Total Pageviews

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

UK Ultra Trail Championships - R86 The Ridgeway


SO I trained. I trained hard. Super hard for some time, well as super hard as you can train with a 50 hour week job and 2 kids and moving house at the same time. It has been ages since I have blogged. I have moved house, work has got a little bit harder and kids are well, kids.

Leading up to the race we took a holiday in the Balkan Mountains in Bulgaria. I love going to see Graham and David and having a few beers. It was 35-ish degrees so I ran early....It is really hard to run without being chased/attacked by wild dogs. I was out for a few days and all was fine. The last day I took Audrey in the buggy and had to leg it from a wild dog. Nevertheless, lots of hills and back country. Having arrived home I had a proper taper. I don't usually but with looking after the girls and packing for the move, there was no time.

Saturday morning came and I hopped on the train, super early as they were on some bank holiday engineering works mullarkey. Anyway, after a train, tube, train and cab i was at the start, 90 mins early. Time for a relax and a feed. I also met a few fellow competitors. The nervous, the happy, the intrepid and the gung-ho. I kept any powder dry and focused on me-time. I did begin a conversation with Lauren, who was at the start with her BF, who was crewing for her. They seemed pretty cool. Aside from that, I listened to and ignored at the same time, the pre-race drivel from some blokes chatting gear and crocodile wrestling. my time would come.


There was plenty of photo shoot at the start, I put my phone away before it all started, had a moment looking out over Ivinghoe Beacon and then it was off. It was a super warm bank holiday. 26-27 degrees I recall. After 2015 and the blow-out DNF at half way, I took it steady. Mile 1-10 was at an easy pace. Up to CP1 I felt OK. Not great, but not bad. The evil demons that are runners dreads and nightmares kicked in soon after. I recall the same incline in 2015 and also 2010, felt good at the latter, the wheels were already off in the former. CP2 was welcome. Within a couple of miles I was all at sea. Images of 2 years ago were flooding my memory. This time, I knew my  mind was stronger and I would try as hard as I could to overcome the evil and vile demons. Then it came over me like a tsunami of meh....10 miles of run/hide in hedges. I succumbed to the heat once more. Ongoing diahorrea until mile 23. Totally dehydrated I gently trotted to CP3. I ran with a less hirsute Tom H (trail dragon) whom I had spent a lot of miles with in 2010. Both of us were at our ends. Mustering up energy we gained momentum and conversation towards CP3. Under the bridge and out the the CP, there lay a battle strewn line of drawn and pale faces, despite the late summer humid pallor. Sweat-ridden and salt wanting men, clearly to-hard-to-fast written over their forlorn tattooed bodies, memories of races past. This was the turning point. Looking at such pity, such sorrow, phoning wives and girlfriends, gurning, angry, sad. I had to go on.

Within 2 miles or so, a wave of hope came across me. I felt OK. Not only that, I was beginning to feel good. Slow as the first marathon was, I was picking up as the cooler evening air pricked up my skin as the sweat retreated. it was then, as the course took a turn uphill through a pair of gates and across a pasture that I met up again with Lauren, whom I had me at the start. We started up a conversation that lasted 60 miles. One of the best conversations I have had and at the time, I remembered every word and now, as the months have passed, it all blends into a happy memory of races past, places lived (Lauren has lived nearly everywhere near me!) school and crazy holidays in Africa and most of all...not getting lost at night.

We picked up some pace and CP4 came and that was  anew one as the old CP was at the top of a hill with a caravan. Sadly the old lady running this has long gone but onto the point at which I capitulated last time around. I needed to take a reference, so here it is...


Then it was onwards. Down Grimm's ditch at super speed. Despite the terrible first 26 miles, the next 18 were spot on and we were about 45 mins up on the 2010 time with Dave Hegarty, Colin Fitzjohn and Tom H. No need for a headtorch, but in need of directions from a lovely posh boy in a Morris Minor. At Streatley, the half way point it was time for a change of clothes, jacket potato and beans. Lauren delighted me in showing me her mangled feet. 3 cokes and a salt tab later, we were ready to go. I clutched a banana, maybe I would eat it later. I'm not even really a banana fan. Up up up out of Streatley and onto the Wessex Downs. A slog for the next CP but how welcome it was. Hot coffee! We were making good progress and still doing a lot of running. We are indebted to Stuart Low (winner of MV50) who has run the course a few times and when we stopped to check (we never got it wrong!) he was there behind us to reassure. The next 2 CPs weerew full of awesomeness. Watermelon and coffee and more bananas to carry. I think I held onto a banana for most of the second half of the race. Crossing the motorway from CP7 we began to realise we were overtaking quite a lot of runners. We had been picking off a few but now was our bounty. Out of the distance was terry, who stuck with us from mile 65 up until not far from the finish. He was lit up like an Xmas tree and was a 10.00am start but we had banter. He ran mainly behind us while Lauren and I put the world to rights. What a super chat. I knew Barbury Castle was the final CP. I had felt awful in 2010 so had some apprehension. Once negotiated, the hill was not as bad as I had made out. A hot dog and coffee at the top with the sunrise and we were 1.45 hours up on my 2010 time. As we were running along earlier in the evening, we were spurred on by mutterings in the CPs. Lauren was 4th lady. Lauren was 3rd lady. Lauren was.....???? Well there was a rough looking girl in front. We blasted past her. Then another. What were we achieving. Spurred on we thought that this was something big and I was going to help her smash it. After Barbury, we though we saw over the hill behind, another female runner. Never, since the days of Mr hegarty and the 'cheeky last 10k' did we have such a cheeky last 10k. We mullered the last 5 miles. The figure in the distance did catch us, but it was a bloke! Phew. That said, what a last few miles. Booooooooom. All the way past the stone circle....what stone circle Rob? Oh those......anyway it was downhill to the finish. YES!!!!



