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Sunday, 19 May 2013

Race report: The Norman Conquest 50

A very early start as I drove down to the finish at Rye at 5am to get to race briefing at 6.45am and as I pulled into the car park felt weary in the way when you get an early flight at Gatwick. Several other runners pulled into the car park looking equally zonked. The race HQ was a community hall in the centre of Rye....very low key. The 100 race briefing happened and off they went and then it was our turn. Race Director Mike Jones gathered us around to tell us of a small course change which meant we stayed on the 1066 Country Way and not the Saxon Shore route at the end. The route would be 52 miles.

And then it was off to the coach for the start!

As I walked down to the coach a voice shouted out "Ultra Bobban?" and it was none other than ultra legend Ewan Dunlop. Top 5 finisher at St Peters Way, 21 hour SDW100 and Grand Slam competitor this year. We sat behind one another on the coach and caught up on running stuff. Listening to conversations on the coach, there were no ultra virgins here. Lots of tales of 100s, MdS, overseas events and the like. This was an experienced but small field of about 38, but with plenty of overseas entrants. The coach arrived at the start.......or did it? This is where the confusion of the day started.....and we spent another 15 mins driving around the high Ashdown Forest at Crowborough looking for the start. And there it was. Every runner dived out of the coach and headed for the bushes. Funny sight. The Race Director was sort of Monty Python-esque in his instructions......" Errrr, you go that way.......GO!"

And it was off, hurtling down the heath at about 7.30s for no more than a mile......and the whole field looked at the instructions and said "which way now? These instructions are shit!"

Regular readers will know that I lament LDWA instructions but no more.....No grid references, no distances,  just a set of statements...go left at the tree would be a good example. So I whipped out the OS map and Ewan popped on the GPS and we back tracked with most of the field behind us following......that is except Sideshow Bob who with his massive Ginger hair had gone the right way.

We soon caught up with and overtook Sideshow. Off the forest and down into Fairwarp and through beautiful bluebell woods. Now glad of a choice of trail shoes, I started to get into a groove. The leading runners were in a pack of about 10, with a French guy, a nutter, Ewan, the MdS chap, Johnny M who looked in good shape and a couple of others. We arrived at CP1 which was in the process of being set up. Some coke and water and crisps, which we had to unpack ourselves.........but still we knew we were first through.

Then, a mile up the road we overtook some runners, the chap in red with the most massive rucksack, the woman in black and 1066 man. Now 1066 man was the most odd chap. This cannot be understated. He had no means of carrying anything (not even the mandatory equipment on the kit list?!) and had a skintight 1066 T-shirt. How did he get in the lead?

We overtook as they were going slowly, but as we approached CP2, 1066 man came in just after us after being nowhere in sight. GB vest and ultra legend Stu Mills was at CP2 taking photos. Had he not shouted at us, we would have totally missed the CP. 1066 man was French. And mad. I'd laughed all the way to Rye with the Radio 4 newsreader referring to a comment made by a senior Tory  in hot water as "mad swivel-eyed loons" but here was one in the flesh!

Out of CP2 and with the weather getting much warmer than predicted, I donned a hat and kept up with my fluids. Our group was now 4. MdS Essex man, Johnny M, Ewan and I. We really motored away. To our surprise, crossing a field, we saw MdS man about half a mile ahead? This was weird. Really weird. We overtook and dropped him as he was running really slow.

We then caught up with the woman in did she get ahead? She kept getting lost in front of us and was running pretty quick (burnout?) We ran together up to mile 17. I stopped for a piss, Ewan for a walk break and the other runners went off up the wrong trail. We followed the difficult to follow Wealden Way....a very technical trail. I would not have felt at all confident for the 100 milers doing this at night.

We were in the a small field of 41...but a lead is a lead! CP3 was literally just set up so it was time for a deeper graze. The territory was more open and the sun beat down on our brow. We had a great clip onto Herstmonceaux Castle and the giant Bell End of the Greenwich Observatory and Science Centre which took us across Horse Eye levels where at one  point, we dipped into the sub 7s as a herd of about 50 cows charged us across the swamps. Shiiiiiiiiiiitttt!

The course was now hilly. The profile on the website might have been the wrong way around! I was in the lead......

