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Thursday, 27 June 2013

Ultra Entries this next few weeks

So I've not blogged for a couple of weeks as work has been busy. I've been doing some runs but either social or supporting others, both have been great. After a recovery week last week, most of the bruising has gone. My wrist and elbow still look like I've been mauled by a dog but the rest of me is fine.

I've reminded myself that my belt buckle haul has not increased and although I am not happy about it, I am relaxed about the coming weeks. This time last year I ran the SDW100 and then promptly had 3 months of no running, so happy I was to have run a sub-24 at the first try. This summer I have no such break. This week has seen me run to support Eric on his epic 7 x Parkrun and run between in a day. Eric covered 45.1 miles and I supported over the last runs in Burgess Park and Hillyfields. Although I only ran 17 miles that day, it was the back end of the course for Eric and I hope he subscribed to my mantras for the longer runs. That said, he made a cameo 6.50s for the last 50 metres and smashed it!

I've had a couple of midweek runs which have either been slightly above or slightly below the threshold. Running a quick 4 miler to de-stress from work or switching to a much longer run to enjoy. It has been much harder this year as I am arriving home at 7-7.30pm each night, then running and then having to cook for me Mrs UB and the new bump, YES! we have a little runner in the womb!

So, with that bump in mind, I have decided to drop the 100+ quest and continue with marathons and shorter ultras. Coming up:

Next week: Croydon ultra 30 miles
August: Thames Gateway 60 miles
October: Downslink 38 miles

In between I am going to sneak in some summer cheeky marathons before the bump grows too big!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

South Downs Way 100 Race Report

It all started with a dash out of school on Friday afternoon and jump on the train into town and then from Waterloo to Winchester. I was feeling so very un-nervous it was a little strange. Last year I was almost shaking with nerves until I started my 23 hrs 30 min 100 mile race. This time round, it felt different. I dropped my gear at the B&B and met up with Helen on the way. We scouted round the tiny town centre in search of a good carb load and settled on a place for plenty of pasta and garlic bread. It was great to catch up with Helen again and we began planning the little run we had planned for the following day.

 I said goodbye to Helen and then went back to the B&B to have a final sort of my drop bags. Then the much needed excitement hit me and I couldn't sleep! I must have finally dropped off and the alarm went at 4.00am, Tom lane picked me up at 5.00 and I was at Chilcomb for the start of the SDW100, nice and relaxed and ready to go. Tom saw us off and then again at the top of the 700ft high Cheesefoot head.

It was a chilly start but after a mile or so, it was jacket off, head down and start to grind out the early miles. Last year there was a sharp shower for an hour or so to take the shine off the morning. This year, windy and cloudy and a nice soft surface after some heavy rain. Puddle dodging aside, Helen and I both stated that we were not feeling it like last time around but still got a healthy clip going. The field was much larger (250) than last year but even those early miles saw a very spread field in terms of speed. Knowing the task ahead we kept our pace down to a pace that would not allow us to go into the red, not even on the hills. In no time at all, Beacon Beeches (checkpoint 1) was upon us and a friendly welcome followed by coke, apricots and cherry tomatoes was my diet. Checking my times from last year we were about 2 mins quicker for the first 10 miles, although Helen stated that she felt we were slower. Next it was onto the longest gap between checkpoints on to QE2P at mile 22.5. We must have got a move on here, assisted with the usual high quality banter, fueled on coke and fruit and even the high point of the course at Butser Hill (889ft) was run almost all of the way. On the way down with a very minor navigation error we were caught by Springfield Strider David, who had finished 20 mins ahead of us last year. As we carefully descended Buster Hill to avoid mincing our quads, I felt that the plan was starting to fall into place. I felt good. Checkpoint 2 QE2P was reached 8 minutes quicker than last year. We left the Checkpoint quite quickly after fueling on wraps, tomatoes, melon and a scotch egg. After a run/walk up to let the snacks get to my stomach, there was a period of big hills up and down but always with a run, not a walk. Helen and I overtook quite a few runners here and as we caught the last wafts of wild garlic through the wet wooded trails, in no time at all we were at the summit of Harting Down for checkpoint 3. (more coke, fruit and some peanuts) I can't work out if we were more intelligent at checkpoints or going quicker, or both, but despite my next words, arrived at Cocking aid station 30 minutes ahead of last year's times. This was an impressive 2 minutes per mile quicker than previous! Awesome! However, I was to be thwarted big style.

