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Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Bob Graham Round Recce #1

It is official. I have completed my first RECCE of the BGR over the last few days. Now normally I have just blogged about races over the last few years but this time it feels like this plan is beginning to become reality. I have been thinking and talking about this for about 5 years or so and now it is in the very first stages of coming true.

So the family packed off to stay in the most amazing valley in the Lake District; Borrowdale. The whole Windermere coach tours and cream tea thing is not my potato, but the northern reaches of the Lakes are the business. We stayed in the village of Grange. Highly recommend it...4 miles from Keswick.

So Susie and her good buddy Ann get to run the Buttermere 10 fell race and I get to play in the mountains over a few days. 4 runs over the period and I can now report quadricep DOMS that is more painful than George and I's new year 100 minute up and down Snowdon run.

So after the race and my second run of the day was a mid afternoon run from Buttermere taking in the main peaks from the last leg (leg 5) of the BGR. Prior to that I picked High Snockrigg (526m) before heading off to the last peak of the BGR, 737m high Robinson. This was a big ascent as was 2150ft straight up from the lake. Only seeing 1 person on the ascent, it was a lovely quiet run.

Making a mistake I ran the route of the BGR and slightly descended and then up again to Robinson Crags, realising then that I wanted to run the next 2 peaks in reverse. So about turn and down the 750ft or so to the valley and up to Hindscarth at 727m. This was more runnable as had a gentler incline.  Off Hindscarth and then a slightly shallower drop to pproach Dale Head, the parent peak of the day. Stooping at the top for a hot cross bun, I chatted to a chap who was 39 peaks from bagging all 214 Wainrights. Legend.

This peak was the highlight of my day. Pure unadulterated Valley spread out like a scrunched up green and brown duvet with a sparkling snake-like river at its base. 

Then it was a steep drop down, then up again to High Spy. A nice vista all around and now on the lower more accessible peaks, more people out finishing their own peak bagging for the day.

Finally Maiden Moor and Catbells and it was off done for the day and a few beers. Add my morning peaks in that was 13 miles and 5000ft of ascent.

Morning and a windier and more menacing sky than the perfect conditions of yesterday. Catbells, straight up 1400ft before breakfast to stretch the aching quads and what a view, Blencathra covered in it's own cloud.

It was difficult to stand tall at the top owing to the wind so it was straight back down and a lap of Derwent Water and scoping out a run for Susie as we tag-teamed the children back at Grange. She disappeared for a 2 hour run, then it was off to the chippy in Keswick for sustenance. 

On return, and with the weather closing in, it was off to scope as much as I could on tired legs and run 2 of the day to do an out and back of part of leg 4 of the BGR. Grey Knotts, Brandreth, Green Gable and Great Gable. 

Apart from the last section, the early part of Grey Knotts can be a hands and feet up the wet rocks and I was rewarded, if not shocked by a Hercules thundering through Honister Pass. I only managed to get my phone out to catch the back of it but it came from below to above me, not 100m from the rocks. Loudly!

Grey Knotts is a rocky outcrop and the view over Honister is lost as soon as you go back a bit. 697m and the wind meant that standing on top was brief. Over now to Brandreth and this was quick. A fairly flat bowl and only down say 30-40m and then up to 715m for Giles Himself. A peak is a peak and although no real drop on any side, the view to Great Gable at another 1000ft climb was menacing.

 As the wind turned to heavy rain I wanted to do Green Gable but had not seen a soul and for some reason, with the wind and the rain, this spooked me a little. Not sure why but I felt like it was time to head back. Only a short outing but I was reminded of the sheer unpredictability of this landscape as withing 5 minutes, this entire view was replaced by thick dark cloud and heavy rain. Time to go. Happily it is about 8 mins run from Brandreth to Grey Knotts.

This I think, is going to be like a drug. I want to do every peak and run this legendary trail. We will be back in the summer for the next chapter. 