And then Ewan took over!

So it was like this until we got the CP4. CP4 had not even been set up so we had no option but to run on with very little water and food left as we were travelling as light as possible.....which was a great strategy, but a high risk one.

We got to CP5 which was water only. I had my last 2 gels and off we went. The temperature was starting to cool, but the terrain was getting hillier so we had some walk breaks on the inclines. We really really stocked up at CP6 in Battle. As first ones in, I had 5 cokes, a peanut butter sarnie and crisps. 9.6 miles was the target to CP6 and then there were just 5.6 miles to go after that. Through Battle town centre and then we were held up by the level crossing. Then it was on through Westfield and at 43 miles, Ewan spotted a figure behind us, approaching fast. We were caught by a storming Johnny M who looked like he had hit the afterburners. Anyone who runs a training run from Dagenham to Epsom every week would be on form....and off he went. at 45 though, he was lost again and we re-caught him. Not for long though.

CP6 was missed and we had to go back to find it.....that lost us 5 mins. Just coke and some chocolate here. Totally un-signposted, the same small amount of food and a pissed off looking marshal. Not great. Even worse was that the next guy was on us.

We filled up on coke and ran-walked the last 5 miles or so. An amazing sky opened up as we saw the sea, Winchelsea and a cruel 120ft climb into the town. It was then route 1 all the way to Rye. 10 hours 16 mins and joint 2nd place. We were just over 10 mins behind John and celebrated with a beer and some pictures. It was 90 mins slower than my next fastest 50 but with navigation and hills, was happy. The next guy came in nearly 25 mins later. No one else arrived before we left the building!

So, second place at an ultra! I was well chuffed. Shattered but chuffed. My legs are not as bad as I thought today but my feet are a bit beaten up. A beer, a t-shirt and a medal was well worth the effort.......the beer tasted so good.

We had some words of wisdom for the race organisers about the woeful check point situation, the directions and also the general organisation which was well received as they are looking to improve on this as a first event. I'm off out for a recovery run with the amazing Mrs UB now.......

Friday, 17 May 2013

No picnic.....12 hours before the Norman Conquest 50

I've been busy at busy I nearly forgot to photocopy the Landranger maps. 3 maps will be used on this 50 mile ultra...however 2 of the maps have copied down onto 2 x A4 as there are only a few miles on each. it will likely be an unmarked trail on the Wealdway, Saxon Shore and 1066 routes. There are some off trail parts so I want to ensure that I am fully prepped.

Last time I was on the Ashdown Forest, it was for a picnic.....years ago and it was sunny. This is likely to be a wet event so I've switched from the usual road shoes to my trusty Inov8 Trailroc 255s and am travelling light (only the mandatory kit and some juice and a little bit of snackage) so everything else will be stock up at the CPs on the way.

This is new territory but I like new. I don't know who else is in but is going to be a great day running.

Let's go to work!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

The sea at Rye

wave advance by ultraBobban
wave advance, a photo by ultraBobban on Flickr.

Hopefully this is the sort of scene that will await next Saturday evening as the waves hit the shore at Rye on the Sussex/Kent Coast after 50 miles of a brand new Ultra run organised by Mike Jones at Saxon Shore Ultra Trails.

I've received an email today promising maps at the start but am going to spend the rest of this lovely Sunday afternoon perusing over check points and the course.

This week has been about recovery and after 2 marathons last weekend and 6000ft of ascent, I opted for a quieter week of 70km as I had pretty sore calves. Work has been a beast this week and late finishes have transpired to grabbing fast short runs at 8.30 every evening before dinner....not ideal.

I continue to be perplexed by this vein of form I tapped into last weekend with 2 x faster marathons than the previous year as I lined up for my local Crystal Palace Park Run. Those of you who know CP Park Run will know that in the 5km 2 loops of CP Park is 236ft of ascent. This is more than the 200ft at Greenwich making it probably the hardest Parkrun around.

My 19 min 53 5k was safely in the PB cabinet from a fast and flat 2009 course but only a minute slower with some big hillage in the way and 39 seconds off my PB with a 21.09 by my watch and a rather erroneous 20.48 from Parkrun time keeping.

So a 9 mile warm down and a nice gentle 10km this morning.......linking up my local parks with some hills and back routes leaves me feeling OK about the NC50 next weekend.

