Tuesday, 6 February 2018

From ultra to sofa and back again

Wow its been a couple of years since my last post?! Time really does move pretty quick eh?!

Trying to do some sort of catch up post seems to be a little void at this point so instead I`ll focus on why I`m posting again - My next ultra!
That`s right! Hopefully I`ve got all my injuries out of the way now after a bit of a tough year last year.
I`ve been running more regularly over the last month and I`m now up to 4 -5 times a week, up to runs of 13 miles.....so looking pretty good so far!
I`m still in my trusty Luna sandals and yes....using socks to try and preserve my feet as I build back up again. On the nutrition side, I had basically completely fallen off the wagon and had spent the last 6 months just eating rubbish and packing on my *cough cough* "winter insulation". By the end of last year I was actually starting to feel a little sick whenever I ate meat. To be fair I had been eating loads over Christmas so I figured that perhaps it was just a case of overindulgence so I backed off the meat for a few days. I had something a few days later and still felt a little acidic so again I returned to not eating meat. It was at this point that I realised that actually I hadn't really missed eating meat.
Nearly a month later and I still havn`t had any meat. I`m not making any big song and dance about it, I`m just eating tasty food that happens to be vegetables.
Honestly I don`t really know how long I will keep it up but for now I`m enjoying my food and I`m not getting any energy dips so its not getting in the way of my training.
I cant say overall I`m eating any healthier but I feel a little different. Lighter maybe? The numbers on the scales are the same, its just a feeling, like my body is coping with the digestion cycle a little easier. This is quiet a big thing for me really as I have IBS so not everything works so well with my system. This, for now at least seems to be working.
Back to the training......
After taking nearly a year out due to injury, getting back into training was actually harder than I first thought. Its not just the muscles in the body that are effected, its the mind. The thought of getting off my butt and going to the gym or even going for a run had gone. I had no drive, no focus, I couldn't really be bothered and wasn't really fussed about it either.
This obviously was not good and I needed it to change. The only thing I could think of to get my butt in gear again was to book something ridiculous. Something scary and challenging enough that I HAD to get out of the house or I was going to fail...HARD. Obviously no one likes to fail.
So I had a search around and booked myself a place at the Spitfire Scramble 24 hour race! 5.75 miles loops for 24 hours.....solo.
You don`t have to do this solo by the way, you can actually do this in teams of up to 8. I`ve thought about maybe doing that way before and use it almost like a running festival. Get a bunch of friends together and go and run a bunch of miles, perhaps throw some beer in the mix...sounds like a party!
Maybe next year.
This year however I have some business to attend to. My goal of completing a 100 mile run has eluded me a couple of times now, maybe this year is the one to do it?
Who knows?! Right now I`m going to just keep my head down and keep training.
The Spitfire Scramble is the 14th - 15th July so the countdown is already on!
I shall also be trying to keep a nice blog of my lead up to this one in the hope of keeping myself focused. I hope you guys will enjoy reading my journey from ultra to sofa and back again.

Thanks for reading

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

20k? WOW!

Just a short post to say thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read this blog. I can`t believe its just hit 20 thousand views!! I hope you have enjoyed reading my posts as much as I`ve enjoyed writing them!
Here is to 20 thousand more ha ha ha!

Love, tea and biscuits


Monday, 29 February 2016

From fat to a little less fat

I have been spending a lot of time over the last few months having a good think about how I can turn my running around and maximize my performance. Last year as you may have already read was a bit of a shocker for me. Funny thing is you can never really see it clearly at the time, hind sight being 20/20 and all that....its so easy now to look back and pick up on the things I got wrong.
I decided to do what I always do when I get a little stuck, I hit the books. The particular book in question was Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald. I`m really enjoying it. I bought myself some body fat scales and I am already being more mindful about my food choices but most of all, my portion size.
If you are anything like me then you like a good feed. Serving suggestions are always doubled and the plate, no matter how big must be finished. I hate wasted food. Unfortunately if you have any intentions of doing something about your body fat percentage then this is going to slow you down a bit. The main thing I am working on at the moment is to try and teach myself to recognize when I am actually full, instead of the kind of full that feels like an alien is about to burst from my stomach. So far I feel like I`m doing pretty well and the numbers are falling. I wont tell you too much about the actual book only that you should read it.
I started at 11 stone 5 pounds and around 22% body fat on 1st January and now at 26th February I am.....wait for it.....10 stone 5 pounds and 17.8% body fat!! This wasn't with some mad whatever free, kale only diet with added wheat grass, this was with normal food, just less of it in one go. I have been simply trying to learn when I am actually hungry and stopping when I`m full. This means that if I am genuinely hungry in 2 hours, I eat. In fact I`ve been eating about 6 times a day. I also have tried to stick to regular exercise of even as little as 20-30 minutes, 5-6 days a week. Much to even my own surprise it has made a massive difference. I hope to drop a little more body fat by April for my 6 hour challenge. This should happen naturally as I increase my running again and tweak my food a little more. So far, so good!
I am learning very quickly that the numbers are also not the be all and end all. Far too many people get obsessive over the numbers and it can have a really negative impact. The main thing I have found when talking about weight is how many people are looking for a number and not even really thinking about their overall body composition. Think of it this way, if you stood on the scale and the number showed your ideal weight but your body shape was the same would you be happy? If the answer is yes, congratulations! Now go ahead and throw your scales in the bin they are pointless. If however you think you could do with trimming up a bit then the number on the scales still means nothing if you have nothing to base it on.You see the number on the scale is out of context if you just look at it every now and then and don`t pay attention to how your body reacts to a change of lifestyle. The thing you also have to take into account is that your body weight is more complicated than just one number. You have to consider your body fat percentage, your body water, muscle content, overall weight and height. One of the most important parts I am discovering is the body fat percentage. The overall weight will fluctuate even though your body fat is actually still dropping. It is quite possible that once your weight gets to a certain level and settles down that the body fat will slowly drop while you actually get a little heavier due to smaller amounts of extra muscle. Once again showing that the number given for your overall weight alone is out of context, you could have 15% body fat but not be at your "ideal weight". The short version would be, take the numbers with a pinch of salt and treat them as a guideline.
The point I guess I`m trying to make is that it is OK to get carried away with the numbers as long as you approach them with a goal in mind. The goal hopefully being that of improving performance, NOT hunting numbers. Hunting numbers is easy just adjust the scales, there you go, you hit your number! Improving performance takes a lot more attention. I have been weighing myself a lot, not out of obsession for the numbers but out of curiosity. I have seen my weight fluctuate throughout the day by as much as a couple of pounds, proving to myself that it should not be taken too seriously. The most important thing for me is how I feel and how I run. As my body fat has been dropping my running seems to be improving, regardless of my weight that day. Maybe that`s because I haven't found my base level yet and maybe everything will level out?
I have no idea at the moment but I`m very curious to find out!

Thanks for reading folks, hope you have enjoyed it!


Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The 2015 roundup

I feel like I have learnt a lot this year.
I've learnt that doing some training would have been a really good idea. I've learnt that getting carried away and booking loads of events may not have been my smartest move. I`ve learnt how to swan dive my body into the ground from a great height and really mess up my system, like a lot.

Well that was nice and positive wasn't it?
Its not all been bad though and as you can see its all been self inflicted. On the positive side I think I have got through most of the year without any significant injury so high 5`s all round on that one.

A quick catch up...

So what have I been up to this year? Well if you have been following my blog for a little while then you may have noticed some pretty big gaps in it. I just couldn't bring myself to blog about some of the year I had. I have finished some pretty cool stuff but that was it really. I finished. Nothing more glamorous than that.
I guess I haven't really felt like I have given it my all. Perhaps my lack of posting has a lot to do with the feeling of accomplishment? I know I can do better so doing a bunch of write ups about marathons and ultras that I struggled round just didn't seem like much to talk about. Don`t get me wrong I`m still proud that I finished, I think I just didn't have the mind for it this year. My focus was different, my training was sporadic, my diet was laughable. Somehow I got through it so I`ll put a tick in the win column.

I kicked off the year with Mill Hill Marathon. A trail marathon with mud, hills and more mud! It was a tough, tough marathon and a great route. I would really like to do it again though maybe with a little less mud!
It was run in loops of around 4 miles of crazy hills, flooded fields and boggy mud. The morning of the run was freezing! We all piled into a scout hut to register and get ready for the day. It was nice to see Dennis (he pops up in a few of these eh?!) here as I hadn't seen him for a little while. We had a nice little catch up and he introduced me to Clive. Both of these guys are giants! See comical picture for proof....
Me, Dennis and Clive
After the race briefing we all headed out into the cold to start our first lap.


