which I simply couldn't afford to do. I will and have learnt from this experience as I have every other which I will take into future events better and much wiser. For now though thats it for 2012 as far as ultras are concerned.
The next big race is the Snowdonia Marathon at the end of October. Once fully recovered I will only have 8 weeks to train for this but I will give it my best shot and try to better my 3:26 pb set last year on the same course. That is going to be an extremely tough ask as my base fitness is not where it was this time last year (the 7hr difference in NDW finish time is testament to this). But hey I'm forever the optimist!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

North Downs Way 100 pre race preparation

Well this is it... The North Downs Way 100 is this weekend! :-) Just 6 weeks after my DNF on the South Downs Way. One might imagine that I've been getting in the miles and training extra hard in this interim period to improve my chances of a finish and fast time. Well actually I've taken a competely different tact and essentially done a 6 week taper. During this period I've run just once and that was down to the bike shop to pick up my new Trek. Instead I've been logging some major mileage on my ElliptiGO. Over 600 'no impact' miles since the SDW. This included a 100 mile event which I completed with 6 other ElliptiGO riders which was great fun. Those 600 ElliptiGO miles translate to 220 'running' miles which by my reckoning should therefore see me in good form come the start line on Saturday.

So instead I beating myself up and wasting precious energy going into NDW I'm feeling strong and fresh and am hoping that my cross-training strategy will pay off. By pay-off I mean that: 1 - I will finish. 2 - that the wheels don't fall off after 70 miles, and 3 - possibly go sub 24hrs. I would dearly love another '1 day 100 miles' belt buckle to add to the two I already have. The SDW was an inevitable blip on my ultra running record and I hope that I can puts things right in 5 days time. But whatever happens I WILL FINISH!

You can follow the race live on with updates at every aid station.


Saturday, 7 July 2012

South Downs Way 100 (83.3) race report....

That's me centre shot all in blue actually leading the SDW100 for 10 metres!! :-D
Well where to begin... This was most definitely not the outcome I was expecting. I went into this race full of confidence and came away from it with my first DNF! argh.... This race went from awesome to disaster in a very short space of time. What I want to do is to go back through events that led up to the point where I pulled myself from the race to understand where it all went so very wrong and see what I can learn from it for next time.....
The South Downs Way 100 mile ultra race goes from Winchester to Eastbourne with 12000ft of ascent along the way with as much descent too!

REASON 1 for my downfall - smashed quads and steep/long descents do not go well together. I camped the night before and got about 3-4 hrs sleep max (REASON 2 - lack of sleep). My alarm was set for 4:30 to give me enough time to cook up some porridge on the camping stove. That was lush. I was keen to get going and thoroughly looking forward to the race. The race started at 6am. Soon after the start the heavens opened but only for a short period. Enough to get a good drenching but we soon dryed out with the sun shining once again. I soon got into my stride and settled in for a long day out of the Downs.

The views over the South Downs were stunning

The first 50 miles went by without incident. I was working quite hard but it didn't feel unsustainable. Even my left foot which I was slightly concerned about going into this race was of no cause for concern. I felt good and was running with a group of runners in the first half including a chap called Ken Fancett wore number 62 and is also 62yrs old! He finished the TP100 in 20h:32mins!! (2 hours quicker than I did) and he finished this race 67 seconds quicker than his TP time in 9th place overall. Unbelieveable!! I tried to stick with Ken for as long as I could knowing who he was. I would gain and take him on the climbs and the descents but his pace on the flats was a couple of notches quicker than mine and I just couldn't keep up. Neverthess I got into the 54 mile checkpoint at Washington in good spirits in 10hrs 16mins. My average pace was 11:15mpm and I was in 25 position out of 163 starters. I was flying!! 

Coming into the Washington 54 mile aid station

Refuelling at Washington with a good cuppa and drop bag

My stats up to Mile 54

Dist          Time          Leg Dist  Leg Pace   Rank
9.8            01:40         9.8          10:12        34
22.6          03:57         12.8        10:42        45
27.2          04:54         4.6          12:25        25
35.1          06:15         7.9          10:14        25
41.7          07:49         6.6          14:15        25
50.1          09:24         8.4          11:19        27
54             10:16         3.9          13:29        25

I exiting Washington a bit slower than I arrived as my legs after 15 minutes or so of inactivity were feeling a little more fatigued. From here I can't remember much of the route but it continued to climb and descent regularly (as I did from the very start) and my pace dropped off between each aid station little by little and then by a lot. However I wasn't actually losing position by as much as I thought I might. My parents were out supporting me too and met me at various CPs along the way including Clayton Windmills (Jack and Jill) at mile 69.8. I was 70- miles in and very weary upon arrival but their support buoyed my mood momentarily. In the previous 3.2 mile section my average pace was 16:34.

Clayton Windmills at mile 69.8 (trekking poles NOT walking sticks!!)
I wrapped up as the wind was blowing and continued on. But the coat soon came off again as I warmed up with the sun still shining. At this point I was doing the maths and thinking that at the speed I was now moving a sub 24 hour finish was looking more and more of a challenge. But rather than using this as motivation to press on and pick up the pace I simply didn't have it in me and continued to plod on getting slower and more down beat with my lack of progress. My position out of Clayton Windmills was 32nd so despite the drama going on inside my head the reality was that I was still doing a lot better than I thought. My positioning simply didnt matter to me though. What mattered was a sub 24 finish and this had a dramatic and unexpected effect on me.There was no Plan B and I simply found it impossible to refocus my goals. As my legs too became heavier and my pace continued to slow the realisation that I was still gonna be out here for a good while longer starting to dawn on me.

As the sun went down and the darkness descended this didn't help either. The 6.8 mile section between Clayton Windmills and Housedean Farm took me 2h13min (avg pace 19:34mpm). Throughout this section the thought of dropping was preying large on my mind. My quads were trashed and mentally I was a mess. I had given up all hope of a sub 24 hr finish even though doing the maths now in the cold light of day it was potentially still on. At Housedean Farm I took a long break and told the volunteers that I was thinking of dropping. What hadn't occurred to me was how long I would have to wait to get back to the finish if I did drop. It was only 10:30pm and the sweep up bus would be over a 8hr wait! The best they could offer was to crash in the back of one of the volunteers car until then. That wasn't very appealing. I had two hot coffees and a few bits to eat and ploughed on into the darkness.
An earlier Aid Station with a good section of fuel!!
It was the next section from 76 miles to 83 miles that put an end to my misery. On the flats I could hardly muster a shuffle, the downs were impossible (or at least that's what my mind was telling me!). On the ups I was still moving as quick as most aided by my trekking poles which were great for the climbs. Nevertheless it was my sheer lack of will to continue for whatever reason and lack of mental toughness that saw me drop at the next aid station. I was utterly relieved that is was over. There was no sense of dissapointment or shame at that point that I had quit. It was what it was and my race was over. My pace for the last section was 22mpm. My splits from Washington to Southease aid station where I dropped were as follows.  

