Sunday, 21 December 2014

35 for 35

Last year I decided that I would try and run my age for my birthday, 34 miles for my 34th year on this little rock we call home. So any guesses at what I did this year? You got it! Another year, another mile!

Hmm where to run.....

I`ve recently started getting into Parkrun which for those that don't know are 5k events that are completely FREE and a bucket load of fun. I have been really enjoying them and the atmosphere is just great!

With my new found love in the forefront of my mind I decided it would be a good idea to try and end my birthday run by running Parkrun. One small hiccup is that it starts at 9am meaning that at my pace I would need to leave at 2am! Oh well, in for a penny....
I had a good think about a route and worked out that an "out and back" would be best for a few reasons.....
  1. If I was really struggling at any point I could just bin it and head home
  2. Due to the time I was leaving, water might be hard to come by
  3. If I was struggling for time to get to Parkrun I could cut it short, make the start line and then make up the rest of the distance after

I set my alarm for 1am (eew!) and tried to get some sleep, finally managing it at around 10pm. *note to self, 3 hours of sleep is maybe not enough* I got up and pottered around the house a bit trying to wake up. The house was freezing, the bed was warm, it was a tough decision.
My trusty Ultimate Direction AK vest packed with 2x 500ml soft flasks of water, 4x fun size snickers, 3x strange pineapple biscuity, cakey somethings that I picked up in a Oriental supermarket that taste flippin amazing, spare hat, gloves and socks.
Right that's the bag packed, time to gear up!

Feet - Injini trail socks with Luna Mono sandals
Legs - Skins quad compression shorts, cheap double layer dryfit shorts and Montane Terra pants
Body - Hind thermal base layer, Centurion NDW50 finishers t-shirt (gentle reminder that I can do this) Montane Atomic jacket
Head - Cheap wool beanie, Petzl Tikka 2 headtorch
Neck - Cheap buff style neck wear
Hands - Cold Killers gloves
Wrist - Garmin Forrunner 110
Now fully geared up I need to get outside before I catch fire!!
Opening the door at 1:55am in December is an experience that makes you want to head back to bed, it did however cure the feeling that I was too hot!
As I waited for my Garmin to scan the entire universe looking for a GPS signal I tried to clear my head and not get overwhelmed by what I was doing.
Don`t think, run.

March 2047....the GPS signal was finally found.... 
Just kidding!
Eventually my watch was ready to go, it was now just before 2am perfectly on schedule.
I set off at a nice comfy pace with the idea of trying to get 5 miles an hour done for the first 15 miles so that it would give me a little buffer of time as I slowed a bit later.
Coming into the 5k point I was feeling a lot of pressure around my belly and was starting to feel a little sick. I wasn't sure if it was the early morning or maybe I simply had to many layers on. Around a mile later I found a nice convenient bench to sit on and take the Terra pants off. It was freezing out here but given the option of slightly cold legs or feeling sick I will let you do the maths.
I stuffed them into my bag and got moving again. I instantly felt so much better and within the next mile felt just as warm as I did with them on.
5 miles in, just under an hour done it was time to spin around to finish of the first leg. Brilliant!
The journey back home went exactly like I hoped, nothing really to report. I cruised along feeling very comfy and quite surprised at how good I was feeling considering my lack of long training lately. I took a quick look at my watch and was just under 2 hours as I reached my house and the 10 mile point. I had a quick check on my water and I still had loads as I had only been sipping. Time for a pineapple cake thingy and the start of leg 2!! It went down a treat as I bopped my way back the way I came.
The temperature now was really starting to drop and the puddle that I ran past just over 2 hours ago was now starting to freeze around the edge. The birds were starting to sing as I approached the 15 mile point and I was bang on target at a little under 3 hours. The tranquility was briefly disturbed by the noise of the M25 below me as I ran across the bridge. Ah, back to the quiet streets and the tweets.
It was a beautiful distraction and I tuned into their morning chatter for a while.
I came over the top of the hill and could see the turn around point that would end leg 2. Along downhill was wonderful and well needed. The unfortunate part was turning around at the bottom and running back up it!!
16.5 miles done, it was a little over 5am and I was starting to do the maths to keep me going. If I can just hang on to 4.5 miles an hour for a bit I should just about do this in time.
Autopilot went on for a little while as I made my way back over the hills, trying not to get caught up in the fact that I had done this bit already.
I tried to just keep smiling that this was the last time I would have to run back home. I tried to eat a fun size snickers, it was like a rock and just snapped the moment I tried to bite it! Man it must be pretty cold out here, glad I`m not walking too much. Why do they call the small one "fun" size?! It makes no sense to me, surly more chocolate = more fun?!
Any who.....
Just over 20 miles in and I started to have doubts about making it in time. I had slowed down a little, nothing major but I figured if I slowed anymore I would literally arrive at the start line as they shouted "GO!". This coupled with the fact that I was worried that if I saw my house again I might want to stay in it, I decided that instead of turning around at 23 miles I would spin around at around 22 and make it up at the other end.
21.7 miles ticked over and for some reason (probably hungry) my mind just gave up. I couldn't run that way anymore. Without getting too hung up on it I spun around and started leg 3. About a mile later I was all smiles again as I realised this was it, this was the final leg!
I nibbled away on another pineapple thing and kept moving. It was getting lighter but so much colder and I begged the sun to show its little face. The half frozen puddles that I had already passed twice were now solid. The grass was crunchy, it was defiantly a winters morning.
Back over the M25 again and below me was a very different looking scene from earlier. It was now back to its normal packed self with folks hurtling around.

7:30am and I smiled as I said "bye, bye Marathon!" This was the first time I had properly run through the night and it felt so good to be coming out the other side of it. It also made me laugh a little at the thought of finishing a marathon before most people have had breakfast, myself included!
That reminds me, eat.

The hills now were a bit more of a challenge but I had to keep the pace up. Down below me was the petrol station that marked the turn around on leg 2. Brilliant not much more to go!!
I made my way down the hill and past the petrol station then it was time to tackle the hardest of the hills. Don`t ask me why the hell I thought it was a good idea to do this one at the end! It wasn't.

Walking up the hill I looked at my watch and with my foggy head, figured that I had actually made up some time somewhere but couldn't really work out where. Oh well, keep moving!
Finally at the top of the hill it was all down hill on the other side as I made my way to the entrance of the park for Parkrun.
Jogging through the park, feeling pretty tired now it suddenly dawned on me why I was half and hour early and missing some miles. When I spun around earlier I had only taken into account the journey in ONE direction!!!!! GAAAAHH!! I now needed to make up around 3 miles BEFORE Parkrun!!
I`m not going to lie, this was a pretty dark time. I was tired and thought I was nearly done. I ran up and down the path. Then round part of the lake. Back down the path, anything to make up some extra distance without getting to far away from the start line.
8:30am and I could see my Mum and my Sister drive into the car park at the end of the path. I started making my way towards them so happy but hurting. I had hit my wall.
30 miles for me is a pretty dark time and it tends to last a couple of miles. I gave them both hugs and explained that I was "going down the rabbit hole" and needed to keep moving. I jogged off to try and shake off the fuzz.
I made my way back up the path at 31 miles to see my sister holding a sign that read "Happy Birthday Mark! #35for35" and had our running group name "Monkey Tag Running" down one side. She had the sign in one hand and a stuffed monkey in the other! It started to make me smile and as I did my Mum jumped out of the bush next to her in a monkey onsie!!! HA HA HA HA I LOVE you guys so much!!

We headed back to the car where switched my bag for my monkey onsie and then headed back to the path to try and make up a little more distance. My sister ran behind me with the sign as people were arriving and wishing me happy birthday. The fog in my head lifting with each persons smile.
We headed back to the start line with about 10 minutes to go and 31.75 on my watch.
As we stood around people were wishing me as asking what the #35for35 meant. I explained my journey this morning to looks of disbelief and confused faces.
My Mum, sister and I lined up at the back as the Parkrun announcer did his bit. He then also said we have a birthday today and everyone sang happy birthday to me!! I LOVE Parkrun!! :D


We hurtled off down the path like bats out of, that was everyone else!
We sprinted off the line like tortoises wearing scuba gear in a lake of porridge. As everyone else stormed off down the path I couldn't have cared less. The darkness had lifted from my brain and I was exactly where I wanted to be, running along side my family having a chat. We started to sing "king of the swingers" as we got to the first corner and were just trying to have as much fun as we could.
We had just made it to the lake when the guys in first and second where starting their 2nd lap!! It must have looked so funny at that point as they caught up with 2 monkeys and a sign bearer!! HA HA HA!
Everyone passing us was wishing me happy birthday or cheering and it really pushed me along.
We walked and ran, walked and ran, anything to keep moving really.
A lap later however and I was starting to wobble a little. That sneaky little wall was still trying to get a grip on me. Lap 2 saw it crumble as the beautiful ball of fire warmed my face. 1 more to go.
As we started our final lap the lake was now pretty empty so we made the most of it by running side by side when we could. My sister every now and then getting hit in the face with her homemade sign! My Mum encouraging me along really helped as we made our way to the turn and onto the home straight.
What a journey. It was nearly done, I could see the finish.
Amazing bling for my #35for35
We made our way across the grass and joked about doing a conga line through the finishing to be done right?!
As we got a little closer we could here people shouting and cheering us in. Just before the sticks we got into formation and did a conga line across the finish to the sound of people singing "Happy Birthday" what....a....finish eh?! We are not finished.
My Mum asks how much I have left to do.......DOH! Forgot about that bit!!! My watch read 34.75 miles and I really wasn't that bothered by this point about 250 meters but she pointed out that later I might be.
I scanned my code and headed off down the path.....again.
Finally, mercifully, my watch ticked over to 35 miles right next to the cafe. High fives all round we headed inside for some much needed coffee and cake.
As we got inside people were congratulating me and wishing me happy birthday. The support was just amazing. We sat down and I sipped my coffee then my Mum presented me with my new tag!