Obviously the footwear of choice for a muddy, slippery trail marathon was Luna Sandals (he said unconvincingly to the readers) combined with some nice toasty Injinji trail socks.
To be fair for most of what I was up against today I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. The disadvantage is clearly the mud and stones get under your feet really easily but this also means they come out just as fast and I rarely have to take them off to remove stones. The other downside is that in deeper mud the mud tries to suck them off of your feet and you tend to slip around a lot. To honest though most shoes I have ever had still don`t fully stop you from sliding about. Instead I trudge the bits I have too and make up the time on the downhills. Fortunately this course has a lot of them. 
The going is really tough and its pretty clear after even a couple of laps that its going to be a long day. Round and round and round I go getting more and more caked in mud but loving it.
Eventually I`m onto the final straight and I give it some legs down the hill.
Wendy I can fly!
Mummysaurus is there to cheer me in and I am so happy to be done. I am presented with a really cool medal of the Mill complete with spinning sails!!
I head inside for a quick shower then its time for what we have all been waiting for, the pub.

"Can we go to the pub now?"
The bling and the beverage
London x2

Next up was my attempt at a double London Marathon. The folks over at Social Ultra had got a bunch of us together to meet at silly o clock in the morning to run the London Marathon route from the finish to the start in time to watch the official one start. This sounded like a fantastic idea so I put my name down for the 2am group. Unbeknownst to me at the time my work had put a couple of names in for a charity place for the official version, yes you guessed it, I was one of them. After finding out that one of the other guys had dropped out a few days later I (half) jokingly said I would do both as the sponsor money had to be made up somewhere! Oh how the bravado backfired! They then emailed everyone they knew stating that I was doing a double and that was that, no backing out! Oops! Well I say oops but I was secretly looking forward to the challenge and lets be honest, bragging rights.

So there I was standing with a small bunch of other headcases waiting for the 2am bells to ring from Big Ben. The bells rang, the rain started and that was that. It rained for 6 hours. Our small group made its way around the deserted streets of London, chatting away with each other and having a great time. Later into the journey we bumped into other groups doing the same thing only faster. It was brilliant. I loved the pointlessness of it all. We were all there to run London our way for nothing more than the fun of it, no medal, no goody bag, nothing.
Rich Cranswick (all round nice guy and celebrity chicken) rode a support bike to around halfway and set up an impromptu aid station for everyone to stop off for some refreshments. What a legend!

We ran and chatted some more, still in the rain but loving it.
Approaching the official start line felt great and strange. There we were finishing up a marathon at 8am. The other folks I was running with wished me the best of luck and headed off to get some breakfast as I headed for my starting area for round 2. I dropped off my bag and pinned on my number getting ready to do it all over again, this feels very strange. I've done quite a few 50 milers now but always as one event, this felt very different.
Everyone around looked very fresh faced and you could feel the nervous energy as they sprang and stretched about the place. Then there was me looking haggard, sitting on the ground trying to reserve as much energy as I could. People must have thought I looked very odd and very unprepared.
As it got closer to kick off the crowds piled into the starting pens. Everyone squished in closer and closer and already the contrast felt a little overwhelming.

3.....2.....1....GOOOOOOOO!!......well kind of....

The countdown begun, the tension built, the crowd counted down...3!.......2!.....1!......GOOOOO!!...and we......didn't move a step.
Slowly we started to walk towards the starting arch.

5 minutes later.....

Now we are jogging all bunched together still not over the start line!
I think it eventually took me nearly 10 minutes to pass over the starting matt to begin phase 2 of the days journey! Oh well what`s another half a mile eh?
The first few miles felt a little difficult to get going, partly due to the fact that there were so many people and partly because I had already run a marathon.
The legs loosened up a little and before I knew it I was passing 10k. The crowds were relentless in their support, the noise was intense and massively different to what I had experienced before. In fact it was so moving I found myself holding back tears. Maybe it was because I was tired so my emotions were a little raw at that moment or maybe it had something to do with me realising a childhood dream of running the London Marathon? Who knows.
I tried to compose myself as everyone around me screamed and cheered and I told myself that I just need to hold it together until there is a gap in the crowd then I shall do the manly thing, fake a pee stop and have a bit of a cry.
The break in the crowd never came. There was a solid wall of people for 26.2 miles....just incredible!
So I spent maybe the next 15 miles trying not to ball my eyes out as I made my way round.

The strange and beautiful thing about running ultra distances is how it opens you up and strips away all the layers. Suddenly you can see things for what they are. You can appreciate things in a different light as your guard drops. Sometimes this also exposes previously unnoticed things.

The people around me, unlike that of the ones I ran with the first time round have no interest in talking. Everyone is in their own bubble and their smiles seem reserved only for the crowd. Those in front of me think nothing of just stopping dead in their tracks for a walk without checking behind them or stepping to the side. The ground is littered with thousands and thousands of bottles of water, most of it wasted. So many of them pile up just after a water stop that they fill the edges of the road and collect around the islands in the middle of the road. I have to do everything I can not to slip on them while avoiding people. Then there are the gel stations. You can hear them long before you reach one by the noise of hundreds of people peeling themselves off of the road. The ground is so sticky from the mountain of discarded gels that it tries to steal your footwear.

I continue to follow the earphone drones down the tunnel of noise with mixed emotions. It feels amazing to be running around London like this but at the same time I feel strangely isolated by the lack of interaction that I have become accustom too. I feel like I`m on display, like I`m in a zoo. The tourists scream and bang on the glass, some of them even sneak food to the animals. Now I`m surrounded by animals. A guy passes me dressed as a rhino, I can see a giraffe up ahead, the Jamaican bobsleigh team.......I want off!!

The one thought that repeats in my head is that my Mum will be at Fetch point at mile 22. I try to push as hard as I can but I have very little left. Mercifully mile 22 comes into view and I frantically look around for the table. Its not there, was I too slow? Did I miss it?! Oh balls I had pinned all my hopes and............ah there it is!!!
I jog over and give my Mum a massive hug, holding back the tears of joy to finally interact with someone again. She hands me a hip flask with a shot of Jack Daniels Honey in it.........best.......aid.....station......ever!!!
I leave there feeling great, my mind has returned to the task at hand. I am only 4 miles from being done, I can do that!
I pick up the pace from a gentle jog to something that resembles running then stop for a march. I repeat this, each time trying to get a little quicker. My running parts now hitting close to 8 minute mile pace, I haven't hit this pace all day and now over 50 miles in I find myself legging it through the streets of London lapping it up. I can see Big Ben!!! I`ve nearly done it, I`ve nearly done the double!!
I turn the corner and sprint for all I am worth towards the finishing line, the crowd are going absolutely bananas to see someone sprinting this far back in the pack. Just before the line I find a guy crossing on his own and we cross hand in hand. Its done!
I am given my medal, a goody bag and shuffled out the other end to join the ques of people collecting their bags. After I get my bag I take a seat on the floor and have a rummage around. I was a little disappointed that I was given an XL t-shirt, I guess because they had nothing else left.
Something as large as the London Marathon should really have enough sizes to go around for the folks at the back of the pack, its still a marathon just a bit slower.

The London double for me can be summed up like this, a social followed by an anti social.

I think maybe I have grumbled about that long enough lets move on shall we?

Very pretty London Marathon bling
The back
London Enduro 12 hour

I was really looking forward to this one as it was to be my first attempt at a 12 hour event. Mummysaurus was by my side again to help crew and keep me going. We arrived at Wimbledon common and set up a tent in the camping area, mainly to have somewhere to put stuff, I had little intention of using it myself. We milled around the event village looking at the stalls and grabbed an iced coffee.
As it was the 13th June it was really warm and feeling pretty humid. This was a strange time to start an event for me as we were to start at 7pm and run until 7am the next day. The humidity worried me a little as I don`t seem to do so well in humid weather it always seems to really bog me down and make me feel sluggish. Oh well lets see what happens!

I register, pick up my pack and pin my number on, I know there is still a while to go but there is something about putting the number on that helps me focus.
Today the race is being split into a 50k and 12 hour option. This is important to remember as you all start at the same time so you can easily find yourself matching the pace of someone who could be running half of the distance.