Total     Total    Leg     Leg

Dist       Time    Dist    Pace   Rank
54         10:16    3.9      13:29   25
61.2      12:10    7.2      15:45   29
66.6      13:27    5.4      14:16   29
69.8      14:20    3.2      16:34   32
76.6      16:33    6.8      19:34   38
83.3      19:00    6.7      21:56   51 (DROP)

I was in 51st place when I dropped so dispite my anguish and constant lows I was still in the top third of the field. How strange then that I decided enough was enough. Even the lure of finishing my fourth 100 wasn't enough to make me want to continue. And there was the small matter of the Grand Slam in 2012 which was my ultimate goal to complete all 4 Centurion Running 100s. This hadn't even crossed my mind once during the race and hardly entered my reasoning for continuing. I look back now and am gutted that I didn't weigh this element up a bit more in my mind. My Grand Slam dream is over and with it the GS buckle slips through my fingers.

Had it been my first 100 I know I would have finished it for sure. That I am 100% certain. So therefore it seems that simply completing a 100 is not enough of a reason to go on when the pain really starts to kick in. Sub 24 was all that mattered.... AND THIS WAS MY BIGGEST MISTAKE. I was too narrowly focused on this one goal without any thought to a Plan B that I could call upon when things really got tough. I was so certain of running sub 24hr that it hadn't even occured to me that I would need a back up plan. So going into the NDW100 in 5 weeks time you can be certain that I WILL have a plan B and probably a plan C, D and E too. One thing is for certain and that is that I WILL finish the NDW100. I have no idea what time I will run and I don't care but I will finish and I will finish.

A few other things I have learnt from this run:
- music may have helped me when I got really low and couldn't kick myself out of it so next time I will have an emergency ipod shuffle in the pack (next to the emergency blanket) just in case
- if someone offers to run with you when you are about to throw in the towel take up their offer cos you won't regret it!!!! A fellow runner and CR Grand Slammer offered me exactly this when I dropped but I simply refused to listen to him. I'm very sorry Alan!!! You so very nearly saved me
- never decide to drop between aid stations. I did and this was the nail in the coffin. Get to the aid station first. Sit down, drink, eat, take time out to recuperate. Take 30 minutes if you need to BUT don't drop
- Have a back up plan!!!!
- Don't get fixated by time goals!!! OR Bucklemania!!
- Enjoy it out there....


Sunday, 17 June 2012

SDW100 training update

Its just 2 weeks until the SDW100 - my 2nd 100 of 4 in the Centurion Running Grand Slam 2012. Preparation and training has been going well within the time I can commit to training. In the last three weekends I have done a 42 miler, 30 and 41 so i'm pleased with that. The 41 miler was on the Friday which was a test run for the SDW and all the kit I would take. This included the treking poles which I used for the first time. They take a little getting use to but after that felt like they were helping to manage speed and form. But its on the climbs where they really excel and I'm hoping will make the difference on the big climbs on the South Downs Way. I set off at 7pm on Friday and the plan was simple - to run an out and back from my house joining the Ridgeway national trail turning around after 6 hrs. It was a good run/walk and everything I took worked really well. This included the bladder which will replace the hand held bottles which arent an option with the poles. I also invested recently in some new The North Face shorts and Tech T 'better than naked' series which are awesome. The shirt stays so dry.

I also tested my pacing strategy for the SDW which is to run 25mins and walk 5mins from the start. This I hope will keep me going far longer and more consistently at an even pace without the dreaded 'ultra plod' through the night. Not much more to say really other than that - I'm really looking forward to it and feeling like a 100 PB is on the cards. The terrain may dictate this to a certain extent but sub 22hrs would be great and sub 21hrs simply awesome. Not sure I'm anywhere near fit enough to get near the 20hr mark especially after James Elson (CR race director) said this would likely put me top 10. A little too ambitous I feel (but you never know what will transpire out there).

Tapering for 2 weeks now as the legs are fatigued from the recent long run. I will continue to ride the ElliptiGO to work once a week which is a 60mile round trip and a fantastic workout.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Round MK Relay race report

This is a very quick report on yesterdays Round MK Relay. In short this was a 31 mile course around Milton Keynes which consisted of four separate legs. The first two (10m and 5m) were mainly on hard surfaces - roads, riverside and canal path, whilst legs 3 and 4 were on muddy trails and water logged fields. Shoe choice was made tricky for this reason but in the end it was made for me. My trail shoes which I was gonna wear simply werent comfortable and rubbed my heel so I had no alternative but to wear my post-race shoes for the actual run... my Brooks racing flats! They certainly wouldn't have been my choice but they actually worked out well.

I ran the first two legs comfortably in 8 minute miling up to 15 miles and then hit the trails. This obviously slowed me down especially in the brooks but still comfortable. I was enjoying every second and the race was going well. 18 teams were running and all were chasing me down as I (the only soloist) started first. Others started based on their predicted finish time. The idea being all to finish at 13:30. I was fuelling well on nuun and gels and feeling good for the finish. After lots more mud, water and cow poo I made it first over the finish line in 4h37. A great training run and thoroughly enjoyable. Happy to get 30 miles (31.37m) under the belt and feeling ok today with no injuries.
The real suprise was the Brooks Green Silence. The longest I had run in them was a half marathon so this was quite a bit further. My feet felt like though and I definitely think my running style is improving thanks to all the miles I'm putting in in minimlist shoes. In fact the last 71 miles I've run were in the Merrells or Brooks. So is this the death for the conventional shoe... Its too early to say but I'm certainly enjoying my running in them. That said I have also just acquired some Salomon Crossmax which are a hybrid road/trail shoe with a chunky heel. Gonna wear them in two weeks time on the GUCR and will report back on how they are....

Training and race update...

This post offers a quick round up of the past two weeks since the Fellsman and a few thoughts on training and race strategy as I begin to focus on my next 100.