Catching and overtaking around 10 runners between 793ft Beacon Hill, 773ft Treyford Hill and 803ft Linchdown Hill it was off down the wide open chalk and flint escarpment of Cocking Down which we were now running down at sub 8 min miles. And that is where I clipped a rock with my right foot, flew threw the air, landed on my wrist, (actually on my Garmin) then elbow, then face and somehow my shoulder and both knees, coming to a rest further down the hill. The first thing I did was jump up and start running again. That was weird. Helen stopped me and hung my shattered Garmin in front of me. "Don't you want this then?" A few other runners caught up, checked I was OK, asked lots of questions and aside from a lot of blood and a ripped running top, I soldiered on. Looking at my face in the wing mirror of a car at Cocking aid station I realised that this was a little more serious than a tumble. I'm often falling down on long runs, losing concentration and not looking where I am going but this was me versus solid flint and chalk and the ground won. I cleaned off most of the blood at Cocking (35.1 miles) and off we went. I had my first and only gel at Cocking. Somewhere in the next few miles I think I went into shock. I felt very cold, was confused and didn't really know what was going on. I had a little walk, then continued to run, much to the annoyance of Helen who wanted to make sure I was OK. That was the dawn of realisation, after stopping very briefly at Bignor Hill (mile 42) aid station (we were now an hour up on the time from last year), that I was in pain, pain that was more than just discomfort. My face hurt but more worryingly, I was struggling to move my arm and my wrist and hand was very swollen. Then my chest started to hurt which I later realised was me also landing on the drinks bottle strapped to my chest, which was affecting my deep breathing as the bruising took hold. In my pocket, my shattered Garmin continued to beep away, mile by mile of which I was counting the miles out loud as there was no screen. Last year we walked the long cobbled Roman road up the 738ft of Bignor Hill but this time we ran all the way. The demons in my head were whispering to me to stop and pull out. These voices got louder and louder as the pain increased and I decided that I was on a real wobble, called George who was waiting at Washington (mile 54) to pace me to Clayton Windmills (mile 70) to come and pick me up. I was bailing. Wow. This should have been a really hard decision but it was easy. Something in my head said it would make sense. I didn't want to hold up Helen and I would fight another day. Amberley at mile 48 would be my last. I gave Helen a big hug goodbye. She didn't want to leave me, bless. The sun came out and a wave of relief came over me as George, Astrid and little Jo pulled up in the car. George wanted to take me to hospital but I said to drop me at the nearest train station. Hero George drove me all the way to the A&E at Lewisham, so that I could be near home for when I left hospital. Poor Linda and Tim drove all the way to Washington on the bike to come and see me, but Linda, being on the back of the bike, didn't get my text to not come. I think Tim enjoyed getting the leathers on though!

Things then really began to take toll. I felt a bit weird in the car but after the mars bar and some juice, I started to feel a bit more human. Later, the hospital told me that I had concussion. Arriving at hospital I prepared myself for hours of waiting. The service from the nurses, doctors, radiologist and consultant were excellent and hats off to them for the turnaround in about 1 hour 45 mins. The result was 9 X-rays (allegedly my arm was too big for the X-Ray table) and cheekbone. I had initially been booked in for a CT scan but the  doctor quickly worked out that I was mental anyway and lucid enough to be probably not in need of one. All of the x-rays looked fine and amazingly no broken bones. Diagnosis; concussion and ligament damage to the distal section of the left wrist, bruising/contusion to the wrist, elbow, shoulder, cheekbone and chest.

