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