I took a whole week off immediately following the Fellsman to fully recovery both from the exersions and niggle to my right heel. Just a little sore thats all. Then it was off to Hungary with the family for a week and a bit (I write this as we drive (not me) to Budapest airport). To save space in the luggage I could only bring one pair of trainers so it had to be the Merrell Trail Gloves. Small, light and perfect for a bit of low mileage running. I've been wanting to do a few more miles in them and the track around the local lake in Gyor offered the perfect opportunity. With so little consistent running (really since the TP100 in March) my goal was to get most days. And I managed this for 6 from 8 days. For the most part taking it nice and easy completing a 6m on 4 days, a 10m and a 7m.

The 7 mile was a bit different as I decided to run a single mile as hard as I could. Something I've never actually done before so I was keen to know what my fastest mile was. I jogged 2 miles around the track to warm up and then hit the GO button. 1 mile was pretty much exactly 3 laps of the lake. I wore the Garmin to measure distance and pace. I went out too hard on the 1st lap, died on the 2nd as I felt my legs fading badly, but held on in the 3rd. I really didn't have a clue about what pace I could run and was quite happy with 5:15. Had I paced it a little better I think I could have got quite close to a 5 minute mile. What this little experiment brought home to me was just how fast the Elite marathon runners are going! They go FASTER than this for all 26.2 miles! Unbelievable! We all know what pace they run but these are just numbers which most of the time mean very little. So I urge you to go out there and run a single mile as hard as you can to see what I'm getting at.

There is also a local oval track (abet concrete) at home so I'm gonna keep up these mile sessions now on... perhaps once every 2-3 weeks to see where I can get to. My first aim will be to break 5 minutes.

The second experiment I tried as part of this 7m session was to walk a mile as fast as I could. So after a mile recovery following my 5:15 effort I walked a mile and managed a 10:59. Not bad for walking! There was a reason for doing this partly just down to curiosity and also to start to establish what an optimimal race strategy might be for my next 100. I'm coming to realise that running Ultras is about completing the distance in the most efficient way possible, not neccesarily about the 'fastest' or 'just getting around' but to do so in a way that has you moving at optimum efficiency throughout. In all my previously 100s I have slowed down too much in the second 50 so my quest is to find the balance between slowing down my running (a little) in the first 50 but also speeding up my walking which together I think will reduce my overall time and get me closer to sub 20hrs which is my ambitous goal for 2012. Hence the reason for the mile walk experiment. I've always been a fast walker and seem to power hike hills quicker than those around me in races so this is where I think I can further improve. Furthermore following on from a chat with a chap post Fellsman we were talking about UTMB and the virtues of using poles. He was a big advocate of them and got me thinking about introducing them as part of my ultras to maximise my walking speed and to improve my overall efficiency on the move. Hence I've bought some out here in Hungary and am looking forward to seeing how I can incorporate them as part of my training and racing. I plan to use them for the SDW100 in June and if all goes well they may well become a key feature of future races.

Utimately my focus here and the use of poles is for UTMB2013 where I have a guaranteed entry. They are I'm led to believe not only absoluetly invaluable on the long and steep climbs but also assist on the descents as well building confidence and helping with footing. We shall see...

Next up is the MK Relay race this Sunday. This is a 4 leg relay on road and trail. 19 teams are competing over the 31 mile route including 4 teams from LBAC. I'm running it solo as a training run to build up the mileage. It will be at a very conservative pace so as not to over do it. Plus the following Sunday I just arranged to pace a new friend (chap I met on TP100) in the 145m GUCR. It passes through Leighton Buzzard at 95 miles so I've tenatively planned to run the 'final' 50 miles in support. Its a relaxed arrangement with no pressure on me to have to do the full 50, but I'm sure once I'm out there I will be there til the finish! The GUCR isnt a race that i've been too keen to enter myself but I figure that this small taster will provide an ideal opportunity on which to base any future decision to take part. I'm also going to try out the poles to see what assistance they can provide on the flat.

So thats me sorted for the next few weeks....

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Fellsman race report

The Fellsman Returns...