       #35for35 bling added to the collection
#35for35 bling added to the collection

It was an incredible experience finishing it like that and would like to thank each and every one of you for your support along the way. Its been a crazy year!
Big thanks, hugs and bananas to all my cheeky chimps at Monkey Tag Running for your friendship and smiles. My sister and my Mum, wow you guys just blow me away with your support!! Thank you so much for being a part of this!!

Hmm I wonder what I should do next year? ;) 

Till next time folks!

Friday, 5 December 2014

The best running advice I can give

"What`s the best running advice you can give?"

I have been running for a couple of years and have stumbled across this question a lot. I have seen so many answers, from the really useful to the downright silly.
The useful stuff normally falls into a few categories....
  • Training and racing
  • Gear
  • Technique
  • Nutrition
  • Best bit of kit to sacrifice when "caught short" on an long run (....remember buffs are expensive, do you really need two socks?)
OK so the last one does also fall into the silly category but lets see how silly it is when you need to poop with no toilet in sight for the next 20 miles.......*clears throat* where were we?

The discussions on shoes, bags, bottles, food and the like are endless and I don't really feel like I have much to add that hasn't already been said a million
It did get me thinking though.

The advice that is given out seems to be mostly focused on things. The best shoes to shave another 0.005 seconds off of your personal best. The best bag to cram your wardrobe into on your next long run. Even the training advice seems to focus on things. The best timetable, best book, blog, video.....

Now don't get me wrong, everyone of these things can be amazing and can potentially completely change your running. The information that is available is mind boggling! But what if the thing you are missing isn't a thing? What if its deeper than that? 

So what can I add if I`m not going to add a thing? Whats my best bit of running advice?

It is so simple I almost feel silly sharing it. Its the most powerful thing I have in my running arsenal that isn't really anything at all. It has helped me finish some really tough runs and never, ever fails to work. I have used it to conquer the sticky mud, the howling wind, the driving rain and the scorching sun. It cost me nothing, weighs nothing and is so easy to use its ridiculous.

So are you ready? Drum roll please......


When everything hurts, when its cold and you're tired, smile.
For a brief moment nothing seems so bad. The pain fades just long enough to keep going. The situation that could have made you quit a minute a go is now just a funny story to tell when you get home.
I'm not going to claim to know the science behind it, only that it works.

So there we have it. Yeah maybe its not that mind blowing but after thinking about it for a while its the best I have. Humour and positivity.

Give it a go and let me know how you get on with your new piece of running kit.
Train hard, run relaxed and don`t forget to smile! :D

Thanks for reading

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Fowlmead Challenge

The challenge was to complete as many or as few 2.67 mile laps as you wish in 6 hours around a pretty lake in South East Kent. The extra challenge was the weather. It was wet. Very wet.

I had decided that for this one I would do the exact opposite of what I always do and head off from the start like a bat out hell and "simply" run until the wheels fell off.

Sensible plan? Nope, that was the point.

You see my last 2 races hadn't really gone so well, with a DNF in both and both due to under pacing myself and being overly cautious. I haven't really tried to run hard for a long time because of focusing on trying to go further and further. It was time to head out with the full intention of blowing up.

Its a strange tactic I grant you but I knew the worse case scenario would be to walk it out if and when it all went wrong.

We bundled in the car just before 7am for the 2 hour drive down to Deal in Kent. The weather was awful. It was tipping it down and beginning to make Mummysaurus very nervous. I could see from her face that she was having some doubts. After all this was her first attempt at running for over 3 hours, I would say the nerves were justified.
I kept telling her everything would be fine, looking out of the window then secretly doubting it myself! It was lashing down! The closer we got, the heavier the rain got. With about 15 minutes to go to our destination we could see up ahead that the sky was blue! Huzzah!
We pulled into the car park to find the blue bit wasn't there.
While Mummysaurus wrestled with her bag trying to get changed, I headed off to find the 2 most important things, registration and the toilet.
I picked up our numbers and headed back to the car to find an increasingly nervous Mummysaurus still doing battle with some item of clothing.
I think I have discovered something interesting.
Dexterity and pre-race jitters seem to have a direct inverse relationship. The closer to race day the higher the pre-race jitters, the higher the pre-race jitters the worse the dexterity. This becomes a massive issue when you are handed your racing bib and 4 tiny little safety pins. The heart rate increases leaving you completely unable to attach the bloody thing to any item of clothing without stabbing yourself or wrecking the pins. She passed the number and top to my Fiancee Jaime.
A handy graph that is completely made up and actually might not make any sense at all
Numbers attached, toilet attended, it was time to head for the pre-race briefing! We huddled around and were told as long as we left for our last lap before 3:45pm then the lap would count even if we went over the 6 hour point.....brilliant!
We said our goodbyes to Jaime and my Dad, had a quick hug and got ready as the clock ticked over to 10am

I love this bit!

And they`re off!!

With a big cheer we bounded off down the trail. I tried to stay as relaxed as I could and get into a nice pace without doing my normal thing of be too cautious. I was on a mission. A mission to grind myself into the ground.
I realised after the first mile that my new (all be it stupid) tactic had put me somewhere near the top 20 and that just made me smile and run harder, I`ve never been in the top 20 before.
I kept switching off my natural instinct to slow down and remember I still had another 5 hours and 45 minutes to go!! I remember thinking that my pace was just suicidal, I hadn't trained to run like this......shut up and run, this was the plan!!

I continued to pass people on every downhill as I let the breaks off and enjoyed the downhill. My trusty Luna sandal and Injinji sock combo (yeah I`m that classy) working really well on the trail. This trail was different to others I have run on as the mud wasn't actually mud it was coal.
Oh well a new trail type to add to the books then! The only issue I really had was because of said coal it got between my socks and sandal quite a lot. I got around this issue by running through absolutely every bit of water I could find to help flush it out so I didnt have to stop to much to clear it out.

I continued to run at a pretty decent (for me) pace and soon caught up with Mummysaurus who was looking in great shape. The weather was still pretty rubbish and the rain was intent on sticking around for as long as it could but that didn't stop the idiots wearing sandals. Yep that's right my Mum is also a sandal runner! We had a quick natter and then she shooed me on to get on with my stupid plan.

As it turns out, the "undulating" route was a touch more than I would personally call it and I think it may have caught a few people off guard. The rain made it all the more challenging and now nearing a half marathon for myself I realised that I had not only just broken my PB but I was having a whale of a time!
For the last couple of laps I had been chatting away to a lovely lady who had the full intention of running a half marathon.......before I met her! We nattered away about running (I know, shocking eh?!) and it turned out that she was really interested in building up to doing an ultra and she was curious about the mentality behind it. I said a lot of it is trying to get over the urge to stop. Getting to that oasis known as an aid station can be the make or break of many an ultra runner. That`s when I thought it would be fun to issue a challenge.
Sandra had already told me she was doing a half marathon today so I thought I would try and change her plans a little....."If you want to find out the mentality behind doing an ultra here is what you do. When you get to that aid station at your half marathon point......(pause for maximum effect) another lap! Regardless of how you feel, good, bad, like your going to vomit, run another lap!"
She took a short breath in and just simple said "ok!" It made me laugh and I said she was an ultra runner in the making already as she didnt even blink at the idea ha ha ha good on ya Sandra! ;)

We came to the hill leading to the aid station and we could see her friends cheering her up the hill. She pointed at me and said "never let me run with him again!" ha ha ha ha! :)
To the shock of her friends she told them she was heading out for another lap and we left the aid station to big cheers. Love it!
Pushing on I was pretty sure the crash was coming soon as I started to struggle to keep up with her. I didnt want her to hang around for my tortoise ass so I said my goodbyes and let her trot away into the distance, after all I still had a looooong time to go.

The sun finally made an appearance and very quickly helped to dry some of the puddles a little. I chatted away to a few folks I kept catching then loosing for the next few laps until I came into the aid station around 18 miles in. I was really happy with what I had done so far but the pain had started. Mr Hamstring had just woken up and was not a happy bunny.......
 Ah I`ve been expecting you Mr Hamstring....
Fine, not a problem I was expecting this. I had been carrying my Body Helix quad compression sleeve (click here for what the hell one of them is) for just an occasion!