I give Mummysaurus a hug and line up for the pre race briefing and a few minutes later we are getting ready for the off. My plan today is just to see how much I can do and hopefully break 50 miles.

7pm - 3.....2.......1.....GOOOO!!!

Everyone gives a big cheer and off we go on the first of many 10k laps. The route heads over a field and then vanishes into the trees. I run alongside a guy and we chat about past races and what we hope for today. He tells me he is in the 50k race and I take a quick look at my watch. Balls, I`m doing it again, I`m running his race, not mine and we are bopping along at around an 8 minute mile and are only around 2 miles in. Oooops!
I slow down a bit and try and take in the beauty of the route. Its very very pretty and I take it all in as we bound round the first lap. The loop has a lot more hills than I had anticipated but I finish the first one in under an hour. Nice sub 60 10k to start the day.....ah yes.....forgot about the rest of the day!!
I give Mummysaurus a wave and figure I don`t need to stop yet. My aim is to try and get another lap in before it gets any hotter so off I trot, only this time at a more sensible pace.
The humidity seems to really pick up around halfway through the second loop and I feel like I`m really starting to slow down already.....not good.
I feel like I`m crashing hard as I approach the end of the second loop. I duck out before the finishing mat to get to my food box. I feel destroyed. Mummysaurus can see from the look of me that something is wrong and she hops off and returns with a mixture of half coke and half water, I down it and try to clear my fuzzy head. I eat something and finally feel like I can move again.
I guess the London Double is still hiding in my system somewhere and I revise my plan to surviving 12 hours.
The hills are punishing, the humidity is thrashing me, what the hell is wrong with me?! I`ve only done about 15 miles and I feel like I`m done. Just keep moving.
Every lap I finish I seem to take a longer break and every time Mummysaurus is there to kick my ass back into shape and get me moving again.
Round and round and round we go, I`ve lost count of what I am on now, I no longer care. My revised revised plan is to plod along until the sun goes down and then try to make up some time as it gets cooler and the humidity drops.
The humidity didn't drop.
It felt like I was running through soup. Every hill made it worse as I slowed to a walk. This is going to be a long night.
I plodded, I walked, I even ran a little bit as the temperature dropped. Now with my (then) new head torch lighting everyone's way due to it being that flipping bright I felt like I was finally doing all right. I made my way through the now kind of spooky woodland and thought I saw a red flash. What was that? I looked around me, I was on my own. Hmm. A little bit further down the path, another red flash. OK I know I saw that one what is that?! I looked about again, nothing. What the hell? Am I loosing my mind? While I was assessing my mental state I was caught up by a guy finishing off his 50k and we chatted away. I was so grateful for the company at this stage, anything to take my mind off of the fact that I was struggling. FLASH. "What was that?" he said to me, "oh thank God you can see it too, I thought I was going nuts!!" It was at this point that it finally clicked that it must be a warning light from my head torch. I took it off and turned it round just as a tiny red LED blinked at me. Mystery solved. I looked at my watch and saw that I had around 4 miles to go before I could switch the batteries over so I better get a move on.
We made our way down a steep hill and went to turn a corner and I was suddenly plunged into complete darkness as my head torch gave up. Arse. I now have just over 3 miles to go, what the hell do I do now?! Fortunately I nearly always run with my phone so I took it out and turned the torch on, this just might work!
I picked up the pace and did the best I could to get back to base camp before the phone died!! The guy I was running with was shocked at how well I now seemed to be running, funny what I bit of fear will do eh?! We made our way across the final field and he thanked me for keeping him company and wished me the best for the rest of my journey. Oh how jealous I was, oh how I wished I was done! I took a seat on the ground as Mummysaurus scurried away and came back with some fresh batteries and food and before I knew it I was off again.

Here we go loopy loo.....

The loops now felt longer and longer and I just wanted it to be morning already. After what felt like eons, the sun finally came up and I waited to feel revitalised by the warm early mornings rays. The sun lifted and so did my spirits. I checked my watch and figured that I had time for the rest of this lap and maybe one more. I was shattered but knew I could walk another one.
Coming over the field again knowing that I could only do one more lap due to the time made me feel so much better. I stopped for some food and then made my way onto my final lap.
This was it, the lap that I could just let it all sink in. Not far into it I was joined by a woman doing her first ultra. We chatted away and she said this was also her last lap so she just wanted to take it slow and enjoy it. She was on her way to completing 100k! Amazing stuff. She looked a bit tired but not overly stressed. I said to her that she was doing really really well for her first one and especially to be able to knock out 100k in 12 hours. We nattered away as we walked and ran as much as we could. We ran every downhill we came too and then walked when we got to the bottom. To my surprise I seemed to be getting quicker with every downhill, so much so that on one of the hills I heard her shout "how are you running so fast?!" from behind me. Truly I had no idea. It may have had something to do with me being a good 10 miles behind her for the day. My legs felt thrashed for everything else but I was fine on the downhills so I just took the breaks off and enjoyed the ride. With about half a mile to go her parents appeared around the corner eager for her to finish up. We said our goodbyes and off she trotted.
At last I turned the corner onto the final field and did my best to keep running to the finish. I put in a (relative) sprint at the end and crossed the line with no-one but my Mum clapping as everyone else was focused on something far more important.....Bacon.
The BBQ had started so everyone was huddling around it waiting for food. Mummysaurus gave me a hug and I took a seat on the floor. She returned a little while later with the race director to make sure that at least he had noticed that I was done. Also she returned with a bacon roll! Bonus!
The race director disappeared into a tent and clattered about a bit, come back out and called another guy over. They both went back inside, moved stuff about some more and then returned with a medal looking a little sheepish. "I am so sorry but we have run out of the 12 hour medals, would you mind having a 50k one instead and I`ll send you a hat in the post?" "yeah sure" I said with a mouthful of bacon roll. I wasn't all that fussed, to me it meant that I got a free hat. Besides all I did when I got home for comedy purposes was write on the ribbon with a sharpie. Being honest its only really me that cares about my medals, they may go to work for a day to show people and then get added to a hanger in the wardrobe. The medal is nice but it was the fact that I had completed another 50 mile run that I was happier with.
Over the next 20 minutes or so the last few people come over the finish line, wrapping it up for the day. It was now time for the awards. The lady that I been running with on the last lap won first lady! I was so happy for her, she ran hard and really earned the win. I was no where near winning anything but was pleasantly surprised to hear that I had done more miles than some of the pairs category. In the scheme of things it means nothing but for some reason it was nice to hear.
With the awards done it was time to hobble back to the car and head home to think about the next one.

The next one....  St Albans Stampede 12 hour

This one I actually did blog about already if you would like to have a read then you can find it here (Click me!)


Loch Ness Marathon

I had been looking forward to this one for a while. It was my first trip to Scotland and I had always wanted to visit Loch Ness so being able to combine running with the chance to see it was great!
The other bonus to this trip was that we would finally get to meet some of our fellow monkeys from our running group Monkey Tag Running that I set up on Facebook a while a go! We had all been chatting for over a year now so this was going to be lots of fun.

Mummysaurus was once again tagging along....wait....I was the one tagging along, this was her event. Even though she had just completed her first ultra 3 weeks a go (see St Albans Stampede for the backstory) this was her first shot at a marathon and what a marathon to pick!!
The elevation profile for this one shows that with the exception of 2 nasty looking hills, its pretty much downhill. This is lies.
The little bumps on the profile are also lies. Make no mistake, this marathon is hilly!

We got there the day before and Mummysaurus had scouted out a great hotel within walking distance from the finish. This also happened to be where the event village was to be for the weekend so logistically this was amazing.
We dropped our stuff off at the hotel and had a wonder over to the event village to have a nose around and pick up our race packs.
The village was not really as big as we expected, in fact it was tiny. We had planned to pretty much camp out there most of the day and meet up with the monkeys at the same time. Within about 15 minutes we had our packs and had already walked around the whole place. Hmm what now?
We went off to get a coffee and bumped into a couple of the monkeys.
It was so nice to finally meet and have a good chat. They are a fantastic bunch and I love them all!
We stood about while some went off to grab their numbers and came back with more people. This was so cool, a proper little social gathering!
After a while we all said our goodbyes and hoped to see each other at the race the next day.
Mummysaurus and I decided to make our way into town to have a little look about.