Sevenoaks Circular 31.4 miles. Marathon #81

Not feeling the greatest after a bout of food poisoning, I turned up on the day at a private school that once schooled no other than Lady Diana Spencer, although now is a private refuge for naughty posh kids....anyhow this was the start just south of Sevenoaks for the LDWA Sevenoaks Circular 30 (billed as 30 but 31.4 on the route map.

Within minutes I had bumped into Robert Cameron Wood, fresh from his 261st marathon and also Michael Bennett from Orpington Road Runners. I think he was off on more of a bimble today and also David Thompson.

Out of the blocks like a Nagasaki greyhound was Robert CW. He ran off down the hill to Knowle Park. After about the first mile, I thought I'd hang back and get into a rhythm rather than go off with the big boys. The day was cool but clammy and I stripped down to just a short-sleeved Helly and promptly lost contact with the front group of about 18 runners. I wanted to just do my own thing today and enjoy.

Getting my head into the instructions I then ran with RCW for the next few miles, plus another runner, Paul Bracey from Bromley. We ran for some miles and then the legend himself slowed down on an incline and clearly feeling the marathon the day before, duly cantered some distance back. Paul and I struck up some conversation, although mainly map reading and double-checking the route. I didn't look at the number of CPs and was surprised to find them every 5 miles or so, clearly not having read the route map! So we decided to not hang around for too long, apart from at CP2 for some delicious LDWA sarnies. Rising up to the Weald felt a slog and then coming back down we went through a recently felled forest which was kind of eerie but beautiful at the same time. This is where I found out Paul's dad used to work at my school. Small world! We overtook a number of runner who looked to have gone wrong.

We didn't see another runner for about 2 hours and were well into our run. CPs came and went...none as well stocked as CP2 so we never hung around. Off the Weald and onto the NDW climbing steeply at Chevning to Knockholt at the final CP and then back down to the Weald for the last 6 miles. Clearly tiring, we bimbled at a good ultra pace across muddy fields, some parts of town centre and along riverbanks to the finish with a nice 800m long incline where I put my foot down to finish in the bang-on predicted 5 hrs 45 and 12th place.

Felt fresh, never smashed or too far in the red. A really nice training run that was marathon #81

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Valentine's Challenge - Marathon #80

Not a great deal to say. Too much DOMS from running hills. A tarmac course that was windy and pretty unforgiving.This was a training run that if I could get my head around the laps, would have been OK, but I hate the laps...what can I say.

Slower than average time. 7.50s for first 15, then capitulated and 9s'd in the rest like a rat holding onto a mouldy crisp. Felt like quitting after 15 miles. Felt better at 24....but too late to think about the 2 laps beyond the marathon which would've won it.

I love Traviss and Rachel for heir excellent organisation but I need to get my head around the laps. I just can't do it anymore. Give me the trail again please.....

Marathon #80 ticked off

training in the Peak District

2 days 2 x 2.5 hour runs. I wish I had gone further and had longer on my feet but I knew I had a marathon on the Tuesday. Well below freezing and lots of snow. Perfect for exploration, following the hills and trails and trying not to fall over and die on the remote hills. I did not see a soul for 2.5 hours each time and thank the grips on my shoes and someone watching over me that I did not trip, slip of break something.

I ran up to Solomon's Temple to begin my run. Having lived just 17 miles away as a little Northern Scoundrel, I knew this 1200ft hill well. From here it was Nav out into snow country.

Despite the deeper snow, it was a much easier run on saturday as there were not 60mph winds that were almost impossible to stand, let alone run. This was a good explore and plenty of vistas.

Axe Edge Moor and Burbage edge were my faves.

Sunday I had developed a little but of DOMS and took it easy for a while. I ran much further than I did on the Saturday although had to keep off the peaks to some extent, heading for Cloughs and gulleys as the wind was too hard to stand up in.

I headed down the Goyt Valley which was cold and deserted. My mum and dad's favourite place. I can see why.....I loved it as a kid and I still love it now.

Shining Tor, Hoo Moor, Stakeside and then back down and up Burbage. Legs battered. Cold and filled with DOMS. Time for a warm bath and remove the black mud from those hidden geothermal pools beneath the snow.....