It was now time for plan B which is normally plan A - run slow and controlled and just get the job done.
I ran, I walked, I limped, I kept moving, I fully embraced plan A....erm...B.
Found Mummysaurus again looking tired but still moving along like a little steam train. It was fantastic to see her still out there. She had now switched to trail shoes after a half marathon in her sandals (great job!) and was motoring along looking pretty focused. We had a quick catch up and then off I hobbled again.
The next few laps were well....laps. Not a lot to report, they were slow and hurt a bit.

Lets move on.

I was now looking at my watch thinking "A marathon would be great, just take your time and let it run out! A marathon is very respectable. No one will think you have bailed out, it will just be a slow marathon". Unfortunately for my hamstring I still had time for another lap. Damn it.
Out I went again.
The route was feeling a pretty empty by this point and I spent what felt like an age on my own.
I finally caught up with a really nice guy and we chatted away about marathons and ultras as we made our way to the finish. He let it slip that he also is a sandal runner but has yet to complete a marathon in them even though he has completed a bunch of them.
Finally my watch was getting closer to the 6 hour mark and we could see the finish in the distance.
We made the final push up the hill and finished together just shortly after 6 hours.

Ah finally I was done. 29.7 miles. I had a maaaaaaasive medal placed around my neck and given a brilliant goody bag full of all the junk you want.............hold up! Where is Mummysaurus? I was told she was still out there......much to the confusion of the folks at the finish I said "cool, hold my stuff!" gave my medal and goody bag back, turned around and started running back down the hill.
There at the bottom I could see Jaime running (she never runs!) up the hill with the camera in here hand to get a picture of Mummysaurus finishing.
As I got closer I could see my Dad with the dog walking next to her. I trotted back down the hill with a huge grin on my face and was greeted with the beautifully simple words "Lets do this!!"
We gave it as much as we could up the hill to big cheers from everyone at the top.

Job done!

Mummysaurus clocked up an extremely impressive 21.6 miles!! Her longest run ever and I for one am mega proud of her!
My result was somewhat of a surprise 29.7 miles. That wasn't the surprising bit. The bit that caught me off guard was that I finished joint 8th overall!!!!
My first ever top 10 finish! I`m still not sure that I have taken it in yet as I`m known for pretty much finishing last in my other ultras. I`m used to finishing last. Crazy!
Guess I need to work on holding on to my stupid plan for a little longer eh?!
HUGE medal, its the size of a coaster!!
Till next time folks.....thanks for reading!!!!


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Tooting 24 hour Self Transcendence - A "How not to" guide

Welcome to the "How not to" guide!
In this edition we are going to look at the Tooting 24 hour Self Transcendence track race and how not to run for 24 hours! In this brief guide I will show you a few top tips to help you on your way to spectacularly crash out of any long distance endurance race!
That`s right my running friends, you too can experience that gut wrenching feeling when you call it a day in just a few easy steps!

Step 1
Now this one takes a little bit of commitment but with my help I`m sure we can get you on your way to that DNF you've always wanted!
Food poisoning - You really need to aim for about 2-3 days of this about 2-3 days before your big race. I went for 2 solid days of food poisoning 3 days before. It worked pretty well.
Now I have found what works for me but I`m sure with a bit of experimentation you will be able to find many, many more ways to get food poisoning. Lets not linger on this too long as I don't want to influence your choices to much. Congratulations you now have significantly reduced the fuel left in your system! Great job! Now the best news is by using this top tip you get the added bonus of not sleeping well which leads us smoothly onto step 2!

Step 2
Sleep deprivation - Not sleeping well is a fantastic way to really drain the body to make sure you have very little left in the tank for the race. Its a great way to help slow recovery and gives you that all over "Done in" feeling before even running a step! Yes! The great thing about this tip is it is so easy to do even for a first time DNF`er, all it takes it to go out the night before and get in at 1am and then pretend to sleep for the next 6 hours before getting up....simples! You can even practice this one in advance to make sure you really get it down before the big day.

Step 3
This tip, my final one in this edition is a great one for grinding yourself right into the ground! I have split it into two separate sections to sit correctly with how to mess up both halves of your race -

Stuff your face - For the first half I would highly recommend stuffing your face with as much as you can cram in, leaving you feeling listless, bloated and for the fully committed, sick.
When someone hands you that DNF on a plate, eat it!
The only disadvantage to this technique is that if the food stays in it will keep you going for longer, no DNF`er worth their lack of salt wants that!

Stay weak buddy, I`ve got your back!

Starvation - After all that stuffing you should really go the other way. Now unfortunately for you as the bloating, listlessness and sickness disperse you are going to have a "good" few hours of "great" running due to the side effect of eating. Don`t panic! This hell will only last a few hours if you stick with me!
Simply, stop eating!
Now comes the moment you have trained for young Grasshopper. Run, walk, sprint, do whatever you can to completely screw yourself into the floor as quickly as you can. Make sure you also keep reminding yourself just how much time you would have to keep going. I`ve found this really helps to speed things along!
Before you know it you will be crawling into that cold, damp tent, snuggled under your towel blanket....heaven!!

So there you have it! 3 simple steps to help you pick up that much coveted DNF!

Well that was fun wasn't it?!
All joking aside I discovered that running on a track for 24 hours is a lot harder than people give it credit for! The relentless, monotony (I`m really selling it aren't I) of running around in 400m circles is tough. You can see everything. The start, the finish, the aid station, the tents, the good, the bad, the ugly.
I guess if I`m honest about the whole situation it was my mind that gave up.
After doing so much more walking than I expected I just couldn't see myself hobbling for the next 10 hours just to rack up some extra numbers and further my injuries.

It wasn't all doom and gloom though and I still gave in with a smile.
Rich Cranswick was there to lap me many, many times and shout encouragement/abuse (delete as appropriate) as he rocked is way to over 100 miles! Almost every hour he did a "Bonus Chicken lap" where he was joined by Ultra Chicken for a squeaky 400 meters. I even had the honor of escorting Ultra Chicken for a lap myself.....Good times!

I underestimated just how hard it was going to be mentally, 200 laps around an athletics track really took its toll. Ill get you next time Tooting, we have unfinished business.

Thats right......Next time!

Huge thank you as always to all the nutters who follow me and keep me going in the dark times, you guys rock! Thanks to the organizers, volunteers and other runners for such a great experience. Thank you to my Lady for trekking across London to sit in the cold and watch this fool run around in circles.
Lastly a massive, massive thank you to Mummysaurus - My driver, my crew, my support, my ass kicker, my comforter, my food and water distributor but most of Mum.
Crewing for this kind of thing is tough and please don't ever let me forget it! :D You did a fantastic job, just let me know when its your turn! ;P

For now its time to rest and get ready for Fowlmead in 3 weeks time........No rest for the stoooopid eh?!

Peace, tea and biscuits

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

When life gets in the way

As the title suggests my blogging has taken a bit of a back seat of late due to life getting in the way.
Work has been crazy, training has been time consuming and then just for laughs my lady and I have been working on the house, trying to save space and clear the clutter.

What was I doing last time?
Oh yes! It was the story of the NDW100. Lets have a quick catch up......

The weekend of the 9th August saw a bunch of folks line up at 6 in the morning to run 102 miles over extremely challenging terrain with a possible hurricane approaching.....nice!
The North Downs Way is tough.....really tough. I have covered 50 miles of it myself as my first ultra and it remains one of my favorite challenges so far. It is as hilly as it is beautiful and I remember thinking during my perfect spring day how tough it would be to do this in the rain.

I had been asked by Dennis "The Machine" if I would pace him from halfway to the finish. 52 miles of giggles? How could I resist?!
Mummysaurus had volunteered to be at the 82 mile aid station to get a feel for the "Ultra life" so it all worked out really well.
I text Dennis at 11am, 5 hours into the race knowing that he should be fine and giving him chance to settle in a bit. The text back however had me worried. He was barely at mile 24 and was already feeling sick. Not good. After my recent....shall we call it "miscalculation" at my last 50k where I over drank, this became my first question. He said he had been drinking loads but still felt thirsty. WARNING!
I told him to stay off the water for a bit and try and eat something. Its going to feel really wrong but trust me, stay off the water!
We kept up the texting for a bit but he wasn't sounding great.

Meanwhile in Gotham City.....

Mummysaurus and myself set off for Knockholt Pound (mile 50) at 2pm and arrived at 4pm right on schedule, giving Mummysaurus an hour to get to Detling (mile 82) 32 miles away to start her shift.
I was happy milling about chatting to folks I had met before at other ultras. It felt like more of a social gathering than a 102 mile race! I met up with Faye, the wife of Dennis, and we had a good natter.
We both continued to coax Dennis along with text messages as the time slowly moved on.
We clapped and cheered runners in until we got the text we were hoping to not get.
After putting up a brave fight, Dennis was done. He was a couple of miles away but was in a lot of pain and just couldn't see himself limping for the next 12+ hours to try and pick up a finish.
Fair enough!!