By 8.00am I was home, bathed and a steaming hot plate of sausage and chips smothered in gravy, feeling sore but glad that I pulled out at mile 48. Waking up this morning, I am obviously in a bit of pain. The odd thing is, the pain is all from the fall and I don't even feel like I ran 48 miles yesterday. I don't even have any running related stiffness at all. I've had a load of messages and texts wishing me a speedy recovery and lots of comments that I must be gutted but in truth, I am not at all. This was totally the best outcome after the fall. Had I carried on and had swelling in my brain, it might have been game over. Had I broken my wrist/arm, then the damage done by running another 52 miles might have put me out for many months. Helen crossed the line in 21 hours and 47 minutes. In my head during the mid part of our run I had 2 goals which were beginning to unfold. 1) Finish in the dark. 2) I had the figure of 22 hours as a target time. Helen achieved both of these and knocked 1 hour 43 minutes off our time last year. Well done Helen. Awesome run. The real heros of the day though: george, Astrid and Jo, who cut short their weekend to drive from Washington checkpoint at mile 54, then decided to take me all the way home. I am so very grateful for your kindness.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Nerves and things...the SDW100 will be no walk in the park

I'm struggling to find my mojo. It's in here somewhere. It is probably near my merino wool socks that I can't find either. I have packed my bags and semi-packed my drop bags and measured out my energy drinks and packed all of my mandatory kit and a change of clothes for the end. George will no doubt lift my spirits from half way and Phil will then try to lift me further from Jack and Jill at mile 69.8 to the finish. I bloody home I can do this sub-24 again and even better, before it gets light. that would be awesome.

So in thinking about my last blog post about the apprehension of the NC50, I again post a no picnic picture as a lucky charm. I have had a busy few weeks at work and what with the amazing news that Mrs UB and I are going to have a little ultra runner joining us in December, things have taken their toll. I've had a throat infection for a few days and this has had an effect on me, especially as I have been on the health kick for a while. It will recover and I know it will, but in the meantime, it is dragging me down. i have had a somewhat enforced taper but really enjoyed a slow run with the 9s group at the running club. Great to catch up with George and also to meet new faces. I've not really tapered before so this is new to me. I hope it works. I want to be in Eastbourne before sunrise. That is my challenge. Unsupported this year as Mrs UB is in Paris with her sisters at a hen do.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

North Downs Way recce with Phil and a blog redesign

This weekend was all about the preparation for the SDW100 next weekend. I wanted to book a hotel, begin getting together kit and supplies and organise the logistics for the event. Knowing that Mrs UB was off to a baby shower and that the weather was good, I was happy to be invited by Phil to recce the North Downs Run 30k which was his weekend comeback run after injury. (possibly caused by our last long run together, although probably not my fault) Phil picked me up in his awesome new and extremely fast car and we sped off to Gravesend in North Kent.

It was time for a proper road test of the "Dorothy" Haglofs/Asics shoes that I purchased last week. These bright red incarnations are light and I wanted to test their longevity on hard packed open trail and wet wooded paths. My prediction was just about correct as the woods were muddy and the open chalky trail was hard-packed and flinty. We donned race vests loaded with fluids as there would be no stopping off on the route as I wasn't aware of any shops. Quickly onto the trail and out of Gravesend was the glorious rolling hills of the North Downs. Most of the peaks at the Thames Estuary are 450-600ft so nothing huge but there was never much flat, just undulations. I surprised myself as I recalled much, although not all of the trail from running the race 4 years ago.

The theme of the day soon emerged as we chatted away and stopped fairly regularly to check the OS map as we were yet to hit the well signposted North Downs Way (NDW) stopping off for some photo opportunities along the way. Well, who could resist this? After Upper Bush we dropped off a steep escarpment into Lower Bush in one of those brakes off-brain off moments that bust the quads. We could have been anywhere, no sound of roads, few habitations and the sound of us two chuntering away and birdsong.

After traversing a few fields we headed into woodland and realised after a couple of kms that we had taken a wrong turn. Locating ourselves quite quickly at Hatch Hill by the oddly named Gag Plantation, we cut across a wood and joined the NDW as it opened out onto rolling chalky hillside. A very slow walk through a field of cows with their calves (from my experience 4 weeks ago!) and up to Luddesdown and Cobham. A dreamy run through grassy fields and open vistas took us back to crossing the A2 via an orchard and country park. We had to keep stopping for map references as we had gone off the beaten track.