Winter Tanners 2017

I love this race. What can I is fairly local, fairly nuts in terms of cold and wet as is early January. It is self-nav and in the 50km, only 3 CPs and this year a totally new and very challenging course.....4000ft of hills

The plan was to start out with my good Tanners buddy Mark Thronberry. He had brought along a few friends including Paul T who I had run with on the first 7 miles of the Winter Midnight Ultra......thanks Paul as if it wasn't for you I would have gone off course and potentially not won the race!! I also bumped into the sexy young Hampshire scamp, Kelvin Gower and had a catch up. This type of race is the business and my kind of territory. Wet, muddy, hard to nav and cold. We ran together for about 15 mins then I realised that I was on form for the day so in the first of 6 hours of constant rain and sleet, waded through puddles and hit the uphills like a wet antelope. After a while I caught up with 100 mile winner and legend Jenny Cox and her entourage and we on and off chatted for a bit. We meet up for our once a year date with mud and beastly hills and have a chat.....then off she went. 

CP 1 came and went and off towards CP2, which included the hilliest section of the run. I began a conversation with Martyn Turner who I had been overtaken by at SPW on the last mile and had been a marshall at the ill-fated Thames Gateway 60 in 2013. We ran and chatted for all but the last 3 miles of the race. There was a good bit of nav between us and we didn't see another runner until CP2, where we caught and overtook a bunch of good quality runners. Leading through the forests of the Surrey Hills and through plenty of mud, Martyn and I had a good old chat. We went at a steady but fast clip and caught up again with Jenny. As a group of about 7 we went through mud and snow, slipping all over the place to now about 4 hours in the rain and sleet. My waterproof was not waterproof anymore, everything was soaked and now heavy.

CP3 came and that was the signal to hit again hard. Martyn and I ran and left the group, taking a couple with us who eventually caught and then I ran with Jenny's mate and Martyn ran behind. I knew the last 3 miles like the back of my hand. Cold wet legs and 7.30s down the hill for the cameo was manageable. 6.19 was the slowest I have ever done the race, but 19th place and it felt like the fastest? There were some seriously good runners in the top few and also some seriously good runners in the next hour behind me. I really enjoyed this race....more than any other tanners and probably in my top 10 of all time races. 

Marathon #79 done

Monday, 2 January 2017

End of 2016 and the start of 2017

Ending the year with a much better footing than the start of 2016, there are some challenges ahead. Most notably to get the work-life-kids balance right and this will allow me to get to grips with the increased focus on training both from running and from strength and conditioning. Utilising the run home from work is key to early base miles. Strength and conditioning work and a better diet and no alcohol in weeks leading up to key challenges is critical to this. Physical effort is part of the plan. Mental conditioning is equally important.  A big DNF in the summer with the Samphire 100 was a critical blow to my year, after winning the Midnight Challenge Ultra. It felt as bleak as the top of Dunkery Beacon on new year's day yesterday......

.....but that positive mindset needs to be nurtured back and a strong end to 2016 with 2nd place at Ranscombe and nearly 90 mins quicker than my 4 previous Gatliff marathons has got me focused on 2017. 2016 looked like this (Tanners certificate missing) and I want 2017 to be even better.

 I have my first 3 races in the diary and paid for. Next is the plans for getting to the lakes for 4 sessions this year for BGR preparation, but I also want to take on some personal challenges - including the Welsh 3000ft peaks in a day, plus a few other ideas that I have in my head that are not races but personal running challenges. Boosting my navigation skills and time on feet is important to this.

I'm 42 this spring and want to ensure that I keep my good health as I get older. I am lucky not to have had any significant injuries since breaking my leg in 2011. I want to build strength and a mindset to be able to go back to the Ridgeway 85 and smash it, then an 100 again and the Bob Graham in 2018. 

No pathway is ever an easy one when you build in physical and mental goals, especially when failure has happened in the past. Turning this into a positive mental mindset and physical approach is the key to peaking at the right time.