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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.

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.