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Saturday, 23 February 2013

Wrecked........ill and not in the St. Peters Way Ultra

I'm out of action for the big 45 miler that I have been chomping at the bit for for the last couple of weeks.

I've had a chest infection for about 1-12 days, which has mostly gone, but this was nothing compared to yesterday and what I can only assume is a massive dose of food poisoning.

Yesterday Mrs UB and I went out for a light lunch of noodle soup in South Kensington before a cultural afternoon at the V&A museum. Not 2 hours later and a sit down for a latte and we both felt queasy. I felt ill on the tube home and then almost didn't go out in the evening for my good buddy Chris' "wet the baby's head" drinks with the running club boys. 2 hours of sleep and I felt well enough to go but the bus journey there made me fell ill again.

I took an hour to sip one bottle of Westons Organic Pear Cider and when Tappo bought me another, it was time to leave and make my excuses. Every food outlet in Forest Hill was making me wretch as I walked past. I was sweating but is was never a degree above freezing. I got on the bus, felt like a need to sit down and within 2 mins, a horrible feeling arose from my body up to my head..........

And then I awoke on the floor of the bus with people around me. I was sweating profusely and had apparently passed out. Luckily I was about 200m from home so got off the bus......people offered to take me home (which was nice) but I slowly ghosted along the pavements to the house. Mrs UB let me in and said that I did indeed look like a ghost, grey in the face and with no colour whatsoever. She sat with me as I bathed and then I went to bed....for 15 hours.

I now feel a little better. Kidneys are killing me, hip and side of head are bruised from the passing out incident and general lethargy and weakness.......and Mrs UB has the same malaise.

So, it is about 90% likely that I am not going to be running the 45 tomorrow which I am absolutely gutted about. I'll see how the day goes but I have nothing in me.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

In preparation for the St Peter's Way Ultra

mersea harbour. windy day by ultraBobban
mersea harbour. windy day, a photo by ultraBobban on Flickr.

Sunday will be a 45 mile run across the Essex to St Peter-on-the-Wall church at Bradwell-on-Sea. it is just across the Blackwater Estuary in the photo. I'm a little apprehensive as a marathon or a 50k on a Sunday and usually I can function at work on Monday but this is a bit further.

I've looked at my training schedule from this time last year and I have mustered 560km so far this year but a whopping 670km was run by this time last year. Essentially I had already run 2 ultras this time last year but this surprised me as I had not anticipated running on average 15km a week more last year.

I've kept my runs regular but short this week to keep a modicum of freshness in lieu of the long miles ahead. The course looks fairly "due East" but there are plenty of places to get lost so I'll be compassed up and will have a plethora of sugary snacks and a head torch in case of lateness.

As regular readers of the blog will know, I like to weave together situations and stories to while away those moments and focus on joining such outcomes. Jezza (aka ultra-running-Danny-Baker-man) would concur with me here. This even is the St Peter's Way and finishes at St-Peter-on-the-Wall. I hope my Dad is at the finish as he lives just 5.2 miles away from the end of the race (although a 35 mile trip around the coast) and Peter is going to be celebrating his 70th birthday just 4 days after the event.

Maybe I should pack a card?!

I won't carry his present though. It has a mass of 20kg!!!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Product review: Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest

It's no secret if you look back at my blog the need for a comfortable running rucksack for the past 3 years or so. I have experimented, sent back, Ebayed and gone through a few to know exactly what I don't want. When you know what you don't want, you can get picky, but the long and short of it is that I wanted something that worked for me.....

These are the bags that I have tried and the reasons I have not got on well with them.

  • Camelbak: Too narrow for my shoulders
  • OMM 12L: Rides too high and slightly too narrow.
  • Salomon Radlight: About the best I had had previously but hard to get bottles out (Someone else had to do it for me!)although had worn this on the SDW100 and Ridgeway 85.....It has now fallen apart!
  • Lowe Alpine Waist pack: OK, but always left with chafing
  • Ultraspire Fastpack: Too big! Big enough to live in!
  • Ultraspire Revolution: Excellent fit but sideways bottle leaking issues and no zip.
  • Salomon XT Skin SLAB: These fiddly horrible little clips to attach the straps I can only imaging 50 miles into a cold ultra would annoy the hell out of anyone.....and not big enough to fit my back
So ranting aside, I am quite a picky chap. I have a 40 inch chest and am 6ft 2 so am probably fairly limited in terms of fitting. I had been emailing Keith a the UltramarathonRunningStore over the last few weeks about the new Ultimate Direction SJ (Scott Jurek) vest and it looked like it might arrive after the St Peters Way 45 miler next weekend.