We started the morning on a coach journey through some staggeringly beautiful scenery and twisty roads. The roads became hills and then steeper hills, both up and down. Everyone on the coach chatted away about what they had done before and what they would like to achieve today.
After what felt like a lifetime on the bus we arrived at the top of another hill overlooking the starting area. We pilled off of the bus and into the chilly morning air. We were surrounded by a fantastic view on all sides. Trees, heather, mountains, the mist rolling across it all.....stunning.
Picture not doing it justice at all
It was really cold up here. Everyone was shuffling around trying to stay warm, dropping off their bags and sipping coffee. Mummysaurus opted to head for the toilet queue and I headed over to check out where we started from. I walked up a little hill and spotted way down the bottom a little inflatable arch and some time markers along the side of the road. I headed back to find Mummysaurus so we could find a place to stand out of the way. While we bounced around trying to keep warm we spotted some of our monkey friends again! Yay! It was so cool to see them again given that there were around 3000 people there I wasn't sure we would see them again. We had a quick chat and wished each other all the best and then the bag pipes started.
What an incredible start to a race. The pipers made their way through the crowd and led us to the starting line surrounded by the mist and heather. If you didn't have goose pimples you weren't paying attention.
Amazing view!
Mummysaurus and me just before the start

A quick hug to Mummysaurus and it was time to start today's journey.
The hills were already making an appearance and we had barely started! It was like running on a concrete roller coaster. I found myself bounding along completely absorbed in the beauty of the Loch, I had no idea of my pace and at this point I didn't really care. This carried on for the first 10k until I finally thought that I should maybe be paying a little more attention to the fact that I am running a marathon today. The early morning chill was now lifting and it was actually starting to get quite warm. Enough so that I had to lose a layer and quickly stuff it in my pack.
By the time I had got to around 10 miles the sun was really starting to give it some and I could feel myself starting to slow down. By 15 miles I was starting to put in more walk breaks than I really wanted too. Something was wrong. I had decided that I would experiment with my fueling on this one and run pretty much on gels. Its something I don`t normally do but after my lack of energy at St Albans Stampede I thought I would give it a go. It didn't seem to be working.
18 miles in and I felt really lethargic, I just felt like I had nothing left. I tried eating something and it briefly worked. Briefly. This was now becoming more of a hike around the hills rather than the PB marathon time I was hoping for. Oh well just keep moving.
2 miles later I was starting to feel really sick. What is wrong with me?! By mile 22 I had had enough of feeling sick it was time to put an end to it, it was time for a tactical reset.
I found a field with a gate open and headed off to find a spot well away from the road. I took a quick mouthful of water and assumed the position, not really expecting much to happen. To my surprise I immediately emptied the contents of my stomach. Guess the gels don`t agree with me then!
The next couple of miles felt great. I really felt like I was back in the game then I crashed......hard.
I just ground to a halt. That was it, I was wobbling all over the place, could barely walk let alone run.
I settled on something resembling a march, OK a shuffle.
The last mile was just never ending I even looked around to make sure I was still going the right way!
Finally I could see the finishing arch.....on the other side of the river!!! GAH! I shuffled myself up to the cross over point a million miles away and then was on the home straight. People along the path cheered and clapped as I made my way down and it really lifted my spirits. With 400 meters left I started to jog, the jog turned into a run and with about 200 meters to go I was in a full on sprint. The crowd just got into my blood and I had to give it my all. I felt like I was going to collapse but I needed to finish like this, I needed to feel like I at least tried. Passing over the finishing mat was like a switch I just stood there, bent over gasping for air and wobbling. The paramedic asked if I was OK, I wasn't but I was if you know what I mean. The medal was placed around my neck and I shuffled off to look for my bag and a place to crash out.
I felt dazed. I sat on the ground trying to get my head together. I considered laying down but really thought I would just fall asleep and I didn't want to miss seeing Mummysaurus finish.
I rummaged around in my goodie bag and ate something, I`m still not sure what it was. Now propped up at the finishing barrier I passed the time by clapping in every person who approached the finish.
I was disappointed with my own time but that soon faded away while watching peoples faces as they smiled across the line. This is what it was all about after all, overcoming the challenge.
I saw Mummysaurus coming down the road encouraging a lady she was with. Amazing! They looked at each other with about 100 meters to go and just started legging it! They had been out there gutting it out for 7 hours! Huge respect. Whatever disappointment that was left in me was completely replaced by pride and joy at the site of seeing my Mum achieve her first official marathon. It still makes me smile now just thinking about it.

After collecting her bags we headed off to get some food and found our monkey friends in there!! What an amazing finish to the day! We ate and chatted about the route and how we all got on, said our goodbyes and then made our way back to the hotel for a nice hot shower and some well earned dinner.
Loch Ness was as beautiful as it was tough and I`m sure we will be visiting again one day.

Pooped monkeys
Loch Ness Marathon bling
One month later.....

Stort 30

I had been looking forward to this race for a long time, mostly because it signaled the end of my racing year and I had promised my tired system a month off.
I booked Stort 30 near the beginning of the year when I still felt relatively fresh and foolish enough to take on a whole bunch of races. The morning of said race however I was feeling no where near as fresh and a lot more foolish. My bed was warm, the dark Sunday morning in late October was not.
Putting my gear into the back of the car at 7am, Mummysaurus and I exchanged looks of "Holy Moses its cold!" as we made a dash for the heaters inside. This was the first morning she had to scrape the car, glad I wasn't going running or anything.....oh wait!
My game plan for todays 30 mile was to simply survive and come in under the 7 hour cut off. This year I have pretty much pushed my luck as far as it would go and for some reason have just not trained. Now I know a lot of people say that when they actually mean they haven't trained as much as they would have liked. I mean it as I have bounced from event to event with some Parkruns thrown in the middle. Yeah, turns out that's not a great training strategy, who knew?! Everyone you say? Ah.

After the mess I made of Loch Ness I just wanted to hopefully enjoy this one and then take a month off to really catch up and rethink everything.
The main thing I want to try and get a grip on is nutrition, you see I thought I pretty much had it down. I seemed to run pretty well on a high fat, low carb approach...well that was until about 4 months a go when everything switched. The switch was not only effecting my running but my day to day life.

Shall we have a little background story?

Since I was a kid I`ve always had a bit of a weak stomach but being a kid I never thought anything of it, assuming everyone else did too. As I got older I used to get cramps that would leave me in a little ball on the ground for a while. Years later this was diagnosed as IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, comical name, not so comical to live with. In a nut shell the doctors don't really know how you get it or how to treat it. What they do know is that it can be managed by monitoring your intake and working out your "triggers". The outcome of this depends very much on the person. Not to get too graphic about the whole thing but this means you tend to....erm "go" or "stop" a little more than other folks. Some experience cramps and it can be pretty disruptive to your everyday life. On a bad day this could be a day off work for me feeling lethargic, bloated and needing to be close to the facilities.
I have obviously spent a lot of time keeping an eye on what aggravates my grumpy gut and have been fortunate enough to live a pretty normal life, well until a couple of months a go.
Suddenly everything I knew changed. I was now feeling sick after most things with processed sugar and most things with grain. Now this to start with doesn't sound like a big deal until you look a little closer. Seemingly EVERYTHING has processed sugar and grain in it! So for about a month I didn't really want to eat much because almost everything gave me an acidic feeling in my throat and made me feel bloated and sick. The other problem with this was that because I wasn't eating a great deal that was also making me feel sick........catch 22.
The timing of this was also perfect as I had a bunch of events planned, St Albans Stampede, Loch Ness marathon and Stort 30. The biggest thought in my head, other than my no training er...plan was, "what the hell am I going to eat?!"
It had been about 6 weeks now and had already made St Albans Stampede a lot harder than it had to be. By now almost everything was making me feel sick so I just got on with it. I felt so out of control, second guessing everything I ate and drank. Loch Ness Marathon was a mess for the same reason. I was out of ideas and out of energy.

Mum really does know best.

For ages Mummysaurus had been banging on about this stuff called Generation Ucan. I was all about eating real food on my runs so I just kind of let her get on with it, saying that I would try it later. It seemed like the perfect time to give it a go, I wasn't having much luck with food so what did I have to lose? I had pretty much given in to trying anything just to get me through this final race so i could have a good rest. She assured me that I would love it, I was skeptical but had no other reason not to at least give it a try. She explained that it should last around 2 hours per serving and I shouldn't need any other food or water in between either. "But its less than 150 calories per serving?!" I replied "Just try it, trust your Mum!"