This was an epic race of all proportions made even tougher by the worst conditions in the event's 50 year history. I say this on the grounds that this year was the first time they have ever had to abandon the race whilst many were still out on the course. More on this later....
I met up with Nick Ham (my Fellsman buddy!) on the Friday in Ingleton where we enjoyed two dinners! Fish and chip supper and pizza at the local italian restaurant with my parents who had driven up with me to support me out on the course. Fuelled to the brim and after a Black Sheep Ale to aid a good nights sleep we retired to our 17c guest house.
It was a very calm still evening. How that was to change! Half way through the night you could here the wind battering the windows of the bathroom. By the time we were standing on the start line at a low level the wind was unbelievably strong. And you knew that higher up it was gonna be a lot LOT worst. This made kit choice very easy though. I opted for my heavier weight TNF wind/water proof jacket which I wore from the start and left out my lightweight jacket that would offer less protection against the elements.
As always the race starts with very little fanfare. Just a nice warming speech from Suzanne Carter to get runners and hikers on their way as they enter the 'twilight zone'. My mum and dad were taken by surprise as they were still right in the middle of the pack as everyone got underway and were almost unwittingly swept along by the 500 strong pack.
For this race report I'm not going to recount every section and checkpoint as there were 24 of them! My 2010 goes into more detail if you are interested (although it is a long one nevertheless! :-) I set off at what I thought was an average pace but by the climb up to CP3 at the top of Whernside (2419') I realised that I was going a little faster than was probably wise. For company alongside me was Nicky Spinks who was last years female winner in 13hrs (and this years winner too). A time way beyond my capabilities. I had 15 hours in mind this year but that was before the true horror of the conditions were evident. The full on head and side winds were so strong that you were using half your energy just to stay upright and not be blown off the hillside! I'm not kidding. I can't overstate just how strong the wind was. The only other time I've experienced wind like it is in the Wind Tunnel at my company BRE which can blast you with up to 200mph winds! And as time went on it was more and more apparent that this was a matter of survival of the fittest over anything else. Time was quite frankly irrelevant.
Nicky Spinks and those she was running with were soon infront and moving a lot quicker than me. The 1000ft climb from Kingsdale up to CP5 (Gragareth 2058') was HUGE. You cover this ascent in just 1 mile which goes straight up! I remember it well from 2010 but this doesn't make it any easier. I nibbled on some flapjack and pushed on up taking a well earned breather every now and then.
From CP5 to CP7 (Flintergill 1150') the going was much better and flatter along the ridgeline but also much wetter too. The ground was marshy in places and the sealskinz socks were working very well at first in keeping the water out. This was however before the water and mud came above the sock line rendering them pretty much useless as the water got in and there was no escape. This section was a slog as my energy levels and speed dropped. I was paying for my early enhausaism, but I looked forward to and focused on getting to Dent (CP8) which was the first major food stop and lowest point on the route at 570'.
After the long stoney descent into Dent my mum and dad were there to cheer me in. I refuelled well on beans, sausage rolls, hot cheese rolls, tea and choc digestives. Yummy. I felt a hundred times better after that little lot and prepared for the longest section from Dent up to Blea Moor (1756'). I changed my water logged socks to the injinjis which would at least let the water out again. In 2010 this next section was a real slog in the heat but this time around it was far cooler and went very well without a hitch. There were also many more runners around this time which allowed me to follow and take a direct line to CP9 positioned at the top of Blea Moor. To get there however required a hike through ankle/calve deep water and marsh land. Once your feet are wet they're wet so it became less of an issue after a while. Get use to it and man up Blofeld!
The section down to Stonehouse (CP10) which is the next major food stop is beautiful and downhill! I thoroughly enjoyed it. The pasta and tea went down a treat and I was soon on my way. It was at this point with the sun out that the blue wig that I had been sporting since the start and had remarkably stayed on despite the gale force winds had to go in favour of a white cap to keep the sun off my face. Many spectators remarked on the wig which kept me smiling. Many thought I was running for charity (I wasn't) but to keep things amusing I made up a story about running to save the blue squirrel!
After Stonehouse (840') I put my powerhike to maximum effect to reach the top of Great Knountberry (2203') in good time. I was now pacing myself much better on both the uphills and the flats and had regained my confidence and was feeling strong. The food definitely played a major part in this. The section down to CP12 at Redshaw was swift and very enjoyable as were the ones that followed. I had found my groove and was moving well eating up the miles, and the food on offer.
Up to this point I still had no reason to consult my maps or route description penned masterfully by Nick Ham. This was invaluable in getting me around in 2010, but a mix of following those in front and knowing the route this time around meant that navigation was not an issue. This was however until Fleet Moss (CP15) where I took too long to refuel and missed the opportunity to head off with others that I had been running with prior. My first and only big mistake on the whole event. Once ready I preceeded on my own from Fleet Moss to Middle Tongue. A long 4.5m section. I didn't give it a second thought and ran along the fence line up and over the peat hags. It was slow going. I made several navigational errors on this section where I ended up heading too far left and climbed higher than I needed to, when I should of stayed to the right and lower down to pick up a quad bike track which would have taken me straight towards the next CP. Instead I had to contend with some horrible terrain that was tough mentally and physically. I reckon I added a good 1/2hr to my time on this section from mincing around eating jam sandwiches instead of getting out and sticking with others who knew the way. Of course if I had also consulted my map and route description far earlier than I did on this section then this would have also helped. Note to self: unless you KNOW the way don't guess cos its unlikely to be the right way or save you time.
I finally found the new Middle Tongue CP which had been shifted slightly further South due to land owner permissions not being granted across the original route. The next section was equally tough to navigate made worst by the continuing stupidly strong winds and the first of two snow bizzards that were horozontal. THAT's how cold it was getting by this stage with the wind chill factor sending it below freezing. Conditions were definitely deterioating so all I could think was to keep moving as fast as I could which would help to stay warm and keep spirits high.
I stumbled across CP17 (Hell Gap) through better navigation (although tough terrain) and from there it was a short downhill section to Cray which was the next major refuelling point and also Grouping point for the night stage. Basically beyond this point you HAD to stick with those in your group (4 minimum) to CP24 at Yarnbury. If you didn't you were in danger of being disqualified. The condition of many runners at Cray wasn't good with many going no further due to exposure and illness. It resembled a scene from a war film with bodies wrapped in body bags! In this case foil body bags shivering vigourously. After some warm spaggetti hoops and warm creamed rice pudding (both tasted SO good!) I got changed into my night gear adding an extra long sleeve base layer and wind/water proof bottoms to go over the tights. On with the head torch too as night descended and our group of 6 was off into the dark windy cold night and straight up Buckden Pike. A climb just shy of 1000ft! But we were use to this by now .
It was soon apparent however that all was not well in the camp. One member of the group Mark was not moving well and feeling sick. In hindsight he should have headed back down to Cray and bailed (something he was quite keen to do) but the group convinced him to battle on to the next CP with road access at Park Rash which was another 4 miles. This doesn't sound far but on this terrain and with the worsening conditions this was definitely the wrong decision putting Mark at more risk whilst slowing the group down considerably. On a plus point though Michael - another member of the group, had run the Fellsman 6 times before and was faultless on the navigational side which makes the night section far easier and more enjoyable as you're able to relax and run instead of worrying about what way to go.
We made it to Park Rash (CP21 of 24) with just over 10 miles left to go. Mark did well to make it this far and bailed here. At the same time several others from other teams all fighting for warmth in the small tent were also worst for wear and called it a day. Subsequently the 5 remaining in our group were grouped with 3 others as they couldn't leave without making up the minimum 4. So we headed out of CP21 as 8 strong and set off to into the fog and started the notorious ascent up Great Whernside (2310'). We were all I think feeling strong and no one was holding up the group as we ran where we could still fighting THAT WIND and hiked the uphills. The 2 volunteer marshalls at the top of Great Whernside were holed up in a tent squeezed between two giant boulders offering a little more protection. We heard later that one competitor had a bad fall up here and broke a foot requiring rescue by air ambulance. Flying in these conditions requires some insane commitment to the job so hats off to them for that.
Descending Great Whernside felt for the first time like the end was in sight. I could visualise what remained and thoroughly enjoyed the last eight miles with the wind on our backs and a 1000ft descent which made the going far easier.
Before long we were heading into Yarnbury. The mood in the camp was high and we had all made light work of the night section all things considered. What remained was whether I could get a PB but to do so I would have to sprint the final section to Grassington. All down hill and on road i thought it would be easy but those final two miles were very hard on the feet. Nevertheless I didn't give up and made it to the school with just one minute to spare. finishing in 16h:47m.
what a race! I be back next year for more....

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Oakley 20 race report

When I entered this race it was going to be the final sharpener before the MK marathon, but my race schedule has since changed with the Fellsman in 3 weeks time instead. Nevertheless I have been looking forward to the Oakley 20 and that's not just because of the cool hoody every entrants gets (although it was a key reason for signing up :-)

My training for this race has been nil. Since theTP100 I have ran just 5 times in 3 weeks not because of any injuries but because of self-enforced time off to properly recover. However I've still managed some good runs since the TP100 including a new 10k pb and fastest stag time for over a year so the speed is there. But would it be there over 20 miles? That was the big question...