Plan B is it then.....

So what now? Mummysaurus was going to be at Detling till about 7:30am, its now 7:30pm.
Very kindly Faye offered to drop me off at Detling after taking the stinking carcass of Dennis back to the hotel for a hose down.
He was moving slowly but was still in good spirits despite the DNF. Sometimes you just have to chalk it up to experience and move on with a smile.
Dennis now smelling human again, we made our way to Detling, arriving at about 8:30pm. We all had a good chat and then they left to go and crash out in the hotel.

Right only 11 hours to kill then!

Mummysaurus had the duty of timekeeper....scary stuff! I mingled around with the other crew and tried to make myself useful by cheering folks in as they came over the bridge into the aid station.
There was a little road right at the bottom of the bridge which we would walk into to make sure the traffic stopped. Once people came out of the aid station we would give them instructions to the next turning...."Down the road, slight right to the pub then sharp left and you will see the tape, good luck!" I must have said that, or variations of it maybe 400 times! aaaaaaand that pretty much sums up what I did until 7:30am.
It was great to see all the familiar faces arrive at Detling still looking strong despite the rather nasty weather that was starting to creep up on us. You guys are very inspiring and well done to each of you!
We started to pack up around 7:15am but knew we had one guy left out there who had left the last aid station but hadn't made it to us yet. Time wise he was done, he would be stopped here as he wouldn't make the next cut off. I went up onto the bridge to get a better view down the road in the hope that we could spot him.
A little while later I could see him staggering badly down the road so I made my way across the bridge to walk him in. The moment I saw him I knew he was in a bad way. I tried to get him to chat but what I got back was a garbled mess. We slowly swayed over the bridge and I text Mummysaurus that I was with the last guy and we needed to get a chair ready.
Everyone clapped him into the aid station and quickly sat him down and made sure he was OK.
The paramedic arrived shortly after, give him a look over and then bundled him inside the ambulance.
Job done!
We had intended on trying to make it to watch people finish but we were both pretty shattered and Mummysaurus was getting worried about driving on that much sleep deprivation......I wasn't going to argue it was a good call!
We drove around and got lost a bit due to some flippin cycle race but eventually got home for some much needed shut eye.

Fast forward to the present day...

With Tooting 24 looming ever so close now with just 2 little weeks to go, I had some deep tissue massage on my hamstring on Saturday in the hope of working out the kinks.
The nerves haven't really started to kick in just yet but I`m sure they are in there somewhere!
I don't really have many plans in mind right now other than just give it everything I have and try and keep smiling!
Its strange how much I am actually looking forward to running around in circles for 24 mind numbing hours.
Time to get my head in the game.....I WILL last 24 hours, I will NOT be last......hopefully

Till next time, don't forget to smile! :)

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Buckle hunting we will go......

Hey folks the weekend is fast approaching and its starting to get exciting!

My good friend Dennis "The Machine" Cartwright is taking on the NDW100 and has asked me to pace him from halfway(ish) to the finish! :D 
I say halfway-ish as the NDW100 isn't actually 100 miles, its 102.6....but whats a few extra miles eh?!
Ill ask Dennis at a hundred ;)

Its funny how much I`m looking forward to an event that I`m not officially in. I have no number, I get no medal and I couldn't care less! I am just so excited to try and help him get that buckle!
Bring on the weekend and a massive good luck to everyone running it!!

Lets do this!!!


Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Fairlands Valley Challenge

This post unfortunately has been a little delayed due to scrambled brains.
It has taken me nearly a week to get my head together as I made an unexpected hydration error at last Sundays Fairlands Valley Challenge. More about that in a bit, first lets get to the challenge itself....

Sunday the 20th July was a pretty hot and humid day already by the time we pulled into the car park for registration at 7:30am. The first part of the challenge for the day was to actually locate the reception of this massive school we found ourselves walking around. Luckily my Mum (Mummysaurus) and I were helped out by some folks who had clearly done it last year.
I walked in to find no queue at the registration table. Great! Within a minute I was in and out with my number  and 5 pages of instructions which left me loads of time to locate a toilet and then just wait for the start.

This type of starting line was not really something I was used too. The thing that made it unusual for me is that each length race option had a different starting time, making my starting group relatively small.
That`s right, you can pick your distance and still pay the same price! The options were 12 mile, 18 mile, marathon and 50k ultra. It seemed rude not to pick the 50k! ;)
As an added bonus we got a free burger at the end and they even had a bar at the finish all for the princely sum of £17!! Bargain!

94 of us who picked the 50k option lined up for the 8:45am start, the 50k walkers had started 15 minutes earlier. With not really any kind of fuss or fanfare we had a short countdown and then we were off!

I took off at a steady pace with my trusty Luna "Mono" Sandals with some socks stashed in my bag for later. Within about a mile we came to a steep grass bank and for the first time in about 2 years I slipped and slid down the bank on my ass. Stylish.
I picked myself up, brushed off some of my pride and caught back up with a small group. After a little while I was finding myself between groups needing to take a look at the instructions.

Running and reading as it turns out is actually pretty hard. Every turning I had to slow to a walk to try and work out where I was as the instructions were all abbreviated and the coarse was not marked. Quite a few times very early on as I got used to the instructions, I would start to dash down one path to thankfully be called back by someone just behind me. It was a little frustrating to be so stop start as I felt really good and wanted to push a little today.
Check point one came about pretty quick. I grabbed a small piece of bread pudding from the table and headed back out, happy with the way things were going so far.
A few more miles in and it got a bit more hilly. Fine, I love hills. I sipped at my Chia seed and coconut water mix and was really enjoying my surroundings. While hiking up a steep hill I caught up with a lady who I figured was either training for something bigger or moving house. She was hauling a LOT of gear, enough in fact that I just had to ask what she was up too.
We chatted away and she let on that she was using this event to test out her 8kg pack for T184!!! For those of you who may not have heard of the T184 its a little trip along the river. The Thames to be more precise, oh and did I mention, its ALL of it?! 184 miles from the Thames Barrier in London to the source of the Thames in the Cotswolds!!! Not impressed yet? Ok its also, with the exception of water, completely self sufficient and you have just 80 hours to complete it........yeah, PHEW!

Back to the story...

It was around 10:45am, Nina and myself were just coming into check point 2 which happened to be check point 1 as well as the 50k started with a loop. We had a quick stop to grab some water and I took this opportunity to add my socks and shove some more bread pudding in my face.
At this point I looked over to see a couple of fellow Monkey Tag Runners, (a group I set up at the start of the year on Facebook) we shared a few quick hellos and waves before heading off our separate ways as we were all doing different distances. Hope to catch up with you guys soon! ;)
We headed back out the way we had just come and started up yet another hill keeping at a good pace, now around 11 miles in.
The sun got hotter, the air was like breathing soup, the terrain got a bit more challenging and so did the instructions. On a few occasions we had to stop and really try hard to work out where we were. This was eating into our time a lot but we had no choice, also deciding very early on that we would both rather take an extra minute to double check rather than double back.
This process went on and on over some very pretty scenery which to be honest I wasn't expecting to see today. In a way I really wish the course was marked so I could have spent more time enjoying the view rather than translating a piece of paper.
Nina was great company and we chatted about all the things we love and hate about running and the types of people you get over different distances. You know the ones. The ones obsessed with time and position, they are easy to spot, they normally look grumpy. I think we may have established a rule... it appears the size of the smile and attitude of the person is directly proportional to the intended distance of travel....short version? The people running further seem to have more fun!

We pushed on, chatting and checking on people on the way round like most folk do in ultras. This was the other observation we made about the people not doing the same distance. They looked a little confused that we were talking to them! I guess only having done the one official marathon then just doing ultras, I have got used to the attitudes of the ultra world. A friendly bunch with a mutual understanding that we are all quite possibly one GU short of an aid station! We laugh, we cry, we understand each other, we now what is on the other side of that mental barrier and I think that is what makes us look out for others.

At times it felt like we were the sweepers with no one behind us and people struggling a little up ahead. We stopped to check on a guy sitting under a tree who had sprained his ankle. He was fine and had already called for help. We hung around for a couple of minutes and he assured us he was fine. Just as we left him to chill under his shady tree the ambulance passed us to pick him up.

We were aware now that any hope of a "good" time was out of the window now due to double checking the instructions so much and the humidity. It was relentless. You could feel it pick up every time you got to the bottom of a hill. The breeze would drop off and the air would get so thick it would almost choke you.

All part of the challenge I guess!

A funny moment around 20 or so miles came in the form of a little cow. The rest of his mates were either laying under a tree or having some grass next to a very shallow stream. Not this clever little dude. Nope! He was IN the stream, up to his shins, by the other bank in the shade munching on the hedge row! Genius! :)
He looked like the most content being on the planet at that moment.