On with the show!

So here we are at registration. I grab my number and pin it on. Its flipping chilly so everyone is still layered up and snuggled inside the hall. As I look around I recognize a few familiar faces and say hi and we all mill around getting ready before the briefing. With about half an hour to go Mummysaurus instructs me to mix up my Ucan and get it down me. I mixed half flavoured and half plain as she said she found it super sweet. I made a small error by dipping my plastic bag in the top of my water, instantly turning that powder into a sticky mess. I was using around 350ml of water and couldn't really afford to waste any Ucan as I had intended it to be my only fuel so before Mummysaurus had time to advise otherwise I just sucked the rest of the paste right off the bag. "No no no nooooo.......oh wow you really just did that?! You're a braver man than me!!" Mummysaurus stood there waiting for my reaction...."wow......that's sweet!! Glad I mixed it!!" I said with pupils the size of saucepans.
I gave the stuff that made it into the bottle a good shake and then tried my first mixed mouthful, expecting it to be quite chalky. I was pleasantly surprised to find it was really to my taste, by that I mean it was no homemade milkshake but it was palatable.
I am not really used to drinking 350ml in one hit and then running but today was to be the day to try.
With around 15 minutes to go everyone packed into the little hall for the race briefing. Lindley Chambers the race director gave us our final instructions and then we all headed out into the cold to get ready and shed our final layers before the off.
Once outside I met a few more people I had met before at other events and we stood around and chatted. I pointed out Craig Holgate, standing in his Centurion running top to Mummysaurus, marking him as the winner before we had even started. The guy is a running monster, I`m pretty sure he feeds on course records!
Somewhere in the background I hear "GO!" and everyone starts moving! "oh we are off then?!" I hug Mummysaurus and trot over the start line to begin today's adventure.
We begin with 2 laps around the field before heading off down the road towards the river. As we trot around the field a few of us chat and joke and we complete our first lap...."WOO HOO well I`m not lost yet, good start!". I wave to Mummysaurus after the second lap as we exit the field onto the road.
I follow everyone down the hill with my instructions in hand. I have a quick peak at them every now and then just to keep track of where I am, you know, just in case. Its very easy to blindly follow a group and then suddenly find you are all off track so I tried to second guess every turn and run my own race. I feel like I am maybe running a little too quick but decide to just not overthink anything today and have fun. I have a little chat with a few people and then find my own space as we spread out a little. Feeling comfortable and enjoying being on my own I come up with a plan to see how far I can get before the lead guys run back past me as today was a 15 mile out and back.
Looking at my watch I`m surprised to see I`m almost at 5 miles already and coming up to the first checkpoint. I head into the first checkpoint and grab a little bit of water just in case I don't make the 10 mile point before my next Ucan is due. I head out as swiftly as I came in and I`m still running. This doesn't sound like a big deal but for me lately it really is.
6,7,8,9 and I`m still running and I remember thinking "wow I`m nearly at the second checkpoint, still no food or water?! This stuff is pretty good!" I was starting to get hungry now as I approached the 10 mile checkpoint and was more than ready to give my second batch a go. I filled up 350ml of water and dumped my next pre measured bunch of powder into my bottle and gave it a good shake as I thanked everyone and made my way off towards the next checkpoint.
Over the next couple of minutes I drank it all down and stashed my bottle back in my bag. I mixed a bit of walking and running over the next few minutes then started to run more consistently again once I felt like it had settled nicely. I had a quick look at my watch and was again surprised that I was still running at a decent speed. I was even more surprised that the lead guys were not on their way back yet as I was about 11.5 miles in. Lo and behold about 200 meters later Craig Holgate comes bounding down the path towards me. I step to the side of the narrow path and clap as he smiles and says well done to me on the way past! This is what I love about the ultra community, for the most part the people at the top don't act like it! They are just as happy to see you succeed as you are to watch them do the same. Being a runner that is nearly always at the back of the pack this was a brilliant experience for me because I actually got to see the folks who were in the lead! Normally they are long gone and that's it, you may only see them for the first minute or two and then in photographs later. I got a great boost from this and continued to push on still feeling great. About 5 minutes later the 2nd place male come down the path and the same thing, I stepped to the side and he said well done. I`m loving it.
So here I am smiling my way in to the 15 mile turn around still running and feeling great. Mummysaurus is here to greet me and is so suprised to see I have arrived this early. She is not the only one!! We have a hug and she sends me back the way I came.
I pass people coming the other way and say well done to everyone, suprised that there was this many people behind me. At around 18 miles I realise I`m stopping for my first real walk break. Wow try not to think about it too much just enjoy it.
By the time I get to the 20 mile aid station I am ready for my 3rd and last shake. It feels so odd to only mix a shake and not even take extra water after training for so long on solid food but I stick to the experiment.
I can feel I`m starting to get tired now but that`s fine by me, I already feel like I`ve accomplished what I set out to do today. I try not to think about it too much and just keep breaking up the walking and running as I make my way to the last aid station at around 25 miles.
At this one I take half a cup of squash and 3 tomatoes just as a tiny pick me up to the finish. Those were the best tomatoes I have ever had. They felt like rocket fuel! I was running a little bit harder each time it was time to run again.
Finally I was off of the canal path and back onto the streets, I must be nearly done! I looked up the road to see the flags of the car park and trotted up the hill preparing myself for a bit of a sprint.
As I came into the car park everyone cheered and I could see the finishing arch. I went to head for it and everyone was screaming and pointing the other way. Apparently to get to the finish we had to do a lap of the field!!! GAH I was so close!!! I had a good chuckle about it on the way round and then before I knew it I was crossing the line.
This was my kind of race, it was so encouraging to see everyone wishing each other well. The course was beautiful with its wildlife and canal boats. Definitely one for the future calendar. More importantly I was able to run the way I wanted to run. Actually beyond the way that I had expected on basically 3 shakes. By far this was my best race for a long time. Mother really does know best.

Anything else to add?

Over this last year I have also really got into Parkrun, in fact in between the above I managed to get in 27 of them. Probably another reason why I was a little knackered! I have continued to do Parkrun most of this year at Aldenham Country Park and along with Mummysaurus have even been asked to be Run Directors! I have also since the new year pushed Monkey Tag Running a little further by starting a social running group. The idea behind it being that no-one gets left behind. Far to many people start running and get put off because they are at the back or cant keep up and I really wanted to create a place where people can just feel comfortable. The groups pace is set by the slowest person so everyone can run together and encourage each other. Once the group picks up a bit it may well split into different speed groups but will still have the same philosophy.

I think that pretty much brings us up to date.
Thank you so much for reading and I hope you have enjoyed it.

Much love

Bling 2015 - From left to right - Mill Hill Marathon - London Double Marathon - London Enduro 12 hour - St Albans Stampede - Loch Ness Marathon - Stort 30

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

St Albans Stampede

The morning of Saturday 5th September was a bit of a cold, grey and drizzly one as Mummysaurus and I made the short journey to the venue. We got there with bags of time to spare, got a parking space and hauled our gear to the Scout hut. Putting up the tent was a breeze as Mummysaurus had one of those "pull the cord and watch your fingers" type pop up tents. Within 2 minutes of finding our spot we had put up the tent, added the top sheet, pinned it down and chucked our gear in it. So far so good!
We headed inside the Scout hut to registration and to get out of the drizzle. The place was pretty much empty so we strolled over to pick up our numbers. They had previously told us that we would have to have two timing chips, one for each foot as we were both in the solo category. I had asked a few days before about what would happen if we needed to change footwear and was told that they would ask the timing people. Sure enough at registration we were told the solution was that now everyone would wear lanyards so this wouldn't be a problem for any changes. I was really impressed at the speed this was done. A lot of other events would have just told you that's the way it was. Top job guys and girls!

We milled around for a while as more people showed up. I always pin my number on to my shorts as it makes it easier to change tops or add a jacket without switching the number over. Mummysaurus went for the same idea. You could see the nerves kicking in as she tried not to pin her leg to her number. This was her first go at a 12 hour event and even though her plan from the beginning was to run 20 miles today she was still a bit jittery, understandably! This event happened to coincide with her last long run before her first official Marathon, Loch Ness on the 27th September. Even though she will have bags of time today and support every 4 miles its still a 20 mile run.

