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Saturday, 6 December 2014

Even though there was 50cm of snow in the Balkan mountains, I still got out for a good solid hike. Conditions of -6 degrees and 50cm of snow in the mountains led me to not run. Although I have not been getting the big miles in lately I have been working on speed and now have got my 5k time down to 20.08 or 6.25s per mile. I'm quite pleased with this as it is now near to my 19.56 PB for 5k.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Stort 30 Race Report

So it is a bit of a delay in the write up. Usually it is within 24 hours but over a month later I needed to get round to it. A nice drive up to Hertfordshire for a nice race temperature start for this time of year. For me t-shirt weather but for some, it was a case of the 'Yukon Ultras' for others.

Dear readers might notice a change in my perceptions about the sport but in the last few months I have ditched the gear and gone for a lightweight approach to the longer runs. No backpack, no waistpack, just a bottle and what I can fit in my pockets. Liberating!

I arrived knowing very few faces. There were around 250 runners and after a packed race briefing and some race admin of my own it was off for 2 laps around the field. I spotted Craig Holgate from Centurion running team on the front laying down the marker as he went off like shit off a hot chrome shovel. I gently stretched out my tired legs and after the 2 laps we were on the road for a 1km descent to the Stort Navigation channel where we would out and back over the 30 miles. Ever short of miles this year I enter events now with some trepidation and this was no different. After 4 miles of feeling shit but striking up some good conversation with a local chap (sorry your name escapes me) I felt like I could give it some beans and caught up with a chap I had done the Downland Ultra with Dave Immune who remembered I had broken my leg 6 months previous. I felt a bit embarrassed I hadn't remembered his name and again this escapes me! So we ran together and beasted the next few miles racing through CP1 and heading onto CP2 for just a quick drink and then the turnaround at 15 miles which we did in 1hr 57 mins. I stopped for 5 to gather myself and drink and off we went again. I kept this up to 20 miles and then the wheels came off a bit.

What I really enjoyed was the high 5-ing runners coming the other way.....but sweating my bollocks off by this point seeing the throng of overdressed Hoka-compression-tight-rucksack-wearing-jacket-wearing-sunglasses-wearing obese runners made me question for a moment the technology in our beloved sport. I have been a bit of a sucker to some of these fads and fashions but now am becoming a bit retro in my belief that mind and body get you through the harsher parts of races and there is nothing that a couple of cups of coke and a handful of crisps won't solve. My favourite was the portly Lara Croft man who sported a gun belt of at least 20 gels across his chest and Buff to toes in Buff sponsored gear.......both these guys were BIG UNITS at potentially 18+ stone.

Anyway after my giggles at the caravan of colour, I hit the skids at around 20 miles and ploughed into the checkpoint and grazed like a horse. I was clearly light on training longer miles but enjoying the day with a permanent smile on my face. I hooked up with 24hr Track runner Nathan at about 24 miles in, recently projectile vom Nathan....we had a bit of a laugh and then trotted back the last 6 miles with some run-walking to come in 47th at 4.40. Not too bad for a lack of training but still well under the 5 hours I had in my head. A bit more sensible eating earlier and we would be looking at a 4.15.

Marathon #55. Done

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Longman Ultra

Basically I have not even blogged this which was at the end of the summer. A really well organised run with checkpoints well stocked and a friendly bunch of people from shakes and recovery drinks who were running the show. Even though the distance was 33.4 miles, the route took in some fairly hilly territory. I'm so glad the SDW100 doesn't take in the Devil's Dyke as it is a bitch to run into and and even bigger one to get back out of.

A very friendly field and some new faces to the ultra scene. The run for me was about some training miles across my favourite hills in the South of England. Also, the best part of those hills. The work for the first 4 miles was fairly brutal and I twinged my high hamstring in the mist coming up to the Dyke....It was so beautiful though, running through the ether.

So after I decided to walk and then pull out of the first CP, I thought that that wasit. I felt a little better and decided to head to CP 2, by which I had resigned myself to limping to the end, whatever happened. I got into a good clip and hooked up with a fella called Neil. He went off and it was all I could do to stay running as my hamstring was going to blow. Add the worst ever gels I have ever tasted and a puke later I was really mad. So I carried on. To the next CP and the halfway turnaround up on Firle Beacon, an unforgiving 800ft climb, only to come back down again. I felt better and then began a slow but steady clip. With my hamstring earlier causing me grief, I could only see 3 other runners behind me at 4 miles. I slowly but surely overtook some runners, many of which appeared to be carrying rucksacks and kitted out really well. Coming back down off Clayton I had a wobble. I had regained a lot of ground and overtaken what felt like most of the field....I had! I met up again with Neil who donated a shot blok which was just enough to see me up the final climb. 19th place, 6 hrs 22 mins and 82 mins behind the winner. Only. A nice medal, t shirt and a chat with the RD and his wife over a pint of their recovery hot chocolate and that was #54 DONE!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Windsor Ultra 43.4 mile Race Report