Once again we were back at the instructions trying to work out if we were going the right way. We were but it was a little hard to tell. We were both a little fuzzy headed at this point so reading the already slightly challenging instructions became, well, a bit more challenging.

One section that took forever was due to our instructions being different! Nina had printed her copy from the internet, shrunk them down and laminated them (brilliant idea!) and my copy was the one I was given at registration. We were in a field that didn't really read quite right and both sets of instructions were somewhat vague. Eventually we decided to ignore them and just head for the sound of the road as we were looking for a bridge to cross. We found the gap in the hedge that was mentioned but then come out onto a busy road.


Having both done ultras before we didn't think a race organiser would want anyone crossing something quite this busy so started looking around, it was then that I spotted the bridge. We figured by this point that if it wasn't the right one at least we would have a good reference point for a quick satnav check on the phone!
Nina did a quick satnav check then we backtracked along the little trail and met up with the road where now the instructions made sense again!! PHEW! Onward!
On and on with the aid of hills and more hills the time slowly slipped away from us. We didnt really care, it was about getting the job done. We both commented on feeling a little fuzzy and sometimes a little sick and this turned into a chat about when this normally happens. Nina said she has a bit of a wobble around 20-23 miles in and again at maybe 40, we both put that down to maybe Glycogen stores running low and the body switching over to fat. I said I tend to get a very low point around 30-33 miles where I feel like I have gone down a rabbit hole, probably for the same reason. Today however I felt a little different. We were around marathon ish distance and I was sometimes feeling a little dizzy but put it down to heat. Every now and then I felt a little sick but put it down to too much cake. My throat was sometimes dry, I thought maybe im drinking a little too much so backed off for a while. A few miles later Nina noticed I didnt seem to be sweating so I started to sip again and within 10 minutes I was sweating again. "Brilliant" I thought but still felt a little fuzzy.
I put it to the back of my mind for now as we were now so close to the finish.
It had been a long, long day but we finally came up the road and could see the entrance back to the school to the left of us!
We rounded the corner to see people clapping and could see the finish line!! It was nearly done. We picked up the pace (as you do) and bounded down the road like we were finishing a 10k, my legs briefly forgetting the last 30 odd miles. My intention as a way of saying "thank you for dragging my sorry butt around" and to show utter respect for the fact that she had just done that with an 8kg pack was to stop before the finish line and let Nina finish before me. So I put the brakes on with about 30 feet to go. So did she!!! I waved to say GO! GO! but she wanted to cross together. Respect! :)
We collected our bling and had a sweaty hug then stood around for a bit chatting with my mum and some folks she had befriended before heading for the free burger! Wooo!
As it turns out we finished joint last for the 50k ultra with 6 runners behind finishing up the marathon. The time? 8:19 something, but who cares about the time right? ;)
My mum led me inside to also grab a pint at the bar, best day ever right?! So there I am outside on the grass trying to clap home the final runners with a burger in one hand and a pint in the other. I polished them off while chatting to my mum about the days events and felt pretty good, a little fuzzy but good. Fuzzy was to be expected I thought as I had just spent the last 8 odd hours out in the sun.
We headed back to the car. A quick half hour drive and I was home. We said our goodbyes and I headed inside for a nice shower.
Shower done, it was time to kick back with a couple more "recovery" beers then off to bed ready for work in the morning.
Walking to work I couldn't seem to shake the feeling of being a bit disconnected, like I was daydreaming. I put it down to maybe smashing my calories but it felt different.
Work was hard, I found myself staring blankly through the screen. I didn't feel like I was really there. I felt blank and confused, even trying to talk to people was an effort. It was at this point that I realised the fact that not only was I concentrating very hard on communicating but I was messing up my words (more than usual) and sometimes even skipping a word!
Something isnt right.
Here is where we get to the bit I was going to explain at the start.
I contacted some very experienced ultra runners on Facebook to see if anyone had any ideas of what was going on. The response suggested that it sounded very much like very mild Hyponatremia.
Hyponatremia is a reduction in the salt level in the blood normally caused by over hydration. So my absentminded sipping while looking at instructions was the start. The big problem is that most of the signs for over hydration are the same as dehydration so on a hot day it can be very easy to mistake a dry throat for a thirsty one. The foggy head, the feeling sick, the dry throat were all subtle signs I had actually drunk too much water. I had caused an electrolyte imbalance which in turn had signaled my body to release and anti diuretic hormone to try and retain my salt by stopping me peeing therefore retaining the water. With the water having nowhere to go it can swell the organs and brain and can cause all sorts of problems. For me it was the clarity of thought. I guess thankfully the race wasn't any longer or this may have been a very different story. I stopped drinking anything else by around 9:30am and by about 11am I needed the loo, signalling that maybe my body now thought it was safe enough and could start shifting some of the water. This also confirmed to me that the thoughts about it being Hyponatremia were on the right track. (Thanks guys!)
I decided to take a trip to the GP just to be on the safe side that afternoon. She listened and agreed that it sounded about right and suggested some blood work just to make sure. She did a urine test as well and I explained that I had actively dehydrated myself so that explains the concentrated levels.
She seemed happy enough and said I could just return to normal eating and drinking.
I have continued to feel a little disconnected, even while I am typing this over a week afterwards, I am finding I am making more errors than usual but on the whole I feel fine.
It was a very large reminder to me that I still have a lot to learn about my bodies responses but it still leaves me fascinated to find out more. With that in mind I have started reading Waterlogged by Tim Noakes and so far it is a real eye opener. Anyone who is even semi serious about any kind of endurance sport should have a read. I shall be doing a review of this once I have finished it for sure!

Pretty sure the blood test results will be fine but better safe than sorry eh?! I ignored my body once, never again!

So there we have it folks, listen to your bodies regardless of what you think you "should" do!

Thank you once again to my mum for all the support and driving. To Nina for the company and a great day out, see you at NDW100! ;) A massive thank you to the guy who shared his story with me and quite possibly saved me from further damage (you know who you are)

Phew that was a long one eh?! Still with me? Good, good!

Time to get back to those miles ready to pace Dennis (you remember him right?) for the second half of the NDW100 on the 9th!! 50 something miles over crazy trail, sounds like my kind of night out! Lets get you that buckle buddy! ;)

Last but not least thank you dear reader for taking the time to read to my ramblings!

Love and coffee

P.S I think you could probably forgive some mistakes in this post!! :D

Friday, 20 June 2014

The countdown to the Fairlands Valley 50k

The Fairlands Valley Challenge was only bought to my attention at the start of June when it was posted on the Facebook wall of Monkey Tag Running.
It was only £17 if I got in now so rushed about to sign up as quick as I could.
When reading over the details I noticed a great concept about the race (other than it being about half an hour from my house!) you get to pick your distance.....for the same entry fee!
That`s right, its the same price for either a 12 mile, 18 mile, marathon or 50k ultra!!
Needless to say, I`m in!!
I figured it would also be a good way to kick my training into gear as I start to ramp up for Tooting 24hr in September.
I got my conformation email and joined the Facebook group so I could keep up with the latest news. This is also where they threw in another strange thing. You pick your own number!!!!!
They give you a bracket to choose from according to the distance you have picked as below...

ULTRA 50k - 1 to 300
MARATHON - 301 to 600
18 MILES - 601 to 800
12 MILES - 801 to 1000

Great idea huh?! 
Naturally I picked number 13 stating that I like to live on the edge! ;)
Lets hope that one doesn't come back to bite me in the ass!

(click me) this takes you to the Runners World entry form, you know you want to! ;)

Back to training!!
Later folks!


Thursday, 12 June 2014

Quick catch up

Hey folks!

Just a quick catch up as I haven't posted for a little while.
I had a nice break after my first DNF (did not finish) from the Thames Path 100 and went on holiday to catch up with some family.....good times!

Now I`m back and that can only mean one thing.....its training time!

"So has anything changed?"

Well I guess maybe my approach. Right now I am trying to concentrate on simply running more consistently than I have in a while. Little and often seems to be working for me at the moment as my hamstring gets stronger.
I am also going to look into hitting the track and working on getting a little quicker while also giving myself a chance to completely freak out about my first 24 hour track event in September. *feeling slightly sick reading back over that!*

I have a fairly local 50k coming up on the 20th July which I`m really looking forward to as I`ve not done a 50k before so interested to see how I do with a shorter ultra.

I think that's about it for the moment on the catch up front....oooo wait, no actually I do hopefully have some exciting news regarding some clothing that I have mentioned before but not sure if I can say it out loud yet! ;)

Keep `em peeled folks! :D


Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Thames Path 100

Ive tried to start this post a few different ways over the last few days and figured my best approach is to maybe take a slightly different one.

This report is not really about me as my story can be explained pretty quickly. In fact lets get that bit out of the way and get onto the good bit.

I set off with my brother in law a bit slower than I was expecting but it felt very comfy so we sat at it and just kept plodding.......

