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Monday, 15 July 2013

Heart of the Weald Marathon - Race Report

It was with some trepidation that I went to bed on Saturday evening knowing that my last 2 ultras resulted in a resounding brace of DNFs. I didn't sleep well that evening and woke up less refreshed than I should have. This time I would have my two Dulwich Park Runners training partners Phil and Eric with me. What surprised me is that in all of the time I have run with Eric, we have never run a marathon together. Today was going to be the day that I addressed the small dip in my journey to running Nirvana.
We shot off down to Wadhurst in good time to opt for an early start. I knew the runners start was 10.00am but the excellent organisers of the Kent LDWA event were happy to allow runners to go off early with one eye on the scorching 31 degrees of baking sunshine later that day. At just before 9.00am i checked the temperature and it was already 22 degrees.

Phil had just come back from an excellent run at the Coniston Marathon in the Lake District and although his form has really improved this season, was tired as a consequence of this from our 11 mile run back from Tower Bridge on Thursday. Coupled with this, my 48 miles in the week had me concerned that there was not much in the tank for me, although this was a training run and I wanted to run on heavy legs. We set off at 9.00am along with another runner who we quickly dropped. Down hill out of Wadhurst and into some fairly awesome scenery that I have never had the pleasure of running before. What was even better was I was running with two amazing friends and we were going to blast this course and enjoy ourselves whilst doing so. We headed down into the first of many valleys and into wooded trails. Beautiful.

The course notes for this LDWA were very detailed. The first 13 miles of the course were very technical. There was a point where 3 paragraphs covered just over a mile. There was a lot of stopping, checking, stopping and rechecking. This made for very good sight-seeing but not conducive to a quick marathon. We soon realised that this was essentially an in-and-out-of-valley run with a myriad of streams punctuated by downhill and uphill running. Then we spotted deer, bathing in a lake like some scene from the Masai. 5.5 miles in the first hour led to a cheery welcome at CP1. Biscuits, grapes and juice on offer to replenish hot sweaty runners. Off after just a couple of minutes to perhaps the harder part of the course. The hills were never more than 200ft but they went on, up, down, up, down. Much of the course was overgrown and thighs and knees were punctuated with pinpricks of blood from brambles and smarting from stinging nettles. Each field traverse was through long grass and rutted pathways and a plethora of styles, gates and narrow ginnels slowed us down but rarely dampened our spirits. No more so than a cameo 6.50s down a winding gully by Eric and me. This was the first time I thought that Phil was a bit down.

CP2 was found at 12 miles and in shade with crisps, fruit and biscuits, we refueled before heading down a road stretch. it was nice to switch off the instructions for a moment. Phil had been unusually quiet and within 20 mins, said that he was going to pull at the next CP and take the road back to Wadhurst. We regrouped, slowed our pace and kept the banter high enough to keep spirits up. The course was opening up into fields and the heat beat down upon us. Arriving at CP3, Phil eyed the OS map and plotted a course back. We joined David, who had also DNF'd at the SDW100 last month. He overtook us as we piled into a shop in Mayfield to take on the fastest drained cans of Coke in Kent. We caught up and ran with him for 2 miles, chit-chatting about ultras and enjoying the scenery. Phil and David peeled off and headed for home. Eric and I headed down a dark gully and for about 4 miles, were buzzing along at the best pace of the day. CP4 was just awesome and very needed. Cheery welcome, cherry tomatoes, crisps, coke and cake washed down with a cold wash and a hat full of water to cool now dangerously hot core temperatures and we pootled off for the last 5 miles.

I traveled light for this. Silly me. I'd been map-man for the first 25 miles and then I made 2 mistakes that added just about 2 miles onto our day. Both were in the final 3 paragraphs of the instructions. Both were my fault. I was annoyed with myself as I am the most reliable map/directions person that I know. When I listen to others, things go wrong but rarely do I go wrong. (non-believers now need to read my blog from cover to cover!) " mistakes, one up a hill and the other missing a turn 3/4 of a mile around Bewl Water and I felt like the wind had left my sails. Run-walking the last 2 until we realised that the time was ticking towards 6, yes 6 hours we blasted the last mile uphill to the finish. 5 hours 58 mins. The slowest but hardest marathon I have done in a long time. We met Phil and quaffed a much needed cider at the end. No one overtook us save for the couple who were running the 20 and beat us with our wrong turn at the end. I wonder how we finished in the field after many runners switching to the shorter distance owing to the heat?