The Gravy Train rolls on with another adventure with trusty GRT runner Phill. This one was a little off any radar other than the two of us and our new GRT runner Cookie. Cookie bowed out on this one to go to a 40th birthday party and attempt 40 pints. I'm not sure how that worked out fella? So this was all a bit last minute, but required a bit of planning for the point-to-point race along the Thames. There were 4 days of the race but we opted for the 43.4 mile (70km) Windsor ultra. Phill arrived at mine at 5.30am and we cabbed to Paddington to get the train to Madenhead and cab to the start about 6 miles away. It was a fairly low key start and with the NDW100 on the same day, a small field including a Spartathlon runner.

The start was actually delayed by Race Director Steve for the 2 competitors who were doing all 4 days of the race. He then let them go 15 mins before the mass start. This was all a little weird as they were walking like John Wayne and we passed the first of these guys only 1.5 miles into our run. Off we headed at the horn and withing 2 mins were on the Thames Path. slightly muddy underfoot but by no means treacherous we joined the lead group. The spartathlete looked in good shape and he ran the race from the front with an odd guy in Hokas and ONE COMPRESSION SOCK! We were joined by a young chap who looked about 18 but had a support crew of wife, child, mother-in-law, brother and father-in-law. We dubbed him the boy scout as he looked young. With only 3 Check Points and 24 degree sunny temperatures, our fuelling and hydrating strategy could make or break us. Our form and fitness was questionable, as I in particular had not got the miles in. So to CP1, we settled into our own race strategy, letting the 2 faster chaps off the front and the boy scout joined us. He wasn't very talkative! CP1 was reasonably well stocked and after 3-4 mins stocking up we set off again from 10 miles to the next CP which was 11.7 miles away. It got hot and humid and I wasn't in the greatest of shape, with a feeling of malaise and bloatedness. I beckoned to Phill to come up with a CP1.5 so we walked and took on some food, the boy scout staying with us. We set off again at 15 miles and that was the last we saw of scout. We then started to make tracks to CP2, crossing the river a couple of times past Windsor castle where groundsmen were out with shotguns.

I was out of water by mile 17 so a welcome shop for a can of coke was utilised. Scout did not come past. We rolled into CP2 for a longer stop. The front 2 were 7 mins ahead at this point. A big fuel and water up and we walked for 10 mins to let the nutrition soak in. We then opted for a strategy that would see slow, but steady progress up to the Marathon point and then it was into Gravy territory and ultra land. Again out of water, we stopped at an ice cream van for a much needed coke. Running along the river was the first fully flat ultra I had done and actually feel that it is harder than a hilly race, all of the time utilising only one muscle group rather than changing for the differing gradients. The river was getting busy and watching the boats bimble past with the occasional seaman asking us how far we were running and with the sun beaming down on us we almost missed CP3. There was a problem here as the back of the pack were so far back that CP3 hadn't been set up properly and there was water only. Why oh why do races insist on a water only CP?

We stopped to 10 mins and had a sit down out of the now hot sun. As we were leaving, much to our surprise, a Greek guy from the start come rolling in. No scout. Being in podium 3rd was now at risk and for Phill, this wasn't an issue but I got the bit between my teeth and off we went. Navigation issues with a closed part of the path and some missing signeage meant the map came out for the first and only time.....I mean, who could miss a river. We assumed the Greek had gone past us by now so we took the pressure off ourselves, both close to the wall in the heat, both with bloated and sick bellies. Hampton court came with a small sense of relief as this meant a cheeky 10k or so to go. Coke 4 from an ice cream vendor for me! The last 5 miles of which took forever. Where was the bridge we had to cross to signal 1.1miles to go? Then there it was!

A couple of double/triple checks of the instructions to find the finish line and we reckoned about 1km to go. We both of us were a little worried as we had stopped sweating in the last 4 miles. Wobbly but knowingly close, Phill picked up my strategy for spotting a marker, running to it and then having a walk break. We did this to good effect. Finally he said, 2 lamp posts and the end of the hedge and the finish came upon us! Fat medals, t-shirts, showers and then a walk back to the pub to sink a few. We assumed 4th and went to see how far the Greek had beaten us by. Joint 3rd= said the RD! Awesome work. Phill has a battle scar tan line on his slap as a reminder that this was his longest ultra to date. The gravy train rolls on!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Fairlands Valley 50k Race report

I entered this ultra with some trepidation as I have only managed a maximum of 25 miles a week training, most of which with a pram. I did get out last Saturday for 14 miles and felt just about human at the end. The week consisted of me continually asking Cookie and Phil to join me. I had all but given up and then the Cookster text me to state that his entry was in. PB then confirmed her would enter on the day. After a heavy friday night and impromptu heavily boozy picnic in Kensington Gardens, a takeaway and a late late film on the telly, the 3 hours sleep was PERFECT preparation for a 50k run in 28 degree heat with 60% humidity.