OK hold up, lets do the really short honest version.
I had a nagging hamstring and a fractured toe which meant that my training was, shall we say minimal?
No I am being honest here.
After the Thames Trot 50 in February I hadn't run more than 10 miles in training so I was massively under trained but I just wanted to see what I could do.

We basically shuffled ourselves from point to point until everything just became slower and slower and ground to a halt around 60 miles after missing the turning at Reading and running out of time.

Shortest race report ever? Maybe!

Lets get onto the real point of this post. If you want to read a race report im sure you can find a hundred of them.
As I said from the start this post isn't really about me. I wanted to use this post to highlight the proper hero's of this event. The volunteers, supporters and everyone in the Centurion family.

Nici Griffin - Thank for the time it took to not only sort out all the volunteers and countless others jobs, but the effort you put into doing this......

It did not go unnoticed and it showed an extra level of love that most other races just don't have. I know its maybe a silly thing to point out but it was the thought behind it! :)

Rich Cranswick - What can I say?! Made my day, im only sorry I couldn't claim that high 5 at 85 time buddy, next time! ;)

I would like to give a massive thank you to everyone for all of the support and everyone who follows me on Twitter and Facebook you guys are amazing. Its very humbling to have so many people behind me no matter the outcome.
The wonderful SAFTB crew, you guys have been there from the start, thank you all so much.
To all the wonderful "Funners" thank you all so much you are such a great bunch of folks!! Keep smiling!
Fellow BOSHers  Luke Ashton, myself and Shawn Timmons
To my new running family BOSH, thanks for having me guys and thank you for your support, I'll BOSH the next one! ;)
It was wonderful to meet up with so many people again/for the first time after chatting on the interwebs for so long.
Luna OSO and injinji trail 2.0 ready for the TP100
So many people to thank sorry if I missed anyone!! 
Luna monkeys!! Cant forget the monkeys! Peter Smith, Graham Kelly thank you for chatting away on Twitter, it was great to finally meet you and all the other monkeys! 
Speaking of monkeys, Monkey Tag Runners, thank you all so much as well for your kind words of support!

Finally to all my family, I wish I could express the love I have for you guys.....oh wait! I can with the gift I got from my mum! 
Ive always been told to end with a song so without further delay.......Take it away monkey!!!

Till next time folks!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

TP100 and Ultra Tales!

Oh yes! Its that time again! Its time to fill myself full of panic and self doubt! That's right folks, it`s nearly ultra time again! WOO!

The build up to this has felt like a lifetime. I first heard of the Thames Path 100 in 2012 when my brother in law first announced that it was to be his first ultra. At the time I had only just heard about ultra running and the thought of someone running 100 miles just seemed so superhuman.
In the back of my mind I thought it would be cool to one day give it a go myself.

So here I am 2 years later, 9 days away from my first attempt at doing just that.
I have no idea what to expect beyond 62 miles as this is the longest I have run to date but I am curious to find out. Ideally I would like to be going into this 100% fit, ideally I would have liked to have trained better, ideally....actually if I always waited for things to be "ideal" im pretty sure I would never do anything! You can keep "ideally".

So here I am with a grumpy hamstring, a grumpy hip and a fractured toe feeling pretty sure that I could be the most "rested" person on the start line. I could come up with plenty more excuses and stories as to why I may not finish but honestly, who wants to hear that? We hear them all the time right? The guy who shows up with a sack full of them in a bag labeled "just in case" so he can have something to fall back on rather than just saying "it beat me" or "I wasn't ready". I don't want to be that guy.
My approach instead is a positive one. I can and will only promise a few things. Firstly I WILL be on the start line, secondly, I shall just give it my best shot!
If you want to find me I will be at the back, smiling (hopefully) and plodding along making the most of it. After all its meant to be fun right? All be it long drawn out painful fun, but fun none the less!

In other news...

I am very excited to say that I have a runners profile in the latest issue of Ultra Tales!! (click here to go to the site) My profile is on page 158 :)

Happy reading folks!


Monday, 21 April 2014

Review - Running and Stuff

Hey folks, whilst sitting on the injury bench I have had some time to catch up on my reading so we all know what that means....its review time!

Now if you have spent some time on that Face-tweet thing and are partial to a bit of running, the chances are you have heard of James Adams. If you have heard of him I really don't need to tell you that he has a book out. He has mentioned it. A lot.
As it turns out, as well as being pretty good at this running lark he is also great writer!
Anyone who has chatted to James for a while via the interweb will know that he is a funny guy and is passionate about his running. I knew some of the races he had done before as his name would crop up all over the place but didn't really know the true extent until I read the book.

Get the book!

No, really. Stop reading this and buy the book! You will not be disappointed, well that is unless you are easily offended with mild swearing and pretty much constant talk of poo. Then, well, maybe you will be a little disappointed. I bet it will still make you smile though, come on admit it! Who doesn't like a story about poo?! You know like that time that your mate got shat on by a seagull?! Bet you laughed eh?!

I digress, where was I?

Ah yes! The book! "Running and Stuff" is a very inspiring and amusing read that needs to be on every aspiring ultra runners book collection. His down to earth style makes for easy reading and I just couldn't put it down! Unfortunately this also meant that I finished it really quickly! DOH!

You may have picked up that so far I have not actually mentioned anything that happens in the book. I figured the title probably gave it away.
A little more perhaps?

James has done a few things that would make most runners jaws drop. Spartathlon, Badwater, GUCR to name but a few......oh and he ran across America. Yeah. 

Hows that jaw?
Yes you read that correctly, America. Los Angeles to New York to be more precise. 
Oh you want it in miles? 3200 of them! That`s an average of 45 miles a DAY for 70 days!! 70!
My last race was 45 miles and I just about hobbled a mile and a half to work the next day, the thought of doing that over and over again just makes my head spin!

So there you have it! If you like your stories to be pretty damn epic with a mountain of humour and a light dusting of poo.....wait, wait, wait....can I really end it like that?

Yes, yes I can.

Buy the book! You can grab your copy from "Troubador" or "Amazon"

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Needles, tape and a lot of nerves

I was pretty nervous that my physio going to say I had done something really stupid and maybe advise me not to run. Fortunately after my check up she assured me that I haven't done anything stupid. Then I told her I was about to do something really stupid.

Telling a physio that you are 4 weeks away from running 100 miles in sandals gets an interesting reaction but not the one I was expecting to be honest.
The reaction I have got used to over the last few months has been one of disbelief mixed with a look of "you are mad!!". Her reaction was slightly different. There was a short pause followed by "lets get you patched up then!" She still thinks im mad but with her being a Triathlete herself she understands the need to do this kind of stuff.

It my very first physio visit to top it off so as I already said, I was pretty nervous. Nervous that she might tell me I had some massive injury that would take months to heal. Instead she moved my legs around a bit and said I had short hamstrings....oh...thats not so bad. One test she did involved holding onto my heel and then gently pulling my leg straight while I pulled back. She seemed happy with this so told me to pull back as hard as I could. I promptly apologized as I yanked her towards my arse and bounced her off the table!! I don't think she was expecting my legs to be that strong, kind of surprised me too to be honest!

With everything looking good, well apart from short hamstrings, she did some ultrasound to check out my knee and again came back with the all clear. Bit of a massage then some Kinesio tape and it was time for the painful bit.....paying.

Kinesio tape or Kinesiology as its known is something that I've heard people debate about a lot. For those who have never heard of it before I shall give you a quick explanation. The basic idea behind it is to use tape to take the strain off of the effected muscle/tendon kind of like adding a support to give it a rest, aiding the healing process. I wasn't really to sure what it would do to be honest but was curious to find out. She got me to lay on my belly and slightly raise my leg then applied the tape. The tape is then rubbed to warm up the glue to help it stick. With my new hamstring in place I was told I was good to go till next week when we will start with acupuncture. GULP!
I have to say, straight away I noticed a difference. The small amount of extra tension on my hamstring was just enough to alleviate some of the pain. Bonus!
Its not some magic cure and my leg was certainly not fixed but I could already see the benefit as I walked home.
Once I got in I tried out some of the stretches I was given and felt surprisingly good. I continued to do these (as often as I remembered) until the following Tuesday when it was time for acupuncture.

Fast forward to last Tuesday - Acupuncture day

Acupuncture was another one that made me nervous. Stupid really as I have tattoos and piercings but there you go, fear is never rational.
I was given a form to sign to say that I wouldn't sue her if I turned into a pterodactyl or something due to the acupuncture. She explained that people have different reactions to the needles. Some folks get twitchy muscles, some feel a dull ache, sharp pain or a tingle. I was now more curious than nervous.
The first needle went in. There was a small pin like pain but nothing major. This calmed me down even more.
Needle after needle I got more and more relaxed. The feelings I got back were a mixture of all of the above. I had one muscle twitch, one ache, one sharp pain in the middle of my calf. What interested me the most about that one was that she didnt have a needle in it!! It was being triggered from higher up in my hamstring.

