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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Plans for 2014

Audrey by ultraBobban
Audrey, a photo by ultraBobban on Flickr.

Ok, so they are not definitive and this depends on 2 things that are not my health; Baby health and taking the piss between work/life/running balance.

Jan: Winter Tanners 30 mile
Feb: moonlight challenge 50k
March: Steyning Stinger
April: SDW marathon
May: 3 Forts, Bewl marathon, NDW50 course marking, Weald Challenge 50k
July; Osmotherley Phoenix 33

From then on...unsure but will definitely be running:

Founders Marathon
Gatliff 50k

Any advice, guidance and 'will you come and run this event' will be taken into consideration but for me this is a consolidatory year of shorter races. I managed not to run an event under 26.2 miles this year. Long may this continue and welcome to the world to my beautiful daughter Audrey Yei Min.

More ultra coverage

I was checking the race calendar for 2014. Now for 2013 it was a case of....."I'm going to do a 50 miler next week, OK?" or "I've got a cheeky trail marathon coming up on Sunday" with which the beautiful Mrs UB would reply...."OK, as long as you are home by 2 as we have people coming for lunch......and pick up some milk on the way back"

Now 2014 is about to start with a promise from 2013...."Of course you can do the Winter Tanners" to something more abrupt in reply. I am planning my races and events around the 3 of us now. There are a couple of Blue Riband events I would like to squeeze in; those that I have done before and cherish, those that are on my bucket list and some new events too.

It was a surprise to see my good running buddy Ultra Ewan and myself Spread across the front of Stu Mills website as I was checking out the inaugural Weald Trail Challenge 50km race. It looks like a good race mixing up some old territory and new trails for me. Nice to see that I'm getting some coverage despite my up and down year. This race was the highlight of my calendar with the 2nd place podium.

Looking at the photo in this lead group at CP2 was eventual winner Johnny Melbourne but the others were dropped fairly soon after this and eventual 4th place must have overtaken them as he doesn't appear in the pic. Nor does the nutter French fella who despite being dropped from this lead group 3-4 miles back, was ALREADY AT CP2!!

Good memories!

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Running review of the year 2013

So here we go......I would like to add a longer version at some point but this has been a year of HIGHS AND LOWS

2012 was all about the recovery from the broken leg at the start of 2011 and my first 100 miler. 2013 was sustaining and improving my endurance and times at ultras.

The year commenced with the Winter Tanners being cancelled and then a couple of events that were either not attended, cancelled or me being ill led to not having run an ultra for some time. Luckily Rory Coleman agreed that I could sweep for the London Ultra 50k and that was a comfortable but nice long start to the year. Again, following this in Feb and nothing in march owing to the weather, I whizzed up to Northampton at Easter to throw away 2nd place in the last 500m of the race around the reservoir after taking on copious amounts of coke instead of my race drinks and finding out the this was sugar free and bombing the last mile and dropping to an agonising 4th place.

Then a glut of runs that demonstrated that form and flow had returned....Slowly first and a windy and wet course for the Bungay Black Dog marathon was not the most auspicious of conditions, especially as I arrived about 30s before the start, parked my car and ran to the start line as the field were out of sight. Bewl marathon on the saturday was 2 mins quicker than the previous year and conditions were atrocious. I followed that with a 27 mile 3FM race the day after and blasted the last 10k in mega quick time leaving me perfectly poised, although potentially a little short of miles for the NC50 miler in late May. this is where I hooked up with Ewan Dunlop and from mile 18-43 were in 1st place and looking for my first ever podium. Being overtaken in the last 7 miles was heartbreaking but we were beaten by a worthy winner. On that day I realised that Ewan has out-and-out speed (something that I can't yet compete with) but I have a good navigation strategy, positive mental attitude and when the going gets really tough, an efficient run-walk strategy. Most important out of these was the nav work. Very very few mistakes made meant that we clambered over the line in joint 2nd place.....actually I had run much further but this was the first 50 miler I have ever done. This also was one of my favourite races.....not for the piss poor organisation and lack of checkpoints, but the way that I pushed myself despite the pressure of leading a race, the scenery and the company.