19 hours and 14 minutes. 2 hours and 16 mins faster than in 2010. Wow. the A race of my year. I never imaginged I'd do an 8 hour 50 miler and the R86 in sub20.  Never again I said. I still might do something else. Something different.

Anyway, I had an interesting bush shower in someone's driveway. Then I sank a warm can of IPA and had a doze in Lauren's car whilst we were driven up towards Stevenage, not far from where they live. I was off to a BBQ to see Susie and the kids. I had not stopped thinking about them all race. I was really looking forward to seeing them.

Looking back on the race I feel pretty good about the latter half of the day. I remember that races are not won in the first half. I also feel really lucky to have met such a good friend in Lauren. Such is the joy of our sport, you can meet kindred spirits and share such wonderful moments with. Can't wait to run with Lauren again, only to find out how she deals with poor attendance at her school!

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Midnight Marathon - SDW

So in order to prep myself for the Ridgeway R86 in a few weeks, I thought I would do some night running and have a gentle marathon at the same time. This was not one to rush, a few days before our holiday and a month before one of my 2 'A' races of the season. I did't want to go apex over triangle on Cocking Down as I did on the 2014 SDW100 and then be ruined for the summer.

So a busy day of trampolining and kids parties preceded the drive down to QECP park on the A3. As you might expect, there was an eclectic mix of runners and nutters for this night event. Rain had been forecast so I packed waterproof and a spare head torch in case the new SILVA trail runner 3 did not work out in terms of comfort. I had a chat with a new ultra runner from Poland who lived in London on the walk down to the start. Then I bumped into the cheeky chappie himself, Mr Kelvin Gower where we had a bit of banter at the start.

It then went dark. Very dark. Not like London dark which is actually daylight with the amount of light pollution. Head torch on almost within minutes. I was concerned about the boredom on a out-and-back course but it was pretty novel running the SDW in the opposite direction to the previous marathon a few weeks ago. Somehow it felt a little easier. I wasted lots of time after CP1 (5+ mins) sorting out the ever loosening strap on the new headtorch. Bummer. CPs were well stocked (and had alcohol?? - not for me though!) as I took caution over the wet chalk in my road shoes. Good choice for comfort but not the amount of mud and wet. Cocking Down, the halfway point came and I felt better and better during the race. I had started ridiculously cautiously so was surprised to see how good I was feeling at 15 miles. This is where the wheels came off a few weeks ago. At this point, off I went and started to overtake some runners, one by one, especially as the field was strung out. This was lost though as I spent 9 mins at CP4 putting new batteries in the Silva. Oh my God it was bright, but not a good idea to put Lidl batteries in. 3 hours....almost dead. It was really really hard to get the battery case open. the CP staff couldn't do it either. So time was lost here and I can reflect on equipment issues taking up 16-20 mins of my race, which is significant.

At this point I set a challenge for myself. The field was pretty strung out so if I could overtake a runner a mile from 16-26.2 then that would be good. This was like olden days with Dave Hegarty. I guess we used to chat too much at the start and then beast the last cheeky 10k. Same old for today, but it was me on my own. In the end, I overtook 22 other runners. I was pleased that all of the places in which I had walked the previous marathon, I ran this time. 30th overall which was OK for me. A lovely hot spicy bowl of chilli and an IPA at the finish with a big fat medal and t shirt. No pics on this one as Kelvin ripped me to shreds for the poor quality selfie of me and him at the start.

Marathon #86

The next one will be a super tough ultra.

Friday, 30 June 2017

South Downs Marathon

Not to be confused with the aforementioned SDWM this is further along the massiv between Slindon and QE2 Park.

Limited stuff to say about this really. I think the 6th time of running this. One of my faves but not today. Coy feeling at the start led to a good few miles with Helen and a great catch up...then a semi hard run to Kithurst and the switchback to get on the SDW. Felt great for then on pootling along at 7.30s on a 30 degree day (why do they start this race so late! Give me a 7am start pls) all the way down to half way, then back up Cocking Down probably top 20 runners in the field and then mile 14-15 BAM BAM BDAM........ it hit me like a wall of shit. Exit stage left for a dump. Jeeez. Then after composure, another one. Then another. Then another. Again. It went away and then stomach cramps so bad I spent 10 mins, maybe 15 lying down in the grass......slightly off the course in case the brown train came again.