I then decided to go with the PB vest which is essentially a slightly bigger version of the SJ. My decision to road test it for my role as Sweeper for the London Ultra yesterday forms the basis of this report.

The PB vest retails at Keith's store for £129.98 which I'll admit doesn't come cheap. The issue is, if you decide to compromise on price, you often compromise on quality. This is at the top end of the market and definitely comes with the refinement that the price tag commands.

My first test was to test it straight out of the bag. I unpacked it and adjusted the straps to my liking and filled it with 2 coats, 3 hats, an umbrella and 2 bags of flour (anything I could get my hands on!) I also filled both water bottles and went out into the back garden and jumped up and down to see what the "bounce" was like. I was very impressed. Once I had adjusted the neat little red bungee cords, it didn't move.

Not everyone is a fan of front bottles. I am. I used to attach the RaidLight bottles to the from of my old Salomon. It works as long as you have at least a bit of mass in the sack at the back for counterbalance. These bottle holders come with 2 side pouches either side of each bottle which are elasticated to hold gels and in my case, a small map rolled up. Each bottle comes with 2 bungee cords, one of which is adjustable and the front is made of Cuben Fibre (of which I will come onto later).

Onto our role in the London Ultra.......Sweeping duties for the 50km event from near Bromley in South East London to Ealing in North West, along rivers, towpaths and the Capital Ring pathway. Susie and I gave the runners a headstart after manning our checkpoint, went home for a cup of tea and then trotted up to the top of Crystal Palace. I had in the pack 1xbottle of Cola Nuun, 1x bag of sweets, my jacket, Susie's Jacket, gloves, spare clothes for possibly getting the Tube home, 3 gels, gloves, iPhone and some cash. We stopped off at Tooting Bec for some shots in the February sunshine.

The bag felt very natural to wear. Only minor adjustment at the start to get the fit right and it did not move about or sway at the back. The bottles held tightly and importantly, did not leak. 2 bungee cords here was an excellent idea.

The bottles themselves have a finger loop and textured sides to prevent slippage. On the top the fitting is tight and not like some bottles that pop open when over-tightened.

The rubberised kicker cap I initially met with some apprehension as my concern was it was a little flimsy. I was scared to use my teeth to pull it out for fear of ripping but I think the silicone runner was much stronger than I had anticipated and it passed the test on the day. It did not leak and was clean and easy to use. The bottle came straight out of the loops and went straight back in even when tiredness set in at the end of the day.

There are 2 chest straps to secure the vest in place. The top strap is elasticated to allow the ribs to expand so that the runner can breathe. This is fundamental to the success of a vest and I am not sure why other manufacturers forget about the anatomical need to breathe in and out! The lower strap, which sat just below my sternum and across the bottom of the ribcage, has a greater adjustability, while both are moveable up and down with a very clever piece of piping that the clasps can migrate up or down. Once in place, there is no slippage. The straps are smooth and did not rub my top underneath and there was no chafing.

Above the bottles on either side are 2 zipped pockets. The left hand side has a whistle attached that does need tucking in while running as it does become irritating if it bounces up towards the face. This is easily remedied by tucking into the pocket. One of the pocket opens upwards and one opens downwards. These are ideal for gels/travelcard but neither were big enough to fit in an iPhone. Both are made from the tough Cuben Fibre but not waterproof from the inside as the mesh from the chest is very breathable.....and for good reason.

The mesh that lines the back area and the straps is a soft, breathable but supportive honeycomb structure. All of the seams are hidden as you can see in the photo above.