Pride comes before a fall and fll I did just a few weeks after the NC50. Mile 38 of the SDW100 (aptly named Cocking Down) and I face-planted the rough chalk and flint downhill landing on my face and arm and knocking myself out. Garmin shattered, claret on the white chalk and concussion, I limped to mile 48 and then DNF'd on a race where helen and I were 2 hours ahead of last year's schedule and well on course for a 21 hour 100 miler. Helen incidentally finished in 21 hours

After some wound licking and trip to A&E I got back on the horse too quickly. Just 3 weeks later the Croydon Ultra 30 and I was chatting to 2 chaps about falling over and then fell straight down a manhole at mile 15.....race over.

Fast forward to 30 degree heat in July and the Heart of the Weald XC race. Eric, Phil and I set off on this inhumanely hot day. Perhaps the most technical XC race in a long while. Phil dropped down the 21 mile course to 'win' that event. Eric and I continued the full distance to claim 11th place. Hard work.

Summer hols and a new event the Vangurd way marathon. Not a nice course from Croydon out past the M25 and back. Phil had the mumps as we found out later and was very ill but I arse kicked him to the finish and we limped over the line in well over 5 hours. I'm really glad he finished and for him, I hope he learned that if you push yourself and your body is not falling part, you can pretty much do anything.

Then another low. The (Thames Gateway Ultra) TG60 miler was abysmal from the start. A transit van of refreshments at the start that looked awesome but never made it to any CP and piss poor organisation meant the entire field of runners lost 6 miles in in the pouring rain. My hamstring had been tight but 18 miles in it was hopeless and I couldn't get any power from my right leg. DNF whilst leading a race....bugger.

Autumn was a much better season, with 20 mins quicker on the Farnham Pilgrim than the previous year and a good day out, despite still limping around with that Hammy. Then, the Founders. I had been having nightmares about this race since I got lost leading the event in 2012 with 1.5 miles to go. I invited Ewan D to race with me and fresh from a fast ultra, he obliged. Not realising that we were not to run together again, he blasted off, leaving me to enjoy the day by myself. Quite quickly my nav skills saved me. Ignoring the big group of guys leading the 2nd place pack, I told them I knew the way but they didn't believe me. on I went, thinking a top 10 might be bout do-able. Mile 11 I heard Ewan drawing up behind me....'you're in the lead mate' he stated as he go back on track after being lost. We blasted the next miles out and then he went on to win the even with me coming 2nd by 14 mins, still, faster than the previous 4 years'winning times. Another 2nd place podium.

Final race of the year is one of my faves. Gatliff 50k. This year it was 'only' 54km. Sue Byrne and I ran this together, nice easy pace and I came in 19th in a good strong field. Hard as nails race that never ever is straightforward.

So, looking back, I didn't do enough quality races and I only peaked twice in the year. I have run 3075km so far, much less than last year and importantly, far less ascent.

Having said that I have run far more training runs and far fewer races this year. Those training runs have fallen into a number of catgories:

  • Long runs by myself. Time for contemplation and exploration. I have really enjoyed these trips out on the train from London and then a run home.
  • Stress busting mind-blowing fast miles very locally after dealing with the daily coronary of school leadership. These have been very effective in preventing an enforced lobotomy at the Maudsley and also for racking up some 6 and even sub 6 min miles.
  • Local exploring runs. Thought you knew South London better than a Cabbie? Not any more. Every alley, gitty, gennel, snicket and cut-through I have navigated South of the Thames and I am getting to know East and North East London even more. 
  • The best runs though.....the long runs with FRIENDS. With the exception of the Lea Valley navigation route into London where at 8 miles in, I reluctantly gave in with a tight hamstring, much to the continued piss-taking by Eric, every run I have bonded closer to my good friends and made even more. Running with Sue B, Eric, George, Tom P and in the last 10 months or so, the legendary Phil B. Each run has been epic. mainly long, mainly on new territory. Each one I have really enjoyed the development of our friendships. 

 Next year fatherhood is the most important thing, but I will be on the scene to run events, although might be more marathon focused owing to time constraints. Lessons to learn will be to not start a race I think I can finish if I am injured.

A year of ups and downs. What will next year behold?

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Last blog post before fatherhood

Only 2 of us in this pic. The next 24hrs will be the dawn of a new era and we will have a new addition to the family. For now, womankind's own ultramarathon is now well underway

Monday, 16 December 2013

Out into Kent and back

Central Park pathway by ultraBobban
Central Park pathway, a photo by ultraBobban on Flickr.