Once I recce the maps and plan my strategy (i.e. trail shoes or road) I will bimble down to Rye at 5.00am on Saturday and get the bus to the Ashdown forest and run back with the rest of the entrants.

I've never run an actual 50 mile race before. I've done a 45 and much bigger ones, so I'll be interested to see how I go with this distance.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Race report - 3 Forts Marathon 27.2 miles 2 marathons in 2 days

The start of the day went like this......woke up, felt awful from Bewl marathon yesterday, had a lush couple of sausage and egg baps for brekkie with beetroot juice, coffee, coke and fruit, got in the car and drove to Worthing. I dropped a couple of anti-inflammatory pills and met David Immune, Helen Smith, Peter Bowles and James Elson. James had been for a curry and 4 beers last night. I had been on the cider and wine at a BBQ and David had been on the BBQ kebab meat feast. David reminded me that Bewl had 2300ft of climb yesterday and we all compared injuries and aches.

The plan was simple.....get round. I knew what this was like as I have done 3FM twice before and a double weekend last year.The first 2 miles up 700ft to Cissbury Ring was a killer.Some would call it limbering up. PB, Helen and James shot off whilst I, busy talking, ran into an overhanging rambling rose and my well chosen red Salomon top was splattered with blood. I caught David after about 3 miles and we ran together pretty much most of the rest of the race, probably never more than 500m apart, save for the last few miles.

I have now run 38 at 38 yrs of age marathons and ultras and it has been a while since David and I have run together. Our inseparable man-love was reignited after a 2 year cooling off period as I have struggled with speed after the broken leg and big D has gone from strength to strength. Today was about getting round and we cracked a few jokes and shared some stories over the miles, something that really made my day today.

So it was back down Cissbury Ring and then up onto the Downs proper.....we had a strategy, keep calm and bimble forward! Getting to the river Adur marks the point of tidal sea level. It is then a 2.8 mile slog up to the top of Devil's Dyke with a number of steep escarpments and undulations that take you close to 800ft. David blasted the hills. I couldn't keep up with his pace on the steep climbs but reeled back on the shallow sections with a purposeful grind up the hill. On the switchback we dropped back down into a race-long headwind after 11 miles. Back to the Adur and up towards the Downs that form the Chanctonbury Massif. It was at this point that we overtook a lot of early runners who had gone out too hard and perhaps the 18 degree bright sunshine had gotten the better of them.

From 17, David hit the hill harder than I could manage and off he went. I presumed I would not see him again but I knew we had broken the back of the race and much to my surprise, caught him back up at 19. The well stocked checkpoints were a source of banter with the marshals and also a chance to cool off. A really well organised course. We hit the top of the 800ft Chanctonbury Ring knowing that there was only Cissbury to negotiate along with some undulations.I'll have a look at my Garmin and report back but I think there was definitely a negative split going on. We had done a fair bit of power walking on the hills. I'm pleased with mine as I can power walk about the same speed as some of the runners. Also a great chance to refuel and conserve energy.

We reached a gentlemanly urination stop and I thought big D was just behind. I should have looked back but as there was downhill and he is significantly quicker than me, I thought he would have caught up. I looked down at my watch and thought that I might just be able to beat last year's time so put my head down, overtook about 25 people and blitzed the last 5 miles like back in the day. I whizzed through the last 2 CPs without stopping, ran most of Cissbury back up and then came the last 2 miles. This perhaps at the end of a marathon/ultra has to be the best finish ever. 700ft straight down in 2 miles and then onto the finish. I clocked 2 x 7s for the last 2 miles and a 4.32 finish which was 6 mins better than last year. Despite me not feeling on form, I appear to be better! That is 2 faster finishes in the weekend compared to last year. David took a big slice of the glory pie by clocking a 5.25 (???!!!!) last mile and coming in 2 mins behind. Machine.

Anyway its off to the Sylvan now for some well needed cider recovery.

Awesome to run once again with the living legend Mr Immune. It's been too long...lets do it again soon!