I've never raced 20. Some may appproach it as a marathon but I wanted to ignore the distance and run sensibly hard but pace it well from beginning to end. So the plan was to maintain 7 mpm pace from start to finish. This is just over 3hr marathon pace so if I could hold this pace it would be considerably faster than I've done before even at 15 mile distance.

I had company for this race. Pete Mackrell from LBAC is running really well at the moment in the lead up to London. He even won the MK park run the day before the Oakley 20! Pete's plan was to run 7s for the first half with me then go for it. I was glad of the company as we ambled along this very undulating but beautiful course. We started right at the front but ignored the pace of others around us and set about our game plan.

The climbs were constant which I had not bargained for. My 7mpm pace was based on a flat course! But it was certainly still very runnable and the downhills were fun. The course consisted of a 12m first lap and shorter 8m second. All on very quiet country roads. It was a lovely course and this made the miles fly by. Pete and I reached the 10 mile mark in good form and spot on pace (6.54 avg. I was certainly feeling the pace, whilst Pete was fresh as a dasiy and eager to push on. I wouldn't see him again until the finish and he flew off at 6:30-6 mpm pace!

I settled back into the same pace and carried on. I was very glad of my bottle of nuun water as it was a warm clear day. Perfect racing conditions. At 12 miles you came back over the start line and started the shorter second lap which is on many of the same roads as the first lap. The incline at the start which I didn't notice on lap 1 could certainly be felt now. I was flagging a little as 7mpm became increasingly more difficult, but of course it would! That was the point. It wasn't a surprise to me and I pushed on. I had an energy gel as I could feel my energy levels dropping. It helped.

There was no drama on the second lap as I continued to keep my eyes on the garmin. This was one race where I didn't follow my normal rule of ignoring it. My eyes were firmly fixed on the average pace all the way away and my mile splits. Without doubt the most pleasing thing about this race was the consistency of my pace. I didn't fall off the pace at any point. The only flutuations were dictated by the undulating course so where you lost some time on the up hills you would try and make it up on the downs.

The final mile was tough. You once again came across the start line but still had just under a mile to run which looped around narrow lanes between houses left right left and right again. It was unbarable but finally an opening into the school playing field emerged and there was the finish line but not before you had to do a full loop around the field! Argh. I sprinted around overtaking a few runners and knocking every second off I could.

I saw the clock ahead which read 2:19:30... and crossed the finish line 4 seconds later. I had held on and managed to run sub 7 mpm pace for 20 miles! It was a lesson in perfect pacing and something that I'm getting much better at. Gone are the days where I would fall off a cliff in the second half of a race because of going out too hard. My mile splits for this race as follows: 6:53 6:55 7:07 6:27 7:03 7:10 7:01 6:58 6:55 6:34 6:46 6:58 7:02 7:05 7:07 7:05 6:52 7:02 6:43 6:56.

I finished 60th out of 870 or so finishers. Pete who stormed round the second half of the route finished 14th in 2:10! Making up 46 places in the process. Awesome running and a dead cert for a 2:45ish marathon time in London on that form!

What I want to touch on now is where the hell has my recent good form come from because I'm at a loss to explain it... When I entered the MK marathon at the beginning of Jan my goal was a sub 3hr but I didn't think I was anywhere near that and haven't done any marathon training since then that would according to most marathon training plans get me anywhere near the sort of shape needed to achieve such a feat. Instead I put in the slow long runs in the build up the the TP100 but still averaged only 3 runs per week. A sub 3hr marathon schedule from RW would have you running 5/6 times per week covering between 40-60 miles per week. I'm no where near these figures. And since TP100 as I said above I have run just 5 times.

I've always said that its quality runs not quantity that matters and after the Oakley 20 I've never been more certain of this fact in all my life. The majority of advice and training schedules that have you out most days racking up the miles are in my opinion severely flawed and a recipe for disaster leading to injury. Rest is by far the best medicine to run faster. I'm so certain of that. The problem is that what happens with most runners is that they don't see the improvement they think they deserve from the amount of training they have done so ramp up the training even more rather than doing the complete opposite and resting. And so extreme fatigue and ineveitably injury then occurs as a result.

I'm still at a loss to explain my form but less is most definitely more. Have conviction in yourself and your training. Don't be fooled into beliefing that because others around you are running big mileage that this is what you should be doing. Half the time I think runners (and I include myself in this) only run big mileage to impress our peers with the mileage.... Look at me I've ran 60 miles this week and ran every day... Aren't I amazing.... What you only ran 3 times and did 20 miles... Oh well.

Its such an ego thing that we all have to change. Furthermore we also only do it to impress ourselves with the big numbers. We find comfort in the fact that we have done everything possible to get faster and fitter by adding up the miles ran and sitting around in self-admiration at how wonderful we are. Forget all that bollox. Instead:
1 - Listen to your body and stop listening to others (that includes listening to me!)
2 - run less not more
3 - run with real purpose
4 - mix it up. Run short. Run long. Run flat. Run hills
5 - don't be a slave to the numbers
6 - race short and race long
7 - pace evenly and stick to it
8 - sleep more
9 - eat well
10 - fuel your runs

... and watch as the times tumble!

Sorry for the rambling post but I'm really starting to believe that the misinformation to runners from RW and other sources especially around this time of year when everyone is training for the spring marathon and religiously following the training plan is misguided.... Ok I'm done....

Monday, 19 March 2012

Post recovery training (and racing)

I've taken it very easy since the TP100 before getting back into any consistent training pattern. What I have found is going for shorter fastest events post Ultra is a great morale booster as well as a good physical test whilst recovering from the toll of a 100 miler.

The wednesday after the Leighton 10k race (see previous blog post) was the Club's Stag handicap race. A lung busting 2.5 miles around 3 laps of a local park and industrial estate. I haven't run well in the stag for well over a year now not getting anyway near my PB set way back - 14.04.

On Wednesday I ambled up to the start not expecting much but always willing to give it 100%. I paced the first lap well using fellow club member and speedster Pete Mackrell to good effect. Pete (despite having run a 2:02 20 miler on the Sunday!) was too quick for me in the 2 lap as he pulled away. But Andy Inchley (another speed freak) caught up with me having started behind me (due to the handicap start). I latched on to him and upped my pace for the second lap trying staying with him for lap 2 and then just hung on for lap 3.

My lungs were bursting as I stuggled up the final small incline through the park to the finish. Time on my watch was 14:16 (official 14:18). A very rare return to form in the Stag. What was most pleasing was the even splits which I rarely manage to ger right. Mile 1: 5.36, Mile 2: 5.40, Mile 3 (half) 5.39 pace.