The straps are hemmed with a soft fabric that doesn't hold water (i.e sweat) and so the bag doesn't gain too much mass when you are exerting and perspiring. When I get home and out of the bath after a long run, my wife usually looks at my back in horror at a strapmark or intense chafing but this time....nothing!

Inside the bag there are 2 main storage areas, both expandable with Cuben Fibre. Cuben Fibre or CTF3 as it is known is a high-performance non-woven fabric for applications such as yacht sails, airship hulls and many designs that require a strong rip resistance and light areal mass. The material felt quite flimsy at first......

But after I tried to stick a sharp pencil in and the lead snapped, I realised that it was pretty strong! The Cuben Fibre folds away like bellows into the 2 compartments of the backpack. The smaller of the 2 compartments has a mesh to the front and will store a light jacket or food. The rear compartment, where I stored a change of clothes and mine and the wife's coat has a really clever idea.....internal bungee cord cross-weaved to hold in any items to stop them moving around and to organise the space. Across the back is yet another bungee cord, cross-weaved to pull the pack tight to the body and again, reduce any lateral movement. 

Finally, between the front and the back of the pack are 2 mesh sides that sit just above the hips. 

These loose woven stretchable and breathable sections contained 2 compartments each side, one zipped and one Velcro. The zipped compartment is where I stored my iPhone. Whilst it held securely and comfortably, I needed to access my phone to contact the race organiser and phone a few friends who were running who I wanted to get hold of while performing my sweeper duties to check their finish times. This is a bit of a downside to the pack as it was tough to get the phone out as the tightening bungee cord was often the first thing that was pulled and it hampered access the the small zip holder. A bigger zip tab would have really helped here, something that was not the same plastic end as the bungee as they felt the same for tired fingers. There are a number of other bungee cords and stronger loops for ice-axes, poles and the like but they will not be used unless I get a place at the UTMB next year! In front of the zip pouches on the right was a neat little Cuben Fibre pouch that I put in a couple of coins, which I felt was very useful when running down to Elephant and Castle for my train, being 20 mins early and wanting a cup of builder's tea at a cafe and not wanting the hassle of taking off the pack. An excellent addition. The bag is choc-full of reflective piping and the bright colours add a safety dimension for evening and night running. I noticed this when I took it off at the Tube station in NW London to travel home. The pack weighs in at 496 grams with bottles included which is very light indeed.

So, to the verdict: it is near to the top of the price range for running packs which might put some runners off. It does not stint in features and run comfortability. I dropped the wife off at Richmond-on-Thames as her 17 mile long run in training for the VLM was over and she jumped on the train home, leaving me to continue sweeping. Even as I accelerated to 7.40s, the pack didn't move and I really didn't know it was there, despite the addition of a can of Coke to the rear compartment. Although I only ran 52km on the day, I feel that this will be in use on the SDW100 this summer and my 192 mile Coast-to-Coast run with Phil in August. It offers the 2 back compartments and 11 storage pockets, 7 of which are on the straps and very accessible. The material is light but very strong and I think will be durable. I am really happy with the way that it performed on the day and am looking forward to giving it the full once over at the St Peter's Way 45 mile race next Sunday. top marks to Ultimate Direction. I'll be honest, I had never heard of them before 6 months ago and thought their earlier rucksacks; the Diablo and the Highline were fairly ugly and would not have got me parting with their money. The new Signature range look the business and the PB vest certainly hits the right notes for me, in terms of storage, fit and stability. Top marks for this vest. The search is finally over!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Race Report: London Ultra 50km

It's not every day that ultra runners give back to the sport but today it was our turn. Starting from yesterday I took delivery of water and food for CP1 of the London Ultra. I had met Rory Coleman before but only to shake hands at the end of an event. Rory and Jen repeatedly phoned to apologise for their lateness but actually were not really that late and we decamped the bounty to my front hallway.

Next morning the alarm went off, we drank coffee and ate hot cross buns together and loaded the car for the 300m journey with 300 bottles of water, a table and some snacks for the runners.

We literally pulled up the car to see about 40 runners coming straight at us!!! OMG!!! We panicked and started throwing our toys out of the pram and then realised that this was Striders of Croydon on a Sunday session in New Beckenham!