I walked for what felt like ages. I didn't see anyone. I thought I was last. BAM again. Again. Again. I was wasted. No water. Nothing inside me. I carried on. Only 10 miles to go. It was a bimble in. Slowly and tentatively, never fast...just in case....always looking for an escape route.....

I have never downed so much water at Harting Down CP.  Felt better and then carried on. I felt like I was at the back of the field and so carried on like a wounded soldier with the thermometer rising, grinding out the miles. BANG......2 miles from the end when all was getting back into the rhythm it was necessary again. Again and again. Even a mile from the finish, a diversion off the trail for privacy. ARRGGGHHH! So, dear readers, this was a beautiful trail, a hot day and a race that was marred by over an hour of diarrhea stops. Fuck's sake! Slowest marathon ever but #84 done

Saturday, 17 June 2017

South Downs Way marathon.

This time a marathon. 28 degrees at the start. 30 at the finish. A cameo first 14 miles in the mix with the top dudes and girls. Then......

9 shits and a need to lie down with stomach cramps. First 14 in 1.48. Last 12 in 3.01. Terrible terrible terrible. I ran an extra 2 km over the course just trying to find somewhere that people wouldn't see or smell me. Totally wasted throughout but #nogutsnoglory and #shittersnotnquitters.

I have dived out of races before. 9 Shits. No quits. My slowest marathon ever ever ever.

grim but done

South Downs Marathon

Well....an ultra really.

Low key. 4000 ft of hills. Stunning countryside. Self nav. Conservative start. Met Zoltan Fordor and had a good chat with the legend himself. What a guy. Ran harder, then harder, then harder still. There was a lot of climb on this route and only 3 CPs. One with food. I dug deep. Really deep and then the last few miles were total bliss. Blasting down to the finish and 6th place. 6th!! A well deserved beer in the pub next to the finish.

Marathon #83

Liverpool to Manchester 50 L2M50

When you haven't raced a 50 for a couple of years there is a small squeaky bum crack moment when you down your porridge and then get in a cab across Northern Liverpool. Down at the start at 5am and it was about 4 degrees and windy.........headtorches lit the park near Aintree as I bid farewell to the cabbie.

The first thing I noticed was the chatter and the gear. There were 2 types. Basic runners. Vest, skinny, wiry.....wise. Then there were the show offs. All the gear.......lamenting about previous races. "I did this" "Well I did that"......and so it was for the kit check and number pick up that I was slightly aprehensive when I hear brash Northern tones from some girl..."I've done my Grand Slam....." I'm going to run the Tahoe Ring" "Me and Killian..." and I tried not to get psyched out. That sort of thing kills me though and I don't usually get bothered by it BUT I was worried about my kit check as I had not checked the email and being 230 miles from home when I check SAID email the night before realised that they were going to ENFORCE some things. Shit. I didn't have half of it. OK, blag.....blag again......Oooh I'll just pop to the car and get it....oh, its in my bag over there with the rest of my club.......Got through.

So with plenty of pomp and ceremony, Wayne Drinkwater sent us off. I felt pretty crap for the first few miles. Running the routes that I do when we escape up to the outlaws in Liverpool, I was quickly on 'home turf' and the first 9 miles I had run 20 times over the last 8 years. I felt shit though. Fat Welsh guys all bravado and spunk and weekend ultra selfie snappers were dancing ahead. I felt cack. Getting past East prescott and then Gateacre and down to Speke I started to pick up. The wannabees and the spunkers stopped to tie laces, pour powders into bottles and check Garmins. I pootled on. Conversation at a minimum.

Then. I woke up. 17 miles in and then I switched into the race. Probably some Caffeine through my veins as I crossed industrial estate and faded matchbox new build and hit the Mersea through its tidal laziness across the dawn sky. All of sudden I was hard wired into the race and the intravenous runners high did not stop. Old Bridge, New Bridge.



Then it happened. The stench from HELL. A quick run past a Northern Bone reprocessing plant. God. It smelled so bad.

A clip on now I blasted through CP3 and 4, spening time chatting to folk on the way. Chatting and then running on. I ran harder and harder and until I felt the wheels were going to come off. They didn't. Mark and I struck up banter. Banter at 30 miles in when you hit Cheshire and run a mile past your old house in South Manchester to a fellow Mancunian is pretty good. One small section of filth and the rest of the journey past runner after runner after runner......all the negative ones was great. We bonded. Across HALLOWED turf of the RIVER BOLLIN. That ran behind my house when I was 6.....and all of a sudden we were not at 30 but 40, not at 40 but 48.

The cameo is always good. We caught another 4 runners, we dropped 2 and then had a hell-for leather race for the line thanks to our guy from Knutsford Tri who had run the course last year. 'I though yer were a slow basterd....' he said as we had had banter in the changing rooms at the start. BLAST IT....I dropped the last mile in sub 7s. KILLED me, but after crossing the line in just over 8 hours for a 50 mile I was pretty gung ho. Burger in mouth, the family arrived before the bar opened. Good thing really as we blasted down the M60, me driving with 900mg of Caffeine in my veins....shh.

This was definitely in my top 3 runs of all time. AWESOME





So the Killian Tahoe Grand Slam Girl......well she came about 5th from last, nearly 7 hours later.....shame.