My plan was to hopefully hit around 50 miles. Lately I have felt pretty tired. I`m not sure if its the amount I have done this year or simply a lack of training in between events. I suspect the latter.
I have felt like I`m just trying to get round rather than putting in a good effort. With a bit of luck I can pull something out of the bag today.

8:45am - We gather in the Scout hut for the race briefing. I love this bit. The nervous excitement buzzes around the room, you can feel it building as the briefing finishes and we start making our way to the start. Even though the starting group is only small the energy is huge. The chatter from everyone wishing each other good luck is a welcoming ice breaker for all.

9am - 3.......2.......1.......GOOOO!!!

People cheer, the front runners leg it, Mummysaurus and I hug and then shuffle off with the back of the pack.
We get over the start line, turn the very first corner and face a pretty nasty looking rocky hill. Right then, this will be a place to walk each lap then! Finally the hill levels out to a nice flat bit and then starts heading downhill, good place to make up some time. The next mile or so is a kind of gentle up and down then we head down again before coming across a flat field.
It was a little sticky from the rain and I already was thinking about changing to my other Luna sandals. I had started in my trusty and now very worn Luna Mono but had bought along my new Leadville in case it was a little slippery. It was.
At the end of the field was another grass hill leading to a gentle downhill which turned into a steep muddy hill with roots and a big muddy puddle at the bottom.
Once through the puddle we had to head off to the right through a bit more sticky stuff then onto a beautifully soft moss like common. It was short and springy like running on new carpet. Up and down the hills, another right, another hill and then a long flat bit that bought us to the entrance driveway. The driveway was slightly uphill and covered in a light gravel, the type the is not enough to make you slip but just enough to get in your shoes when you walk.
After the long gradual uphill, finally the driveway drops down and we head to the bottom of another gravel pathway that is, you guessed it, uphill to the start/finish line.
One lap done! 4 miles, phew.

So now you have the lay of the land I can move on to how the rest of it went.
The first lap I naturally headed out like I was in one of the relay teams, I wasn't and already knew I was going to pay for it later. Idiot points - 1
With that lap done I quickly headed back to the tent to change into my Leadville as my bald Monos just weren't up for the slippery mud today.

I bolted off for another couple of laps then decided I should get some food. It was at this point I found that my legs were like jelly. Oh dear. I wobbled myself to the aid station that was set about 20 feet off of the route and preceded to stuff my face like it was the first time I had ever seen food. Idiot points - 2
The next lap, well...sucked. I felt heavy and tired as my body diverted all of its power to digesting the horrendous amount I just ate. It really bugged me as I knew exactly what I had done wrong. I have trained over the last year or so to run on less and less so I`m really not used to digesting so much. I like to run light and just nibble on small amounts and it seems to work for me. What was I thinking?!
I think I was on my forth lap when I caught up with Mummysaurus. She was looking so strong. We chatted and trotted along at her pace. I was more than happy with this given the way I was feeling. I ended up doing nearly a full lap with her. She headed off to get something to drink and I wobbled off up the hill, trying to shake off whatever the hell was going on with me.
Slowly, slowly I started to feel better but I just felt like my mind had deserted me.

Mojo has left the building......

Whatever number lap this one was will be named The Dark Lap.
I no longer cared. I felt tired, it all felt so pointless. What was I doing here? I`m not a "real" runner, I`m walking, a lot. Should I just fake and injury and stop? Should I just slink away at the end of this lap and nap in the tent? "Oh yeah that sounds great! Get back to the tent, take a nap! Hey, just sleep the time away and say you didn't set an alarm, no one would know." said the little demon on my shoulder, gently whispering all this crap in my ear. "Think of the coffee! Think of the food! Think of that sleeping bag!! Oh the sleeping bag!! No one cares if you give up, its 12 hours, you did your best on the day" I desperately looked at the other shoulder for the little Angel that was going to convince me otherwise. The little Angle smiled at me warmly. PHEW! Talk to me my little friend... "Its OK, give in, he`s right" Wait!! WHAT?! The little Angel burst into laughter, pulled off the wings and threw the halo in my face. Great, now I have a demon on BOTH shoulders!! Its going to be a looooong day.

Somewhere around this time I managed to get a small bit of running in, probably out of frustration and caught up with Ben Scott. We got chatting and it really helped to shake the negativity away. I think we stuck together for around 3 laps just shooting the breeze, it was great. I was feeling a lot more human now and we bopped along, switching from fast walking to slow running. Thanks Ben you really helped me through!
He was also starting to feel a lot better and so headed off in front while he could. I continued to hike and trot as best as I could while talking to people on the way to try and keep my spirits up.
I caught up with Mummysaurus again and she was STILL looking really strong and focused. She told me that she was just about to hit 32 miles!!! Incredible! My Mum was now an ultra runner!! I couldn't have been happier at that moment and we hugged and talked about it as we marched the hill. I stuck with her for the rest of that lap reveling in the moment. We finished the lap and parted ways as she went for a quick break.

Off we go again........

I had some really nice chats with Michal Mosurek Zawals and Richard Hazeldene, both of which were doing really well. The laps past, the time ticked down, a deer ran across my path, all was well.
I was feeling pretty thrashed but at least now I was allowing it as I had done around 40 miles.

This event had a strict 12 hour time limit. This meant for your lap to count, it had to be finished by 9pm. If you were even 1 second from the finish line, that lap wouldn't count. Sounds a little harsh but I like it. It means that you have to really make a decision on if you can make another lap or not. Risky as you might end up running a lap that wont count if you got the timing wrong.
With this in mind I came into lap 10 and headed into the scout hut to grab a coffee and work out how much more I could do.
My pace was right down and a lap was taking just over an hour. I was hoping to get in another 3 laps to end the day on 52 miles but today was simply not that day. I just didn't have enough time so instead I had a little break, drank some coffee, had a little sit down, safe in the knowledge that I could plod and still get another 2 laps.
Now feeling nicely rested I headed out of the warmth of the scout hut for my final 2 laps.
Somewhere along this lap I was joined by Richard Hazeldene again and we put on a bit of a march. His walking pace was impressive and I had to work my little legs hard to keep up. It was good though as the sun was nearly down and it was starting to get colder. It felt really good to be back at a reasonable pace. Even though a lot of it was still walking, it felt like it had more purpose.

1 lap to go!

We had an hour and a half left on the clock so enough time to knock out 1 more lap and then we could stop! The temperature by now had really dropped so we stuck to our quick march. It was still just about light enough to not need a head torch until about halfway round when Richard finally turned his on. We hiked at a strong pace trying to stay warm and trying to just get it done. You could feel the excitement that this was the last lap.
It was finally time to turn my lighthouse of a head torch on. I have the LED Lensor SEO 7R, catchy name huh? What it lacks in a pretty name and battery life, it more than makes up for in power. At 220 lumen on full, its like turning on the sun. The hillside lit up, rendering Richards head torch redundant. Its almost embarrassingly bright. I found myself giving a warning before I turned it on so people don't get confused with it being a car! The battery life however for my use is, well, just as embarrassing. On full power it will last around 5 hours then will completely cut out. Fortunately today we only needed it for about half an hour.

Finally we could see the gravel driveway. The temperature here really dropped suddenly, I guess it was a little more open. We hiked as quick as we could, catching up with Geoff Russell on the last part of the driveway and decided to finish over the line together.
Finally after being on the move for 11:32:10 we crossed the line together at a gentle trot. Well relatively speaking we could say it was a sprint finish. It wasn't but we could say that.
The crowd at the finish were brilliant, clapping and cheering everyone across the line. I even saw someone I knew from Parkrun! Wai Meng Au-Yeong has to be maybe one of the cheeriest people you will ever meet and her encouragement to other runners is quiet amazing! It was great to see you and thank you so much for your support!

I met Mummysaurus at the finish and we headed inside to warm up and wait for the prize giving.
I was so happy to be sitting down with a hot drink and eating cake. All around me people were chatting with each other about how the day went.
I got a phone call from my lady and my Dad who had driven over to meet us at the finish. I headed outside to meet them and got back inside just in time for the start of the prize giving.
It was great to see Ben take 3rd male in the solo category with 64 miles as it was his first 12hr event!! Hell of a start man, well done!!
They started the prizes for the Female solo category...."....with 32 miles....Jo Summers...." we missed the bit in the middle and Mummysaurus looked at me a little puzzled as she thought that was first place and was now panicking that her chip wasn't working. "And in second place with 36 miles...."
"Mum that's YOU!!!" I said to her with a massive smile. A very dazed looking Mummysaurus got up and was handed a trophy for second place lady!!
What an incredible end to the day! My own finish was just another completed slog, the pride I had for my Mums achievement was the thing that made my day. I said to her as she sat there with her pretty bit of glass that I was as jealous as I was proud ha ha ha. She earned that trophy more than I earned my 48 miles.