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Race Report: Bewl Water Marathon 38 at 38 weekend

What a glorious morning it set out to be.....Bank Holiday weekend and the prospect of 2 marathons in 2 days. I drove down to Bewl Water in no time at all from South London, about 50 mins. I had a text from Immune last night stating he was going to be there so I made sure we caught up at the start as I don't have the capacity to run XC's at 7.00s like the Ginger Ninja. he just clocked a 3.12 a few weeks previously so I wisely ran my own race. At the start I also caught up with Peter Bowles who shall now be known as PB for clocking 2.58 at VLM. Well done Peter.

The race was far busier than last year. perhaps it was the weather, a sultry 15 degrees forecast. I met James Elson from Centurion running at the start too, but opted to run with Helen as we hadn't caught up in ages.

Helen and I ran together at between 7.45s and 8.30s, depending on the terrain and the hills and caught up on all things running and everything else besides. I finally got to have a good chat with Malcolm (Mal) who I see everywhere but often he is dying on his arse at about 20 so I never really get to have a chat. Turns out he lives in Colchester, about 15 miles away from my old folks. Great to catch up......but he died on his arse again today!

Lap 1 averaged 8.00s which I was pleased with, despite me working just over 70 hours at school this week and getting home at 8.30pm last night; shattered. I have also now run 100k for the week which is also a bonus. Lap 2 was more of a struggle. My hamstring, which has been giving me a bit of gyp, was not in the best of places and by 18, not long after Helen completed a commando roll in the dust, I decided to slow and commit to damage limitation. I've not been injured in ages but all of the speed work I have been doing at 7s and sub 7s has obviously had an impact.

Helen was clearly on form so after the 3rd hill on the 3 mile road section, I changed down a gear and enjoyed the last few miles and the Primroses, the emerging Bluebells, wild Auricula and in particular, after the light rain, the waft of sweet, yet pungent wild garlic. Awesome!

21 to 23 was a pick up point and I ground out the important miles. Too many walk at this point and it is here that you get to know your own mental strength. I passed a fair few runner but one or two speedy types whizzed past.....obviously something in the tank! Then it was all about finishing. The hill at 25 was cruel on the first lap so everyone knew what was coming. Head down and go as the last mile was downhill and for me a chance to knock off a lovely little 7.30s cameo. 3.52.13 which was 2 mins fast than last this is the weird thing.....the same time to the second for Black Dog 2 weeks ago!

Great to catch up with 1st Lady of the day Helen (looking a bit random in the pic!), who finished a couple of mins up on me, David who did a 3.35 and Peter and James E who notched up a 3.25 to come in 7th. Cider O'clock and its now of to Luca's BBQ for some recovery meats and ciders before bed and ready for the 3FC 27 miler tomorrow. 37 down, 38 tomorrow

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Running with Beardo

Please understand that this is not a shrine to Steve, but just a light-hearted look at this athletic genius.

For me, the T-shirt says it all....The irony of wanting to advertise the Stevenage Marathon in 2008 after running 10 miles around Dartford. I mean, that is totally rubbing the nose of one shit-hole into another. As you can see from the image, Steve is a really polite chap. He always greets you with a smile.

Today, on his comeback run (not run since January but has been on his bike to Hastings to visit his Nan a few times) I was greeted at his door with an Oversized DPR top with SDW100 and Rob scrawled on the front with one of his child's crayons....and a massive pillow stuffed up the front......

We ran at Steve's pace.....really slow. Through Dulwich Park and then past the college and up through Dulwich and Sydenham woods. Steve complained incessantly about his quads and we cracked joke after joke after joke about all sorts. Steve is off to Nice next week for a bike ride and possible a sex change. Not that you'd notice. He has the moobs already. He is worried about work at the moment, as he fears a disciplinary is around the corner as the woman eating the McDonalds at her desk yesterday had to throw it in the bin as Steve walked past her desk and dropped his guts right in front of her. I think he said something smells much nicer now........ anyway she threw her Maccy Ds in the bin and complained to his line manager. That is Steve all over.

In our short run he reminded me of when he crossed the finish at his inaugural Ultra......and nearly slipped on his arse as he crossed the line. I do feel sorry for anyone who knows him but he is a loveable rogue. Perhaps he could be a comedian one day. he is funny enough. In he mean time he needs to focus on running quicker as I have only just got in from my 9.5 mile run as it took so long with his slow arse.