I followed this with another fast session on Sunday morning. 14 miles on the roads. Out 2 miles from home to the Leighton Tough 10 course start (undulating 10 miles on quiet country roads), and 2 miles home. I wanted to run it in 7 mpm pace and just managed this finishing in 1h37m. It was tough going though and to maintain this same pace in 2 weeks time for the Oakley 20 race (Bedford Harriers) which is my target is going to require a consistent and tough period of speed training between now and then.

I'm confident I can do it (you have to be otherwise it won't happen), and I'm enjoying a slight refocus away from long and slow training runs before I get back into it in preparation for the Fellsman. For now though I have a 20 mile PB to focus my energies....

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Leighton 10k race report

Smiling in a 10k! only cos it was the first 1km ;-)

This was my recovery run having not stepped foot outside in trainers since the TP100 last Saturday/Sunday. And what better way to see how the body is recovering than to run your local 10k race right! :-)

It was entry on the day so I jogged the 2 miles to the start to warm up, registered, picked up my number and timing chip and was good to go. I ran a PB in this race last year finishing 5th in a time of 36:56. I was quite sure I wouldn't be repeating that performance today but would attack from the get go nevertheless.

It really is just a case of running as hard as you can from the gun and hanging on in there really as there's very little to be gained from being conservative in the early stages. So that's what I did. Hooter went, Hard out, Sharp left (almost taking out the cameraman who thought standing right in the middle of the school exit was a good idea) and quickly took up position in 7th place.

The course is gently undulating along quiet country roads in one big loop. I was going hard and wondered if I had in it me to hold on for 10k at 6 mpm pace. My 1st mile was actually a 5:46 but that was the flattest part of the whole course. The proceeding miles were between 5:55 and 6:24 on the hardest climb at the 5km mark. I had caught and passed 6th place at 3km and was edging closer to 5th all the time whilst looking behind me to see what danger was lurking but there was a comfortable gap between me and those behind.

I worked hard up the longest hill at 5km and down the other side taking the shortest line possible on the corners and caught and passed the 5th place guy. I didn't look back now and just kept going. The final bite is a tough climb in the final 2km up Shenley Hill. I was being caught slowly (see pic) as I approached the hill but if I could hold it together then 5th place could perhaps be mine for a 2nd year in a row! Most unexpected considering last weekend's antics.

Tough climb up Shenley Hill at 8km

I crested the hill and blasted down the other side and into the final km. This part of the course is always unexpectedly hard cos despite being flat the road just seems to stretch on forever as you look out for the school and the finish. I kept checking behind to ensure I didn't let it slip now but 6th place guy was a good distance away.

A final sprint in the last 100m just to make sure of 5th place and I crossed the finish line in 37:49 (6:03 mpm avg pace). I was chuffed to bits with that result. Whilst it was 50 seconds slower than last year the circumstances were quite different this time around. Last year I actually trained for the 10k and had a taper of sorts. This year it was a case of turn up and see if my legs could cope a week after the TP100.

The winner run it in an amazing 33:13. I'm actually surprised that there weren't more runners of this calibre in the race and some faster times. But hey you gotta be in it to win it so I'm not giving away my 5th place. There were 12 other runners from LBAC too out there all of whom ran well and did the club proud. Myself, Chris Norman and Gary Stratford actually took 1st place in the Male Team category for our troubles which was a very nice surprise. And Jo Breslin took second female in 42 minutes and first female in V35. Top running!

Full race results are here -

So it seems my recovery from the TP100 has gone very well. I really wasn't expecting a run like that today so can now ease myself back in full training again this week after a solid week off. And if all goes well with that then perhaps I should make this part of my new recovery plan and seek out some more 10k's to do the week after SDW100 and NDW100!

Next up though is the Fellsman at the end of April! So let the hill training begin...

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Thames Path 100 race report

Less than 4 weeks after entering this race I was standing on the start line of the Thames Path 100. A point to point race from Richmond, London to Oxford entirely along the River Thames that snakes its way West of London. This marked the first of four 100s in 2012 in the Centurion Running Grand Slam. Goals for the race were: 1 – finish no matter what; 2 – finish in under 24hrs; 3 – finish in a PB (sub 22:51.30); 4 – Sub 22hrs; 5 – even pacing; 6 - enjoy it no matter what!

My longest training run for this race was just 21 miles (3hrs 30m on my feet). And my longest run since last August when I completed the NDW100 was SNOD marathon in October. This was therefore somewhat of an experiment to see whether my body and mind could handle the distance and time on my feet. In short would I survive? The weather forecast for the weekend was not good. Rain showers were forecast on Saturday with the worst to come on the Sunday. The temperature was also due to drop to 3 degrees at night so warm clothing was a must. With a 30hr cut off and a 10am start on the Saturday folks could be out until up to 4pm on Sunday. Ouch!

I arrived nice and early and caught up with a few familiar faces – Dino Ilari and Jerry aka Ultra Kent. A bit of chat passed the time with the hot topic being shoe selection! I still couldn’t decide what shoes to opt for – roadies or trails, and had brought both. With the gloomy weather forecast and prospect of slippery muddy trails I went with the Montrails in the end. I think this turned out to be the right decision. A quick race briefing from James Elson (Race Director) and we were all set.

A count down from 10 – 9 – 8 – 7 ….. 1 …go and we were on our way. I unintentionally positioned myself near the front of the start (see video clip – I’m centre shot in the fluorescent yellow T). I didn’t get carried away however and set off at a very conservative pace as I let many overtake me in the early miles. The forecast rain arrived on cue literately less than a mile after the start and I got ready for a very wet next 24hrs. However the showers only lasted an hour or two as things soon brightened up very nicely. The first section between Richmond and Walton upon Thames was the longest of the entire route at 12 miles, and thankfully so. Anything this length later on would have been a real killer.

I arrived at CP1 at exactly midday. The maths was easy – 12 miles in 2 hours… erm… yes an average pace of 10mpm! Oops quite quick but it was impossible to run any slower than this without walking especially on such a flat course. There was a good crowd at the aid station all cheering and clapping the runners in (this continued at every aid station throughout). I grabbed a few handfuls of nuts, dried fruit, crisps and some mars bar, filled my hand held water bottle popping in a nuun tablet for electrolyte replacement, removed my long sleeved top from underneath my T and set off on the next 10 mile section to Wraysbury.
The 10 mpm pace felt very comfortable so I didn’t consciously try to slow down. I really don’t remember much of this next section as they were all a bit undistinguishable from one another. The terrain on the Thames Path generally consisted of a variety of either; gravel/concrete paths, hard packed trails, open fields, and farm tracks. There were some but very few technical woodland trails and some road sections too. I think it was in this section that a few runners went the wrong way deciding to stick to the Thames when the race route and arrows actually took us off the river and along a main road. Me and another chap checked that the arrow wasn’t tampered with (it hadn’t been) and we continued on eventually coming to CP2 (Wraysbury) still on 10 mpm pace. Bottled filled, nuun tablet in and off I went. No drama and very early days in the grand scheme of things even though at 22 miles it was already my longest run since August 2011 (barring SNOD).