Finally, before we reached the end there was a moment of oddness. We were stuck in a field that was overgrown with nettles and thistles up to about waist high. The only way through was through a garden of a very posh barn conversion. "'Scuse me, all sweaty and innocent looking, but can you tell me" and we were promptly let though the garden gate of said barn conversion by the family that were about to eat lunch. A close shave. One final photo opportunity that could not be resisted to round off the morning run and then it was back to the car and then back to London for cider and ale based refreshment to round off the day with our better halves and Eric and Cheryl. Great last little bit of training and a reminder to relax this week. Mrs UB has kindly assisted with my blog redesign to update it's clunkiness. Many thanks

Saturday, 1 June 2013

SDW100 Recce and a festival in Brighton

Normally I'll blog about running but I've had such an ace day with my best mate at a festival after my run that it is all bundled up into a review of the day.

I woke up slightly later than planned, however the last 3 days I have spent building a garden office in the back garden and my back, arms, legs are blinking sore. It was cocopops, coffee and off down to the end of the South Downs Way for the SDW100 recce run. This was the only weekend I could do a bit of it, reason being hat I felt that I lost a lot of time being mentally and physically tired and questioning every decision upon direction between Southease, Jevington and the finish. The issue for me here is that this was the only territory not on a previously run marathon on the SDW before. I do love map reading and putting myself up for being navigator and I don't often go wrong as long as I listen to myself and nobody else, but I lost it in the last few miles last year and wanted A) to run the SDW today and B) to feel more confident. Added bonus was an afternoon catching up with my great, yet eccentric best man and buddy Simeon.

Off down for the Southease to Eastbourne section of the SDW100 and with the weather 20 degrees and stiff breeze, I put the cap on to prevent any red faced (non-cider caused) issues. The SDW is probably my favourite place to run in the south of the UK. Wide open expanses of land with the sea on one side, chalk escarpments and the sense of freedom. Most of the hills drop down to sea level or thereabouts as the rivers (Adur) are tidal on this part and the SDW meaning the climbs up to Firle Beacon at 711ft in the last few miles, drops down again into Alfriston and back up to 700ft Wilmington, back down ito Jevington and back up Willingdon Hill at 659ft (a bast as the last peak on the SDW100).....which was my run today. 

I was surprised by how few walkers, runners and cyclists were on this part of the route.....a handful to say hello to, aside for locals walking dogs and a few horse riders. My very favourite smell of wild garlic coming off Wilmington (Long Man of Wilmington cut into the chalk......more importantly.....Middle Farm Cider) engulfed my senses and I spied bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta and not the Spanish invasive species) a couple of species orchids and soooo much garlic.....

It was only coming around the corner that I spotted a couple of places that I went awry last year. With these in the mental bag, I dropped into Jevington and spotted the route back up and out. It is a touch rutted climb out of Jev and wooded too. Once up on the escarpment, the trig point comes up out of nowhere and you need to be able to spot it! 

From this little concrete fella, there are just 2.8 miles of the SDW100 to go!

So it was back to base where the car was. I spent the morning with just a cherry Game and some beetroot juice for company. I had a coke in the car on the way down but no need for gels and the like today. Back through Jev and Alfriston and onto Southease to establish the post-train-station part that I got off track last year and then it was off to the boy Simeon.

 .......and so into dangerous territory.....

Reggae...Cider...Street we had a "ikkle" dance and drank a likkle bit-a-cider amongst the 20,000 revelers in Kemp Town in Brighton and I kept well away from Simi and Anouck on the cigars....

Although a little puff to see how Castro felt.....

And then it was off for some awesome ice-cream courtesy of Boho Gelato.....(recovery proteins and lipids) and a meet up with none other than the legendary George Breacker for a catch up and plan the SDW100 pacer over the final miles.

 and then back home to South Londinium for some good quality Middle Farm Cider................... (glycogen depletion recovery juice)

It was every bit as evil as you would there are 3 more in the fridge........!!