Now not wishing to go far as the bby is now 3 days overdue, Phil came over for a no-nonsense run out to Kent and back. I decided on no back-packs as we might have gone much further. All said, when you head out of London, you lose the luxury of not worrying about where to get fed and watered as there are so many purveyors of coffee, sugary snacks and thirst quenching drinks. We headed on the steady incline through Beckenham, Wickham Way and West Wickham. After a steep descent of Corkscrew Hill it was up to Layhams and a quick decision not to go on the winding country road in the drizzle left us a cross country path to Keston Common. I had opted for road shoes so was in a bit of a tizz as I slid around in the wet, claggy mud and drizzle. After a mile or so we hit tarmac again and up to Nash, past oncoming horses.

We took some steep options up to keston ponds and then a quick refuel at Keston. Had there not been a potential birthing to prepare for, we would have gone on to Sevenoaks and taken the train back. The only issue was sunday service, work on the lines etc and neither had phones so could not anticipate any delays. Opting again for as much mixed trail as possible before sub-urban mundania we managed to cover 17.5 miles in good quick time. The downside of this was a tight hamstring. I said goodbye to Phil and then had a long hot bath and a stretch.

After Sunday lunch had gone down and afternoon chores were done, feeling virtuous, I returned to the pavements of Crystal palace and Forest Hill for my second run of the day, this time in the pouring rain. It is just nice to get the miles in at the moment and the hamstring is feeling less tight.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Logging the miles - South London Style

hoodie on the rec by ultraBobban
hoodie on the rec, a photo by ultraBobban on Flickr.

I don't really want to veer too far from home as the 'bump' aka mini-UltraBobban is due this week. There will be no December races or longer runs but I am happy to keep myself ticking over in terms of fitness, albeit the miles are fewer and I have definitely developed some Xmas extra insulation, being 4kg greater in mass than in the summer months.

Getting out midweek is not really more that 7 miles at a time and usually far less. Work is making sure of that! This morning was nice to get out for an early good paced run with Eric, Tom P, Mark, Chris and Gareth. Eric was first to cave in (freshly hungover) and dipped out early. With a run to Dulwich Park, then over Crystal Palace hill again, I knew that we would pile in some hills this morning. Down to Beckenham and round to South Norwood Country Park and up Crytal palace hill for the 3rd time meant a nice fat 800ft of ascent in 14 miles.

Great to catch up with the boys and also to be able to give 'Erica' some stick for being a big bed wetter!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

December Canal Run

Acer palmatum red fire by ultraBobban
Acer palmatum red fire, a photo by ultraBobban on Flickr.

I wasn't really expecting to be running as an expectant father-to-be, but yesterday at a nice boys afternoon down the pub I avoided brain-hemorrhage cider (well for the first 5 pints anyway) which seemed to set me up for the rest of the day with Charlie who had come down from Oxford and the running club crew for an afternoon of proper drinking. Needless to say we concocted a nice 20 mile run along the canals for 9am the next morning which meant getting up to run up and over the hill from 8.30am.

Cokkie, Tom P and I met up with Mangioni and we took the back ways to Greenwich foot tunnel. Half anticipating a hungover bimble I was taken by a 7.30s surprise as my heavy legs struggled to cope with the 9 pints from the day before and the 56km odyssey at Gatliff the previous Sunday. I soon warmed up and then the banter on the way down to Greenwich started. Good craich.

Mang turned back and we hooked up with Phil and Harley. Harley was on a 3 hr run prepping for the Big Sur marathon in California in a couple of months so we ran with her for a bit, then after a banana/donut/coke break we took Limehouse Basin and up the Regents canal to Islington. It is utterly ace to run in London for 10 miles and not cross a road. lots of runners use the towpath but bidding good morning to EVERY SINGLE RUNNER became farcical as about 3/4 TOTALLY ignored us! Possibly the reason I moved from Islington to 'dirty-South' in 1999. Nevertheless, we progressed, only to bid farewell to TP and Cookie at Haggerston. PB and I cruised along up to Islington and across the City where we hunkered down for a coffee and then continued via some bad trains towards our own homes. Cutting short a long run was necessary, albeit not for long-dissipated hangovers but a need for house chores and off to an Xmas party at our good friends Andy and Mike's. 19 miles in the tank was enough although it has left me fresh for the week, ready for a good week of running before hopefully a smooth birth of UltraBaby-1