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Sunday, 27 January 2013

Waterlink Way and Thames Path Route

Awesome to run this morning as the temperature was 15 degrees warmer than last sunday and all the snow had melted. Tim, Linda and Simone joined us to run the Waterlink Way and Thames Path. At a nice easy pace, we plodded alongside the industrial architecture that envelopes the Thames Path and then on up through the Charlton side of Greenwich Park and then back. I peeled off to run round Crystal Palace to increase my miles but a lovely 17 mile easy run. With just a bottle of water, I had to pop into a corner shop at 15 to sink a can of coke as I felt the sugar levels dip quite low.

Follow that with a cracking roast dinner at The Dolphin and an afternoon snooze. Awesome day

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Snow running

With the Winter Tanners 30 mile XC self navigate event cancelled owing to the snow this weekend I donned my trusty Vasque Trail Shoes and with school closed early owing to the snowfall on Friday morning, I headed out tentatively at first for a few snow miles. There is a bit of product review and a lot about the snow here.....

I purchased these from America as they don't sell them here in the UK. That made them a little bit more expensive than the trail shoes I usually run in; Invo8 TrailRoc 255 and they are massively more heavy. Being size 12 adds on some extra grams too and these come in at 425g which is like carrying bricks on your feet after running in 250g shoes for most of the time. At first I wasn't a fan of the mass increase but they really found their way on the rugged South West Coastal Path in Devon over new year. The grip is like no other shoe I have had before and the GoreTex fabric is both strong and waterproof. They are also quite high up the ankle and have a rubberised toe-cap and a stone plate under the foot. There are compromises but I would have really appreciated this on the Gatliff 50km last month.

So heading out in the snow I chose these above the Inov8s as I wanted some waterproof-ness in the snow. My feet were actually warm inside! These are perfectly suited to wet autumn, chilly winter and miserable spring ultras.

So after a hilly traverse round Crystal Palace Park and through the fresh snow, I returned home and popped them in the airing cupboard to warm up. Saturday morning I went out with the amazing Mrs UB for some more snow miles. She donned her train shoes and off we went for a hilly and as off-road as we could get in South London, sticking to parks, paths and woods.

The run was excellent and definitely harder work than normal. Once we had found out that the Tanners was off, we planned a route for Sunday down the Waterlink Way, joining the Capital Ring and Green Chain route  through Greenwich, Blackheath and back home....again, virtually no roads involved here. Something I love about running in south London is that there are so many non-road trails.

When we started out it had started snowing. On the route back it got harder and harder and luckily on the return route, the wind was slightly behind us. We bumped into Ian and Connie at Ladywell running track, paused, chatted for a mo, and then carried on. We stopped on the way for some pics at greenwich and Blackheath. There were plenty of folk out for a good old toboggan down the perilously steep Greenwich Park. We ran up it and then across Blackheath and then rejoined the Waterlink Way. This would be Mrs UBs longest run since the half marathon in June. (South Downs) She is training for the VLM in April and is well on her way mile-wise and is improving in strength and conditioning. I'm really proud of her as she is definitely not a fairweather runner....always out there with the worst that old Blighty throws at her!

I dropped Mrs UB off at home and then got a few more miles in. By the time I was back, 11cm of snow had fallen!

That meant that the call to shut school on Monday was through so I had plenty of paperwork to do and also a sunny winter run to catch up on Monday.

Donning the Vasques Monday and again tonight, I have put 67km in the last few days, all in the snow. For the first time it felt like they were not heavy. I predict that my musculature has become accustomed to their mass and I managed some 7.50s in the snow, slush and ice. I daren't go any quicker owing to being ultra safe in this weather and not breaking my leg again! It's 250km for January so far.......I need to loose some lbs and this is the perfect way to do it.

I love the snow....but I'll love it even more when its gone!

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Trail Blazin'

Found this on the South West Coastal Path. Geo-caching running (as long as you can find them!) where the SWCP has the shortest ultra distance for then "extreme" version. This is commensurate with the runs that I have had on the route compared to the SDW and the Ridgeway and NDW. It is a knarrly hardcore run........I will do the 630 version but unfortunately it only goes up to 85km!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

First Win!

So I am a serial runner-up or nearly-there or also-ran..........The first time I have ever lead an ultra was this year at a 30 miler and in the last 10 mins or so, took a wrong'un and ended up 6 miles off course.

This all changed this week. I won something! I have the lovely Keith at to thank for that........a Twitter competition in which I won a Nuun hydration bottle and half a dozen Nuun tablets to go in it. Great stuff as I needed a new bottle anyway.

Not only that, I will be putting a small ad on the blog as the last 3 ultras I have run with one of the excellent rucksacks that are stocked by Keith.....the ultraAspire Revolution which is a bottle holder which can fit an OS map and a jacket and food in and is the first ever racepack I have carried since the excellent Salomon Raidlight that fits me and doesn't either chafe/fall apart or otherwise. I'll do a product review in due course.