I can’t recall any detail of the next section between Wraysbury and Windsor as the marathon distance came and went uneventfully. What I can remember though (and seems to be the highlights of my race is what I ate at the next checkpoint). I reached CP3 Windsor (28 miles) in good spirits which was the first drop bag point on the route. I had a chocolate ‘For Goodness Shakes’, pizza and flapjack from my drop bag, plus a nice cuppa and some coke! Perfect fuel for the next 10 mile section up to the 38 mile point.

The next section to Cookham included a major diversion off the Thames Path and around Dorney Lake which is an Olympic venue so I’m led to believe. There was much confusion here amongst a group of us who had all slowed and come together to agree what was the right way. The problem was that the diversion arrows we had started follow off the Thames Path had disappeared and no one was sure on what was the right way. Dorney Lake was frigging massive and we really didn’t fancy the prospect of running around it and adding unnecessary mileage which can be very demoralising. The closed Thames Path was to our left with an 8ft high security fence and low barbed wire fence beyond that. I spotted a gap in the security fence ahead and suggested that the easiest and shortest course of action (and least likely to get us lost!) would be to get back on the Thames Path ASAP (it was closed but from what we could tell later only for minor resurfacing works). A few of the others followed as I went through the gap in the security fence hopped over the barbed wire fence and continued on my way. For the next 2-3 miles or so though I was never certain whether the gamble was the right one due to the lack of Centurion Running arrows or red/white striped tape that marked the route from start to finish.

Was I even on the Thames? The rowing teams training on the river was a hint but I doubted everything. Eventually though the glorious sight of red/white tape returned. My gamble had well and truly paid off and I saved myself a good mile or two detour around the rowing lake.

My dad was waiting at CP4 Cookham which was a nice surprise. I told him how well it seemed to be going, and whilst the 10mpm pace had now slipped I was still in control and moving strong. I had a cup of tea checked in with my wife, said my goodbyes and was off. I had a good next section to CP5 (44 miles) maintaining an 10:30 mpm average pace. I got chatting to a guy Nick Lewis who I knew I recognised from somewhere. Turns out we both ran the Wiggle 12hr race in 2010. Nick was good company and we ran together for some of this section. At CP5 where my dad was again in support I didn’t stick around too long said goodbye and set off with Nick who I could tell had a good pace which would keep me going strong. The first 44 miles of this race had absolutely flown by and I was feeling good, and actually looking forward to the night section which would be twice as long as the day!

Nick, David (aka Mr Immune) and a German bloke Andreas who had travelled over just for the race and was good company, plus a couple of others ran together in the next 7 mile section to the half way point at Henley (51 miles). Having company definitely makes the miles go faster. As it got darker the head lights came out. I relied just on the Exposure Spark hand torch for this section as I didn’t want to bother getting out the Petzl head torch from my bag which would waste precious minutes. The final few miles into Henley was along a very straight hard surfaced section besides the river. Our pace now would have further slowed to 11 mpm probably [it will be interesting to see the race splits which aren’t out on the website yet but will be soon to see if my perceived pace was accurate!?].

CP6 at Henley (51 miles) was the main night aid station (at least on our pace) where we would gear up for the night, but not before refuelling first! They were serving up hot beans and hot dogs :-D I had two portions of that, plus a recovery shake, rice pudding, coke and two cups of tea. This right here is why I love Ultras!!  I feel really sorry for the faster guys and girls who don’t even have the time to pig out properly. It’s all part of it and very necessary to keep the energy levels up. I got the hydration and nutrition spot on for this race which was something I was very pleased about. No repeats of that ‘running on empty’ feeling that I had at NDW for the entire night section and puking up on iron-bru and ham and jam sandwiches!

Night gear on (long sleeved top, Montane water & wind proof lite jacket and gloves) and I was set. Earlier on Nick had asked me whether I wanted to buddy up for the night section. I heartedly accepted and was very grateful of such an offer as I wasn’t too keen to tackle the night section alone. Nick and I set off in what felt like the deep dark night even though it was only about 7:30pm. 51 miles down and because of some dodgy maths by James Elson ;-) there was easily still 51 miles to go if not more! So this was only half way…. it was gonna be a long night. My memory of the night section is even worst than the day. I’m sure that when the body goes into survival mode that it shuts down all non-critical functions like memory! At least for me anyway.

The sections between Henley to Reading (CP7 - 58 miles) and Whitchurch (CP8 – 67 miles) were a mix of open fields, urban life and woodland trails as we continued to chip away at the miles. Good conversation makes a huge difference and whilst I was of course fatigued by now with our pace slowed to 12 mpm my body and mind continued to do everything that I asked of it. CP8 was a flying visit with Nick sticking to strict in and out quick policy. I would have stayed longer had a cup of tea and wasted time. But as the saying goes if you aren’t moving forward you aren’t getting closer to the finish. The next section was only 4 miles to Streatley but it was the hilliest section of the entire route with some very short but steep sharp climbs and descents. This worked the quads well but we took it easy and power hiked them.

CP9 at Streatley (71 miles) was a hot food stop and drop bag point and inside a nice warm hall. SO LUSH! All the ingredients for a longer than planned stop but well earned. We took our time as we were entering the toughest part of the race now. It was around midnight and there was still another 6 hours of darkness and many slow miles ahead. More beans, hot dogs, pizza, creamed rice and recovery shake later and I was set  How I didn’t puke I don’t know but I could run (slowly) on a full stomach without any issues. The next section to Benson was advertised as 8 miles (71 to 79 miles) but thanks to a soul destroying diversion off the TP and along a main road it was nearer 10 in my opinion. It went on forever! Nick was still running strong and opened a gap as I slumped to a slow plod cursing the road ahead. I walked the final mile or so into the aid station (CP10 Benson). Seeing Nick had already left the CP when I arrived though gave me a massive kick up the arse and was exactly what I needed. I refilled the handheld and flew outta there to catch Nick.