After all the needles were in we chatted away they did their thing.
After about 5-10 minutes she removed them and did a bit of massage then it was tape time and once again the most painful part....paying.

I felt pretty good on the walk home and was looking forward to next week when I could get more done.
First I had to tackle 2 days of work which involved going up and down a ladder all day. hmmm this should be interesting! Like many I have got used to my office desk and comfy chair, so the idea of spending about 6 hours a day running up and down ladders with a hamstring issue was, well, not my idea of fun.
Always trying to look on the bright side I chose to see this as a perfect opportunity instead and regarded it as cross training and hill work! ;)
As it turns out it works bloody well! My legs felt great afterwards, well with the exception of my bruised shins from resting them on the next step! ERROR!
So there you have it! Top tip, if you want some cross training or have no hills near you, buy a ladder!

After the 2 days of "cross training" I was ready to go for a short run and see what I had.
I felt like a puppy that was busting to get outside! The moment I got out of the door I was off! Constantly telling myself to slowdown and take it easy.
I was massively overdressed for the occasion, not top hat and tails, too many layers. You see I had got used to it being really flipping cold so I dressed for how I ran 3 weeks a go.
Within minutes I was roasting but the "puppy" in me just wanted to play so I just kept running.
5k done, leg still attached, all seems good, not perfect but ill take what I can get!

Fast forward to yesterday

Last night was time for my next set of needles, massage, ultrasonic and tape. Its strange to say but I was kind of excited to get it done as over the last week my hamstring has felt progressively stronger and I was eager to get my legs back!
I  was feeling very relaxed as I knew what was on the cards, we chatted while she poked and prodded my away at my legs. The acupuncture was very interesting this time as it was more of a buzzing sensation all over my legs, a bit like if you have sat on them for a while and then stood up. That feeling when the blood rushes back into them.
Once she was done and I was all taped up again it was time for the walk home.
My legs felt a little heavy but in a good way, like I could feel like something was working.

I am going to get a few more short runs in before cutting back (pfffffttt! ha ha ha cutting back!!!) ready for the Thames Path 100 on the 3rd May.....GULP!

The one thought echoing around my head at the moment is "I think I might be back in the game!"

Thanks for reading folks!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Reading and panicking, mainly panicking.

Due to my legs not really cooperating lately I have been spending a lot of my time reading and panicking about the up coming Thames Path 100.
The panicking part can be explained but probably not fixed till I am already running it, the reading part on the other hand is going well.
My first 100 mile attempt is playing on my mind somewhat with every twinge and ache in my legs and Achilles. I am convincing myself that its just my legs practicing the kind of horror they are to endure in May. I find the lies to be helping.....just.
When I am not freaking myself out too much I have been really enjoying a new book by Dave Urwin called - Everything will work out in the long run.

It has made me laugh and nearly cry within a couple of pages. Its an inspiring roller coaster of a read and I feel a little sad to have finished it.
I am really holding back right now as I want to keep typing away and tell you everything! I must restrain!
Needless to say that I found it very entertaining indeed.
The jumping backwards and forwards in time caught me a little off guard to begin with but maybe that is my lack of reading! The subjects in this book go from being lighthearted and funny right to the other end of the spiral in a blink of an eye. I guess much like real life can feel sometimes.

Its a very funny and thought provoking book that I think a lot of people could relate to. Dave doesn't pull many punches and I really enjoyed his honest approach.

It was strange for me to read through the book and remember seeing him at one of the aid stations of my first ultra, the North Downs Way 50. Then to think that he must have seen my brother in law at his first ultra, the Thames Path 100! He speaks a lot near the end about coincidences. I am more of a "everything happens for a reason" kind of guy. Same thing I guess? It made me think about the little bits of the book that seem to give a little nod at my own story, including thinking about writing down my own story!

I speak to Dave quite a lot over the internet and very happy to see that he is going to be giving the Thames Path 100 a go! Hopefully I will get to meet him and have a proper chat and work on my airplane impressions! ;) To understand what im talking about please go and grab a copy from Dave! 

I shall leave this post as a short one before I re-write the book on here!
Please go and chat to Dave and get a copy now!!

Much love 

Monday, 10 March 2014

Monkey Tag Running

For a little while now there has been a gentle buzz in the ultra running scene here in the UK regarding "Social ultras". The idea behind it is to just put the word out about a run you are doing, hook up with some like minded people and go for a run! Brilliant!
It is in no way a new idea but its still a great one. In the US this style of "event" is known as a "fat ass" I wont spoil the story behind it....have a search ;)

This got me thinking about all of the other folks maybe just starting out or that may not have access to a running club, or well, a multitude of other reasons that may slow down their progress in this wonderful thing we call running. Some, myself included, would love to do more events but simple can not afford the entry fee! Then you have other issues like, getting a place, being worried about cut off times or being last. Many people would love to run a half or full marathon for example but are worried that they are simply too slow for an event. This is when a light bulb went off...

Monkey Tag Running is something I am playing around with at the moment. It is for anyone and everyone of all distances and abilities. The idea is pretty simple. Think of a distance, where and when you want to run, then ask if anyone can join you! No money other than your own travel, food and water.
No entrance fee, no goody bag, no t-shirt, no time worries, no frills running!
If you want to commemorate the occasion then why not get a dog tag engraved and bring it with you? At the end of the run everyone else can present it to you! It doesn't even have to be a tag, it could be a toy, a bit of string, it doesn't matter. What matters is the fun behind it.
It is just an idea to try and break down the walls a little around the idea that for your run to "count", it has to be an "official" race. OK I like doing them as much as the next guy but I don't feel I need a "real" event to go out and run a 5k/10k/half/whatever! Just run and have fun!
So if you feel like maybe making some new friends, having a giggle or maybe getting some free training then check out Monkey Tag Running (click hereon Facebook and have a chat with some like minded people. Its all FREE, its all for fun

Anyone who is a little further along should also check out Its a great place to hook up with others planning long training runs and ultra recces.

Hope to see you at a social soon! :)


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

"Fitness confidential" book review

I really liked the honest no bullshit approach to this book so I shall attempt to do the same with my review.

Funny, tragic, inspiring, get it now!

OK so I might need to pad this out a bit.

Vinnie Tortorich is a pretty cool guy. Actually he is a pretty angry guy, but a nice one. I first heard about Vinnie through UltraLuke Ashton when he started mentioning his meals were "NSNG".

What the hell is that?

NSNG stands for NSugar, NGrain
The idea being to heavily reduce if not completely eliminate processed sugar and grain from your life while returning to a high quality fat intake diet through real food, interesting huh?
With that in mind I was eager to read the book and find out more. What I found was a wonderfully inspiring, hard hitting story about a pretty amazing guy, oh and a little nod to NSNG.
It was almost frustratingly simple.

No sugar, No grain.

I kept reading on thinking "Yeah OK Vinnie, but what then?! Where is the catch? Where is the exercise plan? The pricey equipment to go with this idea? Give me something?!"

No sugar, No grain.

Its right there, simple.
Its amazing, I thought revelations were meant to feel like a massive sky splitting experience, instead I read these simple words and did what you are doing now. I sat there, scratched my head and went "huh?"
Lose the sugar, lose the grain, lose weight, lose the bloating. "but..." Stop over thinking it, trust me, I have already done that for you!
Its only when I got to the Acknowledgements section in the book that it said they wanted to make the book fun and just open a door to NSNG that I thought "Phew! I Thought I was missing something!"

I thought it was a great way to wet the appetite over the subject of NSNG and I for one will be doing a lot of digging into the "boring" bits and this will come up again for sure! ;)
The story itself is very entertaining, I really don't want to spoil it for anyone, please go grab a copy from Vinnie here ( Also while you are there, check out the pod cast (warning he pulls no punches!) it is funny as hell, Anna Vocino does a great job of keeping him almost in line! :)

Back to the book!
I went into this book in the hope that I would come away with more information on a No sugar, No Grain life. What I came away with was unexpected. One simple phrase that I think really spoke volumes about nutrition, training, attitudes and in general.
After reading this one phrase I knew that Vinnie had got one thing wrong.
The title.
"Fitness confidential" in my most humble opinion doesn't fit. Instead I propose another.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the phrase is simple but encompasses so much and shines like a beacon of hope.
Ladies and Gentlemen...

"Cut the Crap"

Thanks for reading guys!


Thursday, 6 February 2014

Thames Trot 50...ish

I didn't sleep at all the night before the race, instead I just watched the clock till it hit 4am. Time to get up and have some fat coffee. 
Coffee, teaspoon of coconut oil, tablespoon of butter and a teaspoon of honey mixed together and thrown down the hatch. That should do the job!

I had made a point of packing really light for this one after gaining a lot of confidence from the "34 for 34", I knew what I could get away with leaving behind.
I packed a little bit of food just in case the aid stations were a bit rubbish and again to practice being a little more self sufficient.

So what was in the bag?