I'll be purchasing the FastPack later in the spring after the Xmas bank balance receives fiscal stimulus in the paypacket department. I'll want to run the SDW100 without a crew and depending on the date my awesome sister-in-law Kim plans her wedding date in I will also be running another 100 this summer.

Ok, the win was a small one but out of small acorns, mighty oaks (winnings) grow.

Final piece of news this week is that I am off to Eldoret in July. Eldoret you say? WTF is that? It is in the mountains of Kenya. Yes......I have been asked to supervise a group of teachers and 6th form students from school to go to the mountains above the East African Rift Valley. I will be staying about 5km from the athletics track that Brother Colm O'Connell trained the greats including David Rudisha. Obviously I have work to do in the school but I will be finding out everything about the 5am runs that these guys get up to.......and perhaps introduce them to 100 mile ultras which I hear is not the "done" thing over there.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

New Year's shenannigans

Happy New Year to all!

A New Year's swim and run.

An amazing new year spent with friends on the most southerly and also most deserted part of South Devon, Prawle Point. On the SW Coastal Path (SWCP) the landscape is barren, rugged, windswept and after many serious floods and landslides, extremely difficult running conditions.

Each evening in our huge Lighthousekeepers' Cottage, each would prepare a different meal, with copious amounts of alcohol from different global locations, washed down with cheese and whatever other surprises that were on offer. This left all of the runners in the group fully prepped for a morning and/or evening blast along the coast!

The SWCP is a 630 mile long navigation from Poole, Dorset to Minehead, Somerset around some very rugged coast. The South Devon section, from Dartmouth to Portsmouth is 83km long. Each bay consists of a drop down to sea level from no more than 138m (452 ft) and then back up again. Sometimes you have to come inland a little......

 So a every couple of miles you have the same 450ish ft drop and up to the top again. Some of the coastline through is far more exposed as at Gammon Head where I ran with the light fading on the first day of the holiday with a headtorch. My plan; to do some of the SWCP and do the road back in the Dark. Well, I ran up to Prawle Point only for the lookout keeper to state she was shutting for the day as it was gale force 8 with a 9 on the way in the next hour.....bring it on.

This was the first view I was treated to as the light faded (I took this shot a couple of days later in the morning) with the twisted path rising and falling around the rocks into the distance at Gammon Head. After running and been blown up in the air at one point, I headed inland at Gara Rock a few miles down the coast and donned my headtorch to return via road. Only 7 miles but such exhilaration I had to take the boys down this path the next day, which we did, only this time in the horizontally driving rain. Luckily Matt and I were in waterproof jackets but Karl was suffering over the last couple of miles, soaked to the skin!

Then came a lovely run or two with Mrs UB. Muddy to say the least!

It was then time for something completely different and that was a Charity New Year's Day swim up the Atlantic Coast nearer to Plymouth. About 50 brave souls took part including Karl in his mankini and Mr and Mrs Broccoli as well as myself. Waiting for Mr and Mrs B on the beach in our shorts for 10 mins was pretty cold but we were all ushered into the sea by the organisers. Most had wet suits on.

We didn't!

So it was nice to warm up afterwards with a hot chocolate and then a couple of pints in the pub.

It was then onto walking the SWCP to Salcombe and back with the crew, including stopping off for lunch at a pub where many jokes were cracked after spotting a minor celebrity and his chavvy ex-model slapper wife! I had another couple of shorter runs with Mrs UB and then my final challenge. To run to North Hallsands and back. This place is well worth a visit or even a quick Google as it is called the lost village for reasons that will become clear if you research it. Tragic story and perhaps a cautious tale of how not to mess with the land and the sea. This trip was the only time I donned a rucksack as I knew it would be a long and slow journey 2200ft of ascent and descent in only 13.5 miles.  Off I went and quickly realised it would get muddy......

.....and then the path was shut and so for a detour up the hill and back down again. This was fine as I was expecting this having chatted to the locals about the route. It seems that a house had to be evacuated as the whole front garden and driveway to the main road had disappeared into the sea in a mudslide. Well i had to see this! But...on the way back. The top traverse took in a bridleway that was been used regularly by farmers and cows and was un-runnable as you can see from above!

Onto Start Point and then Hallsands for the last part of the out.....

Just running along this path that traces the contours and rocks whilst teetering on the edge makes you feel that this is what running and exploring is all about! Awesome! Almost nobody save for the hardy rambler and a nutter flying over rocks and ledges.

Finally on the return it was time to see the landslide. Word had it that a family evacuated from this holiday home on Boxing Day after hearing the thunder of the wet mud cliff disappear and the sea wash it away. I scooted down on the beach and took a pic, then instead of taking the diversion up the hill, climbed along the rocks and up a cliff along the coast. Adrenaline was coursing through my veins and after the top, 20ft of gorse cut my legs and arms up. My next couple of miles were quicker as my heart was beating like a bastard!

On a slow and steady run back to the house, so ended my running on the SWCP for the time being. I did find these TrailBlaze Geocaching markers which I will save for the next blog, as this was a missed opportunity to run a self-navigate, anytime ultra using geo-caching.

As Arnie famously stated......"I'll be back!"