I caught him after less than a mile or so as well as passing a few another runner on route. Nick said that we should run how we feel at this point in the race rather than adjusting our pace to suit somebody else. I was in two minds though whether there was any benefit in me shooting off in front, but my adrenaline was firing now from my new found speed (this is all relative of course!) so I promptly carried on at the same pace that I had done to catch him. At this moment I distinctly remember thinking and feeling that I could maintain this pace to the finish (what the hell was I thinking!). I felt fresh and passed another 4 people on route to the next CP, but this feeling was short lived. Looking back I think (actually I know) that I made a big mistake in blasting this section which affected the rest of my race.

Upon getting to CP11 at Little Wittenham (83 miles) Nick wasn’t actually far behind me. This came as a bit of a surprise because for the effort I put in I thought I had opened up a much bigger gap. The next mistake I made was to spend too little time at this aid station and not refuel properly. I even left my handheld water bottle behind in my rush to keep going with just a cup of tea in hand. Anthony Low (volunteer marshall) and from local town Dunstable ran after me and reunited me with my bottle. Phew… thanks Anthony.

Everything that you have read up to this point is where I consider my race had gone perfectly to plan. We were maintaining a 12 mpm average pace and had 83 miles in the bag. And I still thought we could possibly finish around the 20 hour mark (6am finish… perhaps 21hrs). How wrong was I!! From this point on my ‘run’ was over and in the next 8 mile section the wheels completely fell off. Nick soon caught up with me out of CP11 and I didn’t hang on to him for very long. This section should only have taken around 2 hours max to complete. It took me over 3 FRIGGIN’ HOURS!! 20 mpm pace on a pancake flat straight trail!! How on God’s earth it took me that long remains a mystery. All I know is that I couldn’t focus or run/walk in a straight line. I weaved from one side of the trail to the other like a drunken reveller on a Saturday night. It was a crash of immense proportions and all I could do was hang on for the ride and carry on and get to CP12 in whatever time it would take me. I was a mess…

I arrived at CP12 Abingdon (91 miles) as it was getting light. In just one section my race had gone from perfect to disaster. Of course this wasn’t actually the case but in my mind at that point it had. It was just one bad section. I slumped down in the nearest chair in Abingdon Cricket Club Pavilion and licked my wounds. More beans, hot dog, and another recovery shake from my drop bag perked me up a little. David (Mr Immune) walked in shortly after I did and will testify how crap and miserable I must have looked! I wish I could have been that happy person always full of joy and smiles and celebrating the last 91 miles however I wasn’t. The last 91 miles were irreverent at that point. All I could think about was the last 9 miles. How long would it take me? After the last section anything was possible. 4 hours… perhaps even 5!! Who knows…

I did however leave Abingdon with renewed vigour and whilst the spring in my step wasn’t back it wasn’t completely uncoiled. The sun was rising and I felt better about things. Perhaps it was the hot dogs! The footing in the next 4 mile section was awful though. The rain had now been steadily falling for the past few hours and it was extremely slippery. Even the Montrails weren’t finding any grip. By this point I had done the maths though and barring absolute catastrophe I would finish in sub 24 hours, and I actually had a good shot at a 100 mile PB.

I slipped and slided my way to the final checkpoint at 95 miles (Lower Radley) which was a very brisk affair. No need to refuel now just a quick refill and I was off to the generous applause of the volunteers. The reaction of all the volunteers at every aid station was the same and made for such an uplifting experience. It was now just a matter of not if, but when would I finish. My mood had improved but not my speed, however I set off with one goal in mind which was to earn my second 100 miles one day Centurion Running belt buckle! That was why I was here and nothing was going to stop me now especially not a measly 5 miles. Accept this final 5 mile section turned out to be another one of James’ mathematical mysterys of distance and time. Where was the frigging finish!? With 5 miles gone Oxford was no where in sight as green fields lined both sides of the Thames with the rowing clubs out for their Sunday morning training sessions on the river. They too got wind of what we were doing and where we had run from as we were greeted with nods and smiles of approval and a few cheers and ‘well done keeping going’ (I certainly intended to thank you). I caught two runners in front of me who had stopped as they too didn’t think it could be any further (so it wasn’t just me) and thought we might have missed a turn off. A local soon confirmed however that Oxford was indeed a few miles ahead.

Eventually though after another 20 or so minutes of plodding and walking up stream the pub ‘Head of the River’ that marked the final mile came into sight. I usually finish any race with a good spurt at the finish no matter what the distance but this time was different. The last 15 miles had really ground me down, it was still raining hard and my feelings were only of utter relief as I plodding up to the finish line. Glyn Rayman from Leighton Fun Runners (local club) was the first to greet and congratulate me. Glyn had volunteered to man the finish aid station and was running around making cups of tea for cold tired runners all day which he remarked was harder than running 100 miles. Thanks Glyn!

James Elson (the ‘Man’!) was there sheltering in the tiny finish tent with the 100 Miles One Day belt buckle in hand which I gratefully accepted. He acknowledged and recognised just how hard this had been for me, reflected in my slower than anticipated finish time that he (and I) thought I might be capable of. Nevertheless 22hrs and 41mins was still a PB (finishing in 42nd place out of 126 finishers from the 191 runners that started. I am extremely pleased with this result, especially on the lack of specific training I had done for this race which amounted to just 3 weeks of back to back weekend long runs with the longest single run being just 21 miles.

James also commented that I had earned my second one day buckle in a row with a nod towards the challenge ahead in 2012 which is to compete in and complete a further three Centurion 100 mile events between now and November (SDW100, NDW100, & Winter 100) and in doing so complete the Grand Slam. This is my goal for the year and this was just the first step towards that goal.
I’m looking forward to putting together a consistent period of training between now and June to get to the start line of the South Down Way 100 tip top and more able to compete in and ‘run’ 100 miles from start to finish. As apposed to running 80 miles and imploding!! I have more to reflect on in this race, lessoned learned, and how and why it panned out the way it did which I will post separately to this report once I have had a little more time for reflection.

Full TP100 race results are here.

A final note on this race is that things took a turn for the worst by mid morning on Sunday weather wise as the rain got harder, with sleet and snow, winds picked up and temps fell to below freezing. As a consequence James had to make the impossibly hard decision to pull everyone still out on the course to safety and abandon the race after 26 hours. James’ own blog post with a full account of what unfolded is here. And as a final final note I would like to say thanks to all the volunteers whom without, races like this just wouldn’t be possible. A special thanks to Nick Lewis too for the company and superb pacing throughout the night. It was a real pleasure mate.