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Saturday, 30 March 2013

Race Report: Around the Reservoir Marathon

I've been trying to fit in some races this spring as there have been 2 x non-starters for me: Winter Tanners 30 cancelled and my massive bout of food poisoning for my DNS at St Peter's Way 45. What with weddings, visitations and other events, all of the big races I would have liked to have done were not on the cards. So, apart from the sultry Mrs UB, decided not to publicise this one at all. There was the option of doing 2 in a weekend but I wanted to see where my legs were at at this stage of the season with lots of long slow runs training with Mrs UB.

Dave Major and his wife have run between them, 820 marathons. Now they organise events too. This was fairly low-key, meeting at a Holiday in on the outskirts of Northampton with the temperature gauge on the car firmly fixed on 0 degrees and flurries of snow dancing over the windscreen. After a very quick Race Director brief, the winter clad runners were almost reluctant to get out of the huddle of the start line to be exposed to the raw Northamptonshire winds. I have never seen the point of a lap-based course but I thought I would give this a go. 6 laps of a country park and reservoir, hence the name. I thought I would be pulling my eyes out with a spoon with boredom but actually I quite enjoyed it!

The first part of the course was the only tarmac on the route, save a road crossing. About a mile of walkway which was directly into the wind with no forgiveness from shrub or tree cover. Then it was through a kissing gate, around a nice flooded wetland and through another kissing gate, yet another kissing gate, through the flooded part of the course.....which got treacherous after 6 laps of hundreds of feet, a muddy, grassy path through the wetland and onto the reservoir for yes, 2 further kissing gates onto a very muddy path of snow and rapidly thawing mud. After the reservoir, 2 further kissing gates, to the checkpoint switchback and back onto the path.

Lap one I felt good. The snow was coming down fairly rapidly and I had taken to running behind a couple of people. I wanted to not go off too fast but found with a lift of the jacket arm that I was nicely bimbling along at 8.10s. With the 7 x kissing gates on each lap, making 42 in all, this hampered progress on the first lap as there were queues for the gates. Nevertheless, the first lap saw me up at the front of the field in perhaps the top 20 or so. Lap 2 saw some of the early leaders rue their fast pace and I gently moved through the field. I knew I was not 100% with a cold and a recent 5 week chest infection so in between coughs, picked out runners and had a chat, overtook and repeated the process. Lap 2 came and went and I found myself in 8th. The wide vista over the reservoir and plethora of dayglo allowed me to count runners ahead. One runner was clearly ahead and the rest were in the main peleton ahead. Around the reservoir I moved from 8th up to 5th and by lap 3 (still not bored with the explansive vistas of wildfowl, snow and runners) I felt really on the money. I moved up into 2nd place!!! Even with the 7 gates on each loop, slippy mud (ow my muscles hurt now) wind and snow, I had put in a couple of 7.45s and was about 500m ahead of 3rd and 4th.

This position I held for some time, pausing momentarily to say hello to lapped runners. I felt really good from 9 miles all the way through to the last lap. Perhaps this is why? I don't like to make excuses as I had a brilliant run. Every lap I had been drinking Coke at the checkpoint. I thought the taste was a bit odd as it was  supermarket own brand......on the last lap, I saw the bottle.......NOOOOOOOO!!!! SUGAR FREE COLA!

What power mind over matter is?! I hadn't perhaps been taking on board anything else as was "enjoying" the I knew it had no sugar in my mental capacity took over and perhaps with that the notion of 2nd place. The last lap was hard. Not only was I running on empty, a face level hail storm took over from the snow, biting and clawing at every last ounce of energy and bare flesh. I've made a couple of errors on feeding before but not like this. 3 miles to go and I could feel the sand slipping from between my fingers. The last 3 miles I lost 2 mins a mile....empty. The chaps who I have been keeping at about 500m behind for the last couple of laps seized their opportunity and probably went past me at 9 min miles! A high five on the way past and off they went and by the last mile, had put 200-300m into me. I had no response so a few nervous glances behind in the last few hundred metres and every last bit of willpower saw me over the line in 3 hours 40 minutes.

Happy? Yes! Fastest marathon in a little while. Behind on the training, a tough course and a lack of fuel......having said that I am very happy with my first ever 4th place and knowing that I can do so much better. Great experience and a well organised run on a lapped course that I enjoyed. Well done Dave Major....(apart from the COLA)

Friday, 29 March 2013

Running around some water

dead calm by ultraBobban
dead calm, a photo by ultraBobban on Flickr.

I'll be heading out early tomorrow morning for a little run around some water. I've been keeping a low profile, what with being behind my training somewhat this year. I am in real terms 100km behind where I was this time last year but mentally I feel further. The notion of approaching 22 hours for a 100 miler is almost out of the question. 6 weeks of chest infection has put paid to that.

I'm now on the baby steps towards getting round the 100. Then I've got the 192 miler.......arrrghh!