So what now?

We are both heading for Loch Ness Marathon on Saturday 26th September for my Mums first official marathon and I for one cant wait! I've been looking forward to this one for quiet some time. The biggest thing I took away from St Albans Stampede is that I simply need to try more and keep my head in the game. So with that in mind.......Loch Ness...The monkeys are coming to get you!!

Thanks for reading folks, I hope you enjoyed it!
Much love

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

The call of the mountains

Canada, I miss you already.
I was fortunate enough to have spent 2 weeks in Calgary catching up with family and exploring some of the surrounding areas. We were staying about an hour and a half away from heaven, locally known as Banff. The photos I took below do not even begin to do justice to just how stunning the area is.....

It is the kind of place that just grabs your heart and gives it a good squeeze.
I ran around here one morning soaking up the scenery and snapped away with my camera phone. It was at this point that I began to realise that I was enjoying the photography as much as I was enjoying the run. To be fair in a location like this it was hard to take a bad picture but I definitely felt like it had awoken something, so much so that I did it again the next morning.
I spent the rest of my holiday snapping away at the things I found interesting.....


I have tons more but I shall leave it there for now.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.


Sunday, 12 July 2015

The update without the fanfare

As some of you may have noticed its been a while since I have posted anything. I think my last post was about about the Mill Hill marathon back in March? Well since then I shifted my attention to a double London Marathon attempt. After that I'm not really sure what happened, I just couldn't seem to bring myself to write a report about it.

I have tried many times to write this post and for some reason kept deleting it.

I guess maybe after London when everyone and their dog was posting reports about their experience I just felt like it was nice to take a step back and slink away into the shadows for a bit.
My London marathon experience just wasn't the same as everyone else and I didn't want it to be taken the wrong way or for it to sound like I was boasting in anyway.

My London marathon felt like it had a lot of pressure around it long before I got there. The pressure to actually finish both of them because of the fund raising behind it kind of took some of the fun out of it for me. Don`t get me wrong, it was amazing to be in a position to do something positive, it just also meant that my work life and running life had maybe got a little close together.

Running for me is a way to get away from the everyday. Its my time, my little bubble. It helps me deal with the stresses and helps me feel more human again. That feeling was not there so much in the build up as I was constantly asked if I would be OK or if I would even finish. This obviously bled into my training, so much so in fact that I even started to doubt myself.

I guess this is why after so much time in the spotlight at work that I slunk away to get back to what I loved, underground running. Doing the kind of events that don't have a lot of fanfare. I realised after London more than ever that the thing that I really loved was the camaraderie and the community that comes with ultra running. The London Marathon was just the complete opposite of everything I had been doing for the last couple of years.

On with the story...

I met up with a bunch of folks at the train station near where the marathon was due to finish. We set off to the sound of Big Ben singing in 2am, heading off around the same route only backwards.
We laughed, we talked, we had a great time. The encouragement was just brilliant. Just a bunch of people on a run around London at stupid o clock in the morning. As we neared the end of our night adventure they all wished me the best of luck for taking it on again. It was so much fun and I was a little sad it had ended already. I milled around and tried to stay warm before joining the masses in our pens.
Already this was a very different experience as I stood there surrounded by thousands and thousands of people, nervously stretching and jumping about.


No one moved.
With the volume of people it took 10 minutes to cross the start line!
The crowd were incredible, just a solid wall of sound! It was such a crazy contrast to my last 6 hours that at first it was a little overwhelming and I kind of felt like I just wanted to get away from it all.
After a little while I got used to it and it helped me along. After about 10k I felt like I was settling in a little and was starting to throw in walk breaks to keep me going as I had already done a marathon this morning. Obviously no one else around me knew this so it just looked like I was really under trained! The encouragement from the crowd was brilliant but then I started to look around at my fellow runners. Very, very few of them were speaking to other runners. They waved to the crowd or followed the hoards of earphone zombies. Mile after mile passed and no one said a word.
Brief smiles were flashed to the crowd and then back to stern faces. The further we went the more impatient people seemed to get. I tried very hard to move to the side when I needed a walk break, a common courtesy that apparently wasn't common at all. You could be right behind someone bopping along at quite a nice pace then they would just stop dead in front of you without even glancing over their shoulder!
The water stations bought on a new challenge of trying not to twist an ankle on the thousands of discarded bottles. Next was trying to get out of there without taking a flying bottle to the face. People threw them from every direction to the side of the road just narrowly missing others. So much water was wasted.
Next was the gel stations. These were odd as you could hear them long before you got there. So much of the gel was wasted and discarded on the floor that a good 100 meters of road tried to claim your footwear! It was so sticky that all you could hear was feet sticking and ripping off the floor all around you, it even drowned out the sound of the crowd!
What was really unexpected is how emotional it was at times. Crossing Tower Bridge for example.
I've lived just outside of London for my whole life and must have been over that bridge 100 times before. This time however nearly had me in tears. Crossing over that iconic bridge was amazing. The crowd were absolutely incredible, the noise was deafening!
Meeting my Mum at around mile 22 (48 for me) was maybe the happiest point in the journey so far as I knew I was nearly done.
Turning the final corner past Big Ben, I couldn't help but put in a sprint finish, I got to the line at the same time as another guy so in the spirit of hand in hand we raised ours across the line...done. I did it!
We were quickly shuffled into rows to pick up a goody bag and then ushered out the other end.
I wondered around to find the baggage drop, picked up my bag and then sat on the floor for a bit.
I text my Mum and then made my way to the pub, still not 100% sure how I felt about the whole experience.
I think I've had a while to let it sink in and analyse it and I think I can sum up my double London marathon quite simply......."a social followed by and anti-social"
With avoiding people and stepping to the side I actually clocked up a whole extra mile over the last marathon! That's a lot of sidestepping!
The medal was really nice and had a lot of really cool detail that I wasn't expecting. The tshirt I received was unfortunately an XL as they had run out of the other sizes by the time I had finished. I contacted them directly to see if they had any and was told that they simply had none left as they hadn't printed enough. Oh well.

I guess I'm just not built for the mass marathon. The whole experience for me was a little off putting with the exception of the crowd. Soooo many people around me actually made it quite hard to run and really enjoy it.
I like running not feeling like I'm on display.

So whats next?

After a nice couple of weeks off I turned my focus to the London Enduro 12 hour on the 13th/14th June. This one was a little different for me as it was 12 hours but over the night. Starting at 7pm in Wimbledon Common we all headed off to try and complete as many 10k laps as we could. There was the option for a 50k or 12 hour and you could take part as a team or solo. I was one of only 24 solo runners.


We headed off and naturally I ignored all of my own advice, headed out really hard and way beyond my pace plan, completing the first lap in 59:14 while chatting along to a really nice guy.
Lap 2 hurt a bit so I slowed it down and started taking a slightly better approach but the humidity and unexpected amount of hills were trashing me already.
Coming into the end of lap 2 I was in real trouble. I was dizzy and felt thrashed to bits. I sat down for about 10 minutes desperately trying to get myself together. My Mum did a fantastic job playing the part of my crew and I pretty much owe this race to her.
My original goal was to attempt to go for 100k. After only the second lap my plan changed to 50 miles. The humidity and hills just sapped away at my energy but as much as I could I tried to just break it into laps. One at a time.
According to the rules as long as you had set out for your last lap before 11:30 hours had elapsed then the final lap would count.
Round and round and round I went just hoping that the sun would come up soon as my head torch was running really low. Just at the point where I was wondering how much battery i had left my torch went out, plunging me into complete, solid darkness!
I had no choice but to stop dead in my tracks and take my phone out. I ran the next 3 miles on the torch from my phone! To be fair it worked bloody well!
Back at camp Mummysaurus changed the batteries for me, got me fed and water and sent me on my way.
By this point the sun was almost up and my pace had dropped right down. I was pretty much only running the downhill sections and walking everything else. Fortunately there was some really nice long bits of downhill so that helped to bring up my overall time.
I went through I really nasty point of feeling sick at around 42 miles and it was really slowing me down. I figured I would try a bit of an experiment and just head for the bushes and listen to my body.
My body didn't like the last chocolate bar I ate apparently.
Less than half a mile later I felt fantastic and I found myself running at 9 minute miles again! I hadn't been able to do that for the last few hours! Magic!
I guess I had just overloaded on the food and water. Every days a school day.