Food - 4 little buttered lunch box malt loafs, 1 clif bar, a little food bag of chilli peanuts, 1x500ml bottle of coconut water with 2 tablespoons of Chia in it and a little "emergency" bag of Chia.
The idea for this one was to try and stay away from all the sugary bits for as long as I could as they tend to make me bloat and crash hard when the sugar runs out.

Clothing - 1x dry bag with spare injinji socks, spare hat, Montane over trousers.

Other - Head torch, silver blanket, bit of loo roll, painkillers, Elete water, chap stick, alcohol wipe, glove, small scoop of lube, small scoop of macs ice.

Even with 2 full 650ml bottles upfront, it still felt really light, I was pretty happy with my "no faff" kit.

5am - Pick up time!
The wonderful Mummysaurus came to give me a lift to the start and was maybe even more excited than I was! I grabbed my gear and we headed out to the car. The moment we got out of the house I knew it was going to be a cold day.
We chatted away in the car mainly about, you guessed it, running. Shocking huh?
After a quick "convenience" stop on the way, we arrived at the pub where the folks were already busy putting up the flags in the car park.
It was now pretty much bang on 7am so registration had just opened and we got straight to the tables without any queuing at all, bonus!
I went and got changed into the rest of my gear and then got my timing chip. We got one of those ones that looks like a watch with a Velcro strap. After chasing it around my wrist for a couple of minutes, Mummysaurus did the honour of actually making it stay still.
Right, just the race pack to look over and then try and chill out a little bit.
I pinned my number to my shorts, yes shorts. Shorts in February. Maybe not my best choice but I was pretty sure it would all work out in the end.
It was now around 8am and the pub was really starting to fill up so we headed outside, firstly to not get crushed, secondly to "acclimatize" and lastly, to chat and see if we could spot Dennis.

For those of you returning to my blog (thank you if you are!) you will remember Dennis from my other two ultras, the "NDW50" and "Race to the stones". For those of you who are here for the first time (thank you as well!) Dennis is a mountain of a man. By this I mean he is tall, not made of rock.
Dennis is also probably the only reason why I am not still on the Thames path right now!

So there we are, bouncing around in the car park trying to keep warm and I spot Dennis. He is pretty easy to spot if you hadn't already picked up on that. After a quick handshake for me and a hug for Mummysaurus he heads off to grab his pack. Meanwhile a guy comes up and says "hey, sorry I only know you as Cardiosaurus!" Guess Twitter really works huh?! We have a little chat and he takes my picture which was pretty cool! (thanks Kris you made my morning!)
My feet are already pretty cold and already gaining a lot of attention. "Mummy that man has only got socks on!" being my favourite from a little girl behind me.
Yep, socks and sandals, I`m that guy.
Finally after a bit of a delay the organiser gives us the usual speech along with a not so usual one. Long story short, the Thames path is screwed due to flooding and we are not quite sure where we are going yet. Joy! This is going to be and interesting day!
The map supplied is not the same as the one everyone (except me) has studied and even parts of that are now under question.
Now I would like to say that the lack of map studying on my part was due to something other than just not doing it. That would be a lie. Note to self, look at the some point before a idiot.
Luckily for me and my lack of map reading preparation I had a willing tour guide, Dennis.
He knew the route pretty well as he had done it last year and seemed happy enough to run with me this time, happy days!

And they`re off!

We were still chatting when everyone started moving, a quick bleep of the watch and a hug from Mummysaurus and we were off! My feet hurt already with every step, they felt like blocks of ice. Oh dear.
Within the first mile though everything seemed to be coming back to life and we bopped our way along the road, chatting and laughing away.

My rough game plan had been a very sensible walk/run strategy from the start.
6 and change miles in the bank later we were still running. This was no where near the plan. 
We finally took a walk break and I sipped away at my Chia and coconut water. Feeling really strong we just pushed on chatting about what we were going to eat at the first aid station.

Finally hitting the first check point and around 9 miles we came across a pretty disappointing table for someone trying to keep away from sugar. Water, cake, jelly babies and some GU gels. hmm...I`m glad I had my own stuff!
I took a small piece of cake anyway just to give it a taste because, well, it looked bloody good! It was! However due to how I personally deal with sugar and running, I felt pretty bloated for the next few miles and switched back onto peanuts. It did the trick and I settled down into a nice pace.

The wind was so cold. Normally if I was still wearing my jacket past 10 miles I would be ready to be served up with some chips and peas with blob of butter on me, boil in the bag style! Not today. In a way it was a good thing, it meant I didn't have to mess around packing it away in my bag. Added bonus was I could keep my phone in one pocket and food in the other, perfik!

The general going went from road to boggy mud to knee high water and back again, and again, and again.....
The going was pretty tough. We laughed our way through most of it and swore our way through the rest. I`m pretty sure I was holding Dennis up a lot but he just walked a bit until I caught up.

Check point 2 felt a long, long way and again we were greeted with the same sparse table. We were now just shy of 18 miles in and I started to really worry for the guys and girls who didn't pack any of their own food.

20 miles can only mean one thing...Yes, that's right its ultra duck face selfie time!

Me and Dennis - ultra duck face time! 
2 miles later and it was time to celebrate halfway...ish!

Yes it was cold, very, very cold!
I think Dennis has some more pictures of this bit but I wont knick them, instead I will give you guys a link to his blog at the end.

25.5 miles in and we find check point 3. This aid station was a slightly different story to the others, mini pork pies, more cake, little scotch egg things, not a bad stop that one. I grabbed a couple of mini pork pies, a little bit of cake and we moved straight on.
So far we had done really well at not hovering for to long at aid stations. I learnt a lot from my first 50 mile, I spent way to much time chatting and resting. This time was all about grabbing water and food and getting going again as soon as we could. Concentrating more on doing all of my eating and drinking on the move.

More road, mud, deep sticky mud and freezing water. The mud, (did I mention the mud?) road and wind was really starting to take its toll. My nose was pretty sore by this point from the freezing wind making it run more than I was.

I hit a bit of a mental low for a few miles between 30 and 33 while my food kicked in from the check point at 31 miles. It was good to think that we had finally hit check point 4 but I really had to keep my head down and try and eat for a few miles. I dropped back from Dennis a short way and just said I was in a bit of a black hole right now, he understood and just kept up his pace, looking back every now and then or just giving me a little shout to ask if I was ok. It really helped me along.

A couple of miles later, the mental fog lifted and we were back to laughing and joking our way down the road. I think we were both starting to really feel the miles now and were happy to put in more walk breaks and take it a piece at a time. Well I say it was the miles, it wasn't really. It was the switching from road to thick mud to water. My feet were like blocks of ice. I tried hard to concentrate on my form but it was almost impossible when it feels like you are running on stumps.

10 miles to go!
It felt like a great thing to post on Twitter thinking that it was nearly done. Also knowing that my family would be at the finish gave me a nice boost. My knee clearly wanted to stay on the trail as long as it could as it tried as hard as it could to keep grinding my pace down.
Walk, run, walk, run, just keep moving! When I walked I tried to walk as fast as I could, firstly to keep up our average speed, secondly because as I mentioned before, Dennis is a giant. It was like a smurf trying to keep up with a giraffe! 

The rest of the journey is all a bit mixed up as some of it involved trying not to get run over as we ran down the edge of a road, getting lost and ending up in a car park, scrambling through brambles, climbing over a fallen tree, wading through yet more freezing water and getting sacrificed to a swan.
Yes you read that correctly. 
We came across a very startled swan swimming in the middle of the path. Dennis had decided as I was the smallest (of all 3 of us) I was the one who was getting beaten to death by an angry swan. 
He didn't say this bit out loud until later.

"It just wants to get passed" said I "ok, you go that way" Dennis said as he shuffled his way closer to the edge of the trail leaving me with the Thames on my left and a somewhat bemused swan on my right, it was now swimming at me. This now left a nice gap.........for run off like a girl scout. 
Obviously being the brave hunter gatherer that I am I did what I had to do, haul ass after him the moment the giant white bird of death calmly swam to the side.

At some point in time we found check point 5 but as you can see after the hell bird trauma, it was all a bit of a blur. 

We now only had about 5 or 6 miles left so it was time to get our heads down and back to the grid! It was a tough few miles but we just chopped them up and did what we could to keep the pace up. We joked about who should cross the line first, like true gentlemen ultra runners we decided the only thing to be done was to finish together.

Turning down the last road and into the car park we came across the greatest sight of the day, a big blue inflatable Finish arch!

A fair few people lined the car park cheering us past, it was amazing to get this kind of response. Right at the line I could see my mum, dad and Jaime all cheering and clapping away. Such a great feeling to cross that line.

10 hours 40 minutes and 10 seconds, it was done!

Ridiculous ultra duck face finish! 
I can`t thank Dennis enough, without him I would have got incredibly lost and without a shadow of a doubt not made the cut off time. Hope I didn't sabotage your time too much buddy! ;)

Another ultra in sandals! :)

Hope you have enjoyed my story so far and thanks for reading!

Please head over and check out the blog by Dennis here -

Till next time folks!

Cardiosaurus OUT!