So here we are, beetroot-faced but happy. A really well organised event and I'll be back again for one of the best LDWA events I've done. Marathon 40 is now complete.

The gauge on the car read 33 degrees when we returned. Cider rarely tasted so good.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Croydon Ultra race report - Another fall. Another DNF

I started the Croydon Ultra in the main wave....main wave being about 25-30 runners. There were 8.00am, 8.30am and 8.45am waves of a few, including winner of the NC50 Johnny Melbourne. I have no doubt he would win the race. I chose the last wave, which included long-time-no-see Steve Barnes, looking on form.

So I was expecting the Croydon Ultra to be dirty and foul and without any interest. No. The change of course had the first 6 miles head out down the Vanguard Way, through the dappled shade and at 22-23 degrees we knew it would be a hot one. Johnny had gone off in the first wave and I have no doubt he would win the race, I didn't feel I would be in the zone that I was in at the NC50 which is why I was glad of the second wave. I sat behind the leading guys knowing that a training run is a training run. Coming into CP1 at the White Bear, I began to find some mojo and upped the pace a bit, to keep the front 2 and Susan, 3rd lady of the NDW50 in my vision. The course was really nice at this point. I then knew the second part of the course like the back of my hand. All was starting to fall into place, after an early tentative pace, I found the pace pick up and a small walk break up Spout Hill and picking up 2 awesome chaps we discussed falling into potholes and my SDW100 fall.

Then it happened. I clipped a tree root, landed hip first, then head and arm. Race over. I hobbled with the guys coming into 6/7th place and struggled. I had landed on my right arm, just mended from the last fall which really pissed me off. Luckily this was softer ground this time.....well it was Croydon. Every gel in my pockets had burst and were running sugary goo down my legs and I had a headache and sore hip. The biggest issue now is that my right hamstring was very painful, over-compensating for my left hip. I pulled in at CP2, thanked Ian Campbell for his excellent course markings and organisation and went home. Bollocks. Fuck.

2 x DNF in 2 races. 2 identical falls. What is going on? I am not feeling great mentally about his at the moment but know that I need to get back on the horse, so to speak.

Bollocks again.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Recovery and July is starting to feel good.

The last couple of weeks I could have just pulled the duvet over my head when the alarm went off and bunked off work, done nothing and vegetated, much has been my malaise. I have not felt bad about the SDW100 DNF but have had a general disposition that texters and Facebookers would call Meh!

After my legendary fall I have secured the first DNF corner in Ultra Tales Magazine (thanks Paul and good luck on the TR250, minding those canals of course!) I have succumbed to some genuine post race blues and a few heavy weeks of work, plus some big chores at home with building and things. So it was to this weekend that saw the unlikely return of the mojo! Early doors saw me dive onto the train (I was late up, so not that early) and to meet Phil and Harley at Brixton for an urban run. The sun was shining and we were going to knock out some miles. 11 miles later and jumping and bouncing off walls, pavements and benches in some rampant parcour-stylee and I was back to top knockings. Soon after some showing off through the crowds of South Bank it was off to canal territory and the docklands trails and paths. An awesome run and military plan of events with the new master of ultra Mr Phil B and we were then 20 miles of canals and backwaters into our run, fueled only on fresh fruit and water. (plus a cheeky Iron Bru at the end) Sunday consisted of 2 runs. I have been aiming to stay off main roads (reasonably difficult in London!) but have found some trails and paths that offer woodland and parks which one is overwhelmed with in South London.  Sunday morning was a recovery run that turned into much quicker miles and Sunday evening saw a cheeky 5km followed by an awesome smoothie.

I'm still feeling a little rusty.

The tumble on the SDW100 has largely recovered. Tendons in my wrist and a really bad back are the spoils of my exploits but largely I still can knock out some sub-7s. Just. After a really good 9 mile run today with plenty of hills and some regained confidence, I am ready to face the world again. Mini-depression/malaise over. It is the Croydon Ultra on Saturday and I will be using this as a good long training run ready for the Thames Gateway 60 in a few weeks.

Welcome back.