Ok, so there is a little run around a lake tomorrow, just to see how I feel. After that......the crew are coming down to have a few ciders.....the crew? My best man and usher from the wedding. It will be awesome.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Mrs UB race report and a little run around Liverpool

What a lovely fresh spring morning after all of the weather we have had recently. There was a little bit of sun in the sky and Mrs UB was embarking on the Liverpool Half Marathon and I was out for a long-ish run and hopefully chuck in a bit of support.

I ran from the in-laws house over in Knotty Ash, through the suburbs of Liverpool, quiet as anything at 8.00am on a Sunday. Was everyone at church? Doubtful. All probably in bed judging by the number of vodka and alco-pop bottles on the street.

I ran towards the City and then cut a left down towards the airport and then up to Sefton Park where the course looped between 3.5-8 miles around the park. Not 10 seconds after I had arrive, i got my phone out to check on any missed texts and Claire B ran out of the melee of runners (there were 8400 runners, not the 5000 expected!) and gave me a big hug. Susie stated that she had been ill all week (eek! Hope it was not the Sea Urchin and various other nautical delicacies that I fed her and her husband Matt the previous week?!) Anyway she was cruising along quickly so I then spent the next 15 mins trying to pick out Mrs UB from the crowds. Little did I know she had started 10 mins late and was clawing her way from the back!

Magic moment of race chaos here as eventual winner Josh Tilley (1hr 6 mins!) was running with the front pace/time car back into the crowd of runners coming the opposite way as the cones down the middle were being ignored, such was the size of the min bunch of runners. He did a cross country detour, swearing and waving his arms! No matter, he won by a country mile.

I managed to see Claire again at 5.5 and Susie at 5.5 and at two or three further occasions. At 8-9 miles, I ran with her for a bit. Unlike all of her training, she was eating and taking on energy drinks! Well done! I guess the pasta last night and porrige this morning really helped. I went South again as I did not want to run on the same track as the runners. I had a dash down to the coast and ran instead the Mersey Way for a few miles, cutting back up to Otterspool and then onto the roads to avoid the runners.

Sites along the way that were memorable for me.....the beautiful Sefton Park, my University Halls (eerie at 9.00am!) the Docks, the Chinese restaurant that we celebrated our 2nd (chinese) wedding in and of course the "Three Graces" (Google it!) at the finish.

Susie completed the course in 2.10.34 which, with her level of training was pretty decent and her second fastest Half. I ran up to meet her and then George, Astrid and Jo at the finish and then it was off to Tai Pan for a lorry load of Dim Sum and chrysanthemum tea (no cider!) to engorge our hungry bellies. Just over 20 miles for me for the day and a wonderful half marathon for my awesome wife.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Round the Island run

Well the event was my Father's 70th birthday and what an awesome weekend he had. Presents galore, more whisky than you could shake a stick at and a good bit of weather too.

After some sustenance from Lil' Bro we had a few beverages and a good night's sleep helped along by the sea air.


Then it was down to morning running business and for the first time this year, after a 2 degree start, the temperature rose to a glorious 7 degrees and it was off around the Island. Mrs UB is as readers know, training for the Virgin London Marathon and with some cunning switchbacks and sheep-dogs, i could get a decent run in too.

The wind has been bellowing in the opposite direction for 2 weeks but the first 30 mins was as calm as a millpond.

We then ran along the beach for a few miles. I've probably run around the Island about 30 times now and each time is different. This morning the tide was further out than I have ever experienced. I know now that the spring tide and the Equinox combined for this today and rather than a hundred metres or so, the tide ripped out to probably in excess of a kilometre. Readings from my Garmin suggest that most of my expoits out onto the shingle banks were negative to sea level.......which I expect is like running with a Garmin in Holland.

As we got round to West....St Peter's Church came into view....a place I should have been the previous week at the end of the 45 miler. Having said, it was great to see it across the water....but not as awesome as my wife running past a plethora of pastel coloured beach huts in the sun. Amazing.

And then it was off to my favourite part of Mersea Island and that which shall be know as the DARK SIDE or alternatively, East Mersea.

Bleak. Desolate. Tourist free. Awesome.

vast expanses of sky and beach wall and nothingness........................

and the tide further out than we have ever seen on a run before......

.....then it was back past the Oyster Fishery and that always signals 1 mile from my parents house. A nice run. 15.2 miles for me (13.5 for Mrs UB) as I had some switchbacks and mini-adventures along the way. After a hearty 41 servings of Dim Sum for my dad's 70th birthday lunch, it was home to London and chance to stretch the legs for a 5 mile run.......2 miles of "ow I've been running on a coastal incline for 15 miles and then 86 miles in the car" and then I unleashed 3 miles of 7s and sub 7s crazy pent up dim sum energy that I didn't know I had. 20 for the day. The best of which was with the amazing Mrs UB, albeit at her speed, which she admits wants working on.........well......we have all week!