Not 10 mins later and the first runners were through. They were as quick as shit off a hot chrome shovel!

We were inundated with packs of runners, while new found buddy Doug blasted out tuned from an iPod dock rested on a dog shit bin! And as soon as they came......they went.......well nearly. We set up and the first runners were through and then after a flash mob of Dulwich Park Runners turned up to shout encouragement and hand out much needed supplies.....Great to see the AWESOME Helen Smith who I ran the SDW100 with last year in 23 hours and Peter Bowles who I saw at the Bewl Marathon and 3 Forts Marathon the next day! This also included the awesome Eric Richardson and Phil Beecroft from DPR. Phil and I are running Wainwrights Coast to Coast over August bank holiday.....192 miles in 5 days.....Awesome............and then we were done.........

But......just out of the rolling mist came runner after runner after runner......It was 83 minutes from the start until the last runner through the 10k mark. It was going to be a long day! I started to decamp and realised that there were runners who after 10k, were spending 5 mins at the CP... We took some shots.....This was deffo the best CP of the day and there were some awesome characters there. George who ran the last 25 miles of the SDW100 with me, Chris, fresh into fatherhood and an Ironman and Connie and Ian who had been running since 7am this morning!

Finally the last (walkers) were through, we decamped and then off to the house to drop the remaining water, have a cup of tea and then off on the route. (thanks Doug for the map!) Mrs UB is training for VLM so wanted 16 in her legs and a train home today. We ran up to Crystal Palace, over Westow Park and despite an hour from the last group through we caught them up really quickly through Norwood Rec. These 100 marathoners were seriously walking so we just carried on. Within a mile we had caught the next group. Susie was a little heavy hearted as she thought this would be a rally long walk and not a run, but these chaps begged us not to wait for them. I informed CP2 that there were 4 runners behind and to phone Rory if necessary.

Over St Reatham (!) Common and down the Bec we predicted more runners but were pleased to see nobody on route meaning that we could do our job and have a run too. Through the Bec and Wandswoth Common and then past the twists and turns betwixt Balham and Earlsfield, the route was London Streets. I would now feel sorry for any trail-hooven runner as these are the same tough paved streets that we run every day. 

Little did we know that there were quite a number of runners that had fallen foul of the street directions. Capital Ring signage was good. Yellow graffiti on the pavement was good and the "Ur" stickers were where they were needed. Lots went wrong here which I would put down to inexperience. Even a girl in the street stopped us and asked what the yellow arrows were for. 

CP3 arrived and these chaps and chapesses were laden with water melon SIS and coke (cola!) They were ready to pack up as they had been there since 10.00am. We traversed the hill up to Putney Vale and across to the Windmill on Wimbledon Common. At this point the Capital Ring signs aren't great and we found our way to the left of where we should have been by about 1km. We had a longer trek down the Kingston Bypass and over into Richmond Park than we thought. Susie wanted to do 16 today and now as tiring as we turned up Sawyer's Hill in Richmond Park. She had decide that at the next junction, coincidentally the start of the Raneligh half marathon, that she would take the bus and train home.

My turn to hit sweeper mode. I upped the pace from a nice 10s to a 7.45s and got to CP4. I stopped for a while and informed the crew that there were 8 behind.....all who did not need or want support. I whizzed on through Isleworth and phoned my buddy Simon who lives there....somewhat under the thumb of his lovely wife. "Any chance of a cheeky cider on a riverside pub in the sun?" "no mate......the wife..." and so it was not to be that I carb loaded with a cider!

I bumped into Army vet Big Sol on the Brentford section. We walked and ran-walked for about 3 miles and was great to have a conflab with a no-nonsense back of the pack bullish runner for a while. he was in high spirits as his wife was driving back to CORNWALL tonight.......Jeez! Anyway, we departed as he wanted to walk the last 4 and I blasted away the last muddy miles and had a catch up with Rory at the end. I''m not sure why he gave me a medal but thanks anyway. I was bowled over by the offer of a free entry in the Cotswold 100. I'll look into that but I might have a wedding on that weekend. Really generous fella but I am always happy to give back to the sport that I love so much. 