Onto the last lap.....

Most of my last lap I spent walking and chatting with a very nice lady who was on to complete 100k! Fantastic effort! She said she had spent so many laps trying to really focus that now the sun was up and she couldn't get anymore in, she was just going to enjoy her last lap and take it all in. Brilliant!
I was more than happy to trot along and have a natter.
When it came to the downhills I let the brakes off and headed off. Behind me I could hear her shouting "how are you running so fast?!" once we met up at the bottom I said to her I didn't realise i was?! Apparently I`m pretty good at downhill running. Who knew?! Well I guess its a good job that I am or I wouldn't have got away with as many laps as I did!

Getting close to the finish now and her parents had caught her up. She wished me well and headed off to the finish. I would have loved to have tagged along but honestly I was done and simply couldn't keep up. She is an amazing runner and I wouldn't doubt it for a minute to see her doing some real damage for the top places in other races. (Top running Alice :) )

Finally turning into the last corner and onto the field I can see the finishing area. It felt like it took me for ever to get there. As is now tradition (just for the camera) I set off for a sprint(ish) finish. As I got closer I could see everyone at the finish line with there back to me looking at something else. I cross the line to one person clapping and my Mum taking a video, everyone else? They were watching a guy cooking bacon. Love it!

I had a quick hug from my Mum and then took a seat on the grass, happy that I didn't have to do another loop.
What come next was kinda odd. As I sat there my Mum looked around to see if anyone had actually noticed if I had finished.............
The guy who was normally at the finish line was the same guy cooking the bacon! Mum strutted over and came back not only with a bacon roll and a coffee for me but also with a very apologetic looking race director! Ha ha ha
He rummaged around in the tent, called over another guy and continued to search. Turns out they had run out of the 12 hour finishers medals! Ooops!
He was very apologetic and offered me the 50k finishers medal and a Salomon hat by way of apologie.........fine by me!
I sat and munched on my roll during the awards and had a look through my goodie bag. Great t shirt and loads of bits to munch on....perfik.

So whats been going on since?

After London Enduro I took a nice week off and then tried to get back into training and writing. Both didn't go so well. I think to be honest I was a little tired of both. Instead I have been trying to just get my groove back. Parkrun and reading have both helped a lot.
I guess once you have done something that puts a lot of stress on your body maybe your mind needs as much of a break as your body does?
The proof is in the posting eh?

I wanted to write this post as less of a race report and more of a recap without the bells and whistles, without the fanfare. The idea being more about what goes on around the running. I guess in a way just to try and kick start the writing again.

Not my most coherent post I grant you but maybe a more honest one.
Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it!

Love and ramblings

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Mill Hill MUDrathon!

It was the 1st of March and a beautiful sunny but slightly chilly morning. The weather had not been at all kind in the run up to the first ever Mill Hill marathon but that wasn't going to stop 54 nutcases from sploshing around in the mud for 27 miles.

Mummysaurus picked me up and we headed over to Mill Hill just after 8am. Now for us this was a real treat as we only live in Borehamwood, about 15 minutes away!! Talk about on your doorstep! None of the usual faff of making sure you can get there, the traffic the blah blah blah.... brilliant!

On the drive over we joked about the hills we were driving on saying the usual things like "wow, hope you don't have to run this one!" and laughing about the obvious name of the town - Mill HILL.
Now you would be forgiven for thinking there was only 1 hill. There isn't. There are many, many, many hills, oh and mud, lots of it. Funnily enough though I don't recall seeing a mill?
Any who, back to the story....

We arrived at a little hall and walked in to find loads of folks all huddled inside. Everyone was chatting away and looking very relaxed while drinking tea and coffee. Not the normal feeling at the start of a marathon. Upon looking around the room a little more it began to dawn on me why almost everyone was looking so relaxed. I spotted Dennis Cartwright and we had a nice chat. Its always great to catch up with people you have run with before. Then I spot Traviss Willcox and a blue and yellow shirt, then another blue and yellow shirt and another and another........oh dear.
I felt like I had walked into a 100 marathon club convention! Talk about humbling! For those of you who don't know about the 100 marathon club, the name may give it away. It is a pretty exclusive club for those who have completed over 100 marathons/ultras!! Ill just let you digest that for a moment.........

Need a bit longer?

Yes that did say OVER 100. 100 is the point you are accepted into the club and can start wearing the much coveted blue and yellow club shirt. This means that pretty much anybody you speak to with that shirt on has done as LEAST 100 marathons.

Ill give you a little longer.....

We have the normal race briefing and head out to the starting line just outside.
Group photo before the start
Looking at the pathway ahead, it was already pretty clear that today was going to be a tough day. The pathway was pretty boggy and we hadn't even started yet.
My footwear of choice was of course the sensible choice.........sandals. With slippery, boggy, sticky mud and a lot of puddles and stones why wouldn't you?
To be honest I had considered wearing my Altra and even had them in the car in case I got into trouble. The only problem I found with the Altra is that they seem to collect the mud rather than assist me over it!! All things considered, sandals it was.


We sploshed off the start line, down a little steep hill and into more mud. Some more mud was waiting for us just after we got through the last bit and then some hills.....with mud.
We were less than a mile in and I was already covered up to my shins.
On the drive over Mummysaurus mentioned she was considering maybe walking a lap depending on how tough I thought it was after my first one. After half a lap I knew I had to get back quickly to stop her being impatient and leaving before I had a chance to tell her it wasn't such a good idea! The going was tough and muddy, did I mention the mud? 1 lap ticked off, just another 4 to go! *gulp*
Only one lap in and already up to my thighs in mud!
With each lap the mud got more and more churned up. My trusty Luna sandals held up well but it was tough going. My foot would splosh into the mud, the mud and stones swamping under my arch and then slop back out again, leaving me with most of the stones between my foot and the sandal. Now as much as this is a disadvantage to wearing sandals it also means that removing the stones is also just as easy. I never have to take them off. I simply flex my foot and scrape any stubborn bits out with my hand, job done!
This does however get a little tedious every other step but no more so than constantly emptying shoes out. The next few laps followed much in the same vein as the first one, the only difference being that the got progressively slower. The mud sapped the energy away and hills took it in turns to give the legs a good battering. It was a strange race that left everyone thankful to see the concrete path. I have rarely been so grateful to find a normal solid road! The downhills were also a very welcome sight indeed!
With every lap I came into the aid station with somehow even more mud on me! Constantly using my gloves to clear out my feet meant that I had to clean my gloves on my body! I was becoming a mud monster!
I only really had one slightly down moment as I came into what I thought was my 3rd lap to be told it was actually my 4th and I only had 1 and a half to go! This picked me up instantly and I bopped off down the hill again happy with the fact that this was the last one in this direction. I was tired, covered in mud, cold, battered but having a ball! My smile was back and it was time to get the job done.
I had no target time at all, I just wanted to get round.
Finally I bopped down the hill towards the turn around point for the last half a lap. I tucked into the goodies that were on offer on the table and sipped on some water. Giving Mummysaurus a quick goodbye hug I headed back up the hill and onto the final half a lap.
It felt like it was taking forever but I tried to keep smiling with the knowledge that it was nearly done.
After what felt like a month I was back on the home straight. Time to give it some legs for the final downhill you know, for the photo *wink wink
The home straight carrying considerably more mud 
PHEW! That was a tough one! Honestly I have to say that one felt like a miniature North Downs Way. Tough, tough, tough! I would love to give that a go again in the DRY! The downhills were really enjoyable and I really enjoyed quite a lot of the trail. Anna did a great job of putting it all together and the gathering at the pub after was a stroke of genius!

Will I be back? Yes!
Phew! Can we go to the pub now?!
Yes, I am a Hobbit (Me, Dennis, Clive)
Huge thanks to Anna and all the marshals, top stuff folks! The medal was brilliant as well and spun around!! I shall be back for another one!
Spin spiny spin spin!
Thanks for reading folks
Love and hugs