Then it was off back home with a packet of crisps and a can of coke in my belly. I ran for about 4 miles, grabbed a tube, ran again for a couple of miles and then ran from the station, to the offy to pick up some wine and then home. 32.6 miles today. All of them great! Will crew next year and happy to do this any time again. It is very fulfilling to do this and I'm happy to have helped out today

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Planning for C2C London Style

I have a couple of goals for 2013 as regular readers will be aware of. Firstly the SDW100 this year as my second 100 miler. I am also going to be running the 192 mile Coast-to-Coast in August. In between are a cornucopia of races to test myself and build up to these main events.

Tomorrow I am marshaling for the London Ultra with Mrs UB, George, Chris Mrs UB and I are at CP1 . Once the last runner has departed we will decamp, drop the stuff at home and then will be the Official Sweepers for the event. I will now not be joined by Jezza but will run with George to CP3 in Wimbledon and then with Mrs UB to Richmond. She will get the train home and the I will run on to Ealing track and then start on the way back towards home.

London may feel like a lonely place for outsiders, but it is an amazing place to be to be in good company and also to meet new faces, friends and explore new places. Speaking of which I have been researching and have discovered the London Outer Orbital Path or LOOP as it is uncommonly known.

I shall be running the 152 miles of this route in episodes over the next available non-marathon weekends to get some miles in on new turf and discover something more about this awesome City.

The route looks to take in some amazing places so any takers can contact me to run some or all of it over the next few months.

I'll be taking my new Ultimate Direction PW vest tomorrow........the VEST ROAD TEST.....

Tuesday, 12 February 2013


the retired tyre swing by ultraBobban
the retired tyre swing, a photo by ultraBobban on Flickr.
When I look at the running history since Xmas and it stands at 50 miles per week, I look back and usually run in cycles. Normally it is build, build build for 3 weeks and then a light week.

This I have not been doing. In a new year flourish and a will to get up to speed quickly I have topped 50 miles per week for 6 weeks. I have succumbed to a bit of a viral infection and have been laid low for a couple of days....not enough to need taking time off work but the need to be home early by 6/6.30 each day and the last 2 nights in bed by 9.00pm

I've been looking at my diet and have decided after loosing 5.1kg since Xmas, to now seriously cut the red meat. I never really eat processed food but have undertaken a couple of changes to my intake and am going to monitor the body's response over the next 2 weeks. The scientist in me is intent on experimentation on the body and this low mileage week coupled with a stressful week at work with an inspection looming gives me light relief in planning and scheming with each of the variables.

I will no doubt inform you, dear reader at some point in the future but for now my running goal is prep for my first ultra of the year, the St Peter's Way 45 mile run next Sunday.

In the meantime, it is training the wife for the VLM. She is up to 17.3 miles already and is looking good. She just needs a fuel strategy as so far, has been managing these 3 hour runs on Nuun alone!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Hitting the LSRs

Long Slow Runs are the bread and butter of most distance runners. Fitting these in for any hard working South London teacher is the biggest issue. Time and not motivation is the killer.

So it was great to get out on some bigger runs this week as work piles up and the notion of running every day has slipped a little. I managed 30 out of 31 days running in Jan, but February has dipped, but the runs have got longer to compensate.

This week I ran 19 on Sunday last week taking in the Waterlink Way and Thames Path with Susie, Linda and Tim. With a couple of quick runs in the week and a run home from work on Thursday in the snow, then driving rain and headwind for 12 miles, I took Friday off for cooking for the family and a few drinks and Saturday headed out with Susie and George for a Green Chain and Thames Path bimble. The threat of rain meant I packed a waterproof although George braved the elements. As we joined the Thames I spotted a giant penis-shaped sculpture (no doubt another waste of Millennium money at the taxpayers' expense) and was surprised to see it hadn't been stolen by metal thieves......

Anyhow, a skirting of the Rotherhithe peninsular and back through a few parks and backways on the return saw another 18 miles and 56 miles for the week which has been my biggest week since the summer. Slow, but long......happy with that. No niggles either.

2 weeks until the St Peter's Way 45 so am feeling on a steady incline to being prepared.