There is apparently nothing finer than a Lapsong tea smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel on wholemeal to prep for an ultra and so I did. Had there been any fizz left I would no doubt had quaffed that too, but needs must and I left chez moi at 5.30am to pick up Cookie and get to Greenwich to pick up PB. No sooner we were on the way then banter started. We arrived having not looked at the website start time so 2 rounds of race admin later we were ready to go. The first 5/6 miles up to CP1 were getting away from the urban sprawl of Stevenage and into the beautiful rolling hills of Hertfordshire en-route to Welwyn Garden City. A good clip was achieved, but always in my mind was winding in Cookie who with nervous abandon, wanted to push. Bread pudding to die for was available by the bucketload. I obliged! The next section was essentially a 6 mile loop to take the ultra runners up to 50km whilst allowing the marathoners, starting 45 mins later, to run their run. Good things about this was that we always saw runners, but revisiting the same CP1/2 again was weird! We did stay to photobomb a St Albans Striders photo opp with about 30 other runners. Off we went and having run the course before, but in  different parts, recounted previous runs on the same turf. This helped as there were a couple of tricky bits.

Cookie was in his element today, buoyed by the camaraderie and lessons learned from the legend PB and some snippets from yours truly. We took the next CP in no time and spent a time there fuelling up. Water over the head in the churchyard was so welcome. Open ground was hot, humid and unforgiving. Woodland was small respite from the heat. On we ploughed. Seeing Dave Ross and Peter Bowles at the start made me wonder if they had finished but they were not the concern....getting the boys from Gravy Racing Team was. PB had a bit of a bad patch so we spent extra time at CP4 and 5 to let recuperation take effect. Aside from a minor wobble at 12 miles, I felt bizarrely fine for the duration. PB, the Siberian monkey was feeling the heat so urged Cookster and myself on after much protestation. We bimbled off after the 25.7 mile final CP and then got a reasonable ultra-shuffle on until the last couple of miles. Cookie was feeling the heat coming off the big hill at 27 and reminded me every half mile that there SURELY was only a couple of miles to go.....I know there were about 5 but we picked out trees, ran, walked the steep hills and ran again after that all the way to the finish. Only 2 mins from the finish we had some pishy cheap beer on the go and clapped PB over the line about 10/15 mins later. #52 is now in the bag and Gravy Race Team was formed.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Race Report South Downs Marathon

Marathon #51 was a bit of a worry from the start. I have not run more than 10 miles in the last 2 months and have been getting in junk miles. However I entered this with the trepidation of a lamb to the slaughter and you might well want to douse my quads in mint sauce this evening!

Up at 4.45am this morning with a couple of bacon and egg butties and off down to not far from Portsmouth. Arriving at the finish at 7am, I boarded a coach to the start. From 7.45am until 9.30am I sat, stretched, ate, watched the relays go off and pondered in quite contemplation with Chichester and the sea on the horizon. 2 mins before the start I bumped into Helen. My favourite runner to run with ever was looking good off the back of the SDW100. This day was all about her as this was marathon #100. I take my new cap off to you my good running buddy!

I ran with Helen from the gun to the top of the first hill. Anyone who has done this knows that there is a 750ft grind over 4 miles. We chit-chatted but near to the top, Helen was clearly in form. I ushered her onwards recounting the 30 miles I had ran in the last 4 weeks! I was in no state to be competitive but just happy to bimble along in the middle of the pack rather than search out a top-30. Helen was only about 100m ahead for the next 3-4 miles or so. At CP1 I remembered that water was pretty much the only fayre at CPs. After 6 miles we were up on the South Downs Way and running into a god breeze. I really enjoyed the next miles up to the halfway point at Cocking Down. I was in probably a runners high, breeze in my face, sun beaming down and flitting around puddles in the trees, occasionally chatting to runners. Cocking came and I paid close attention to the point where I clipped a rock and face planted on the SDW100 last year. Judging by the gradient, I was lucky to have a visit to A&E and only a bruised arm, black eye and bleeding retina!

Mile 13 to 18 was about digging in. A caffeinated  gel held me together but I was starting to realise that I didn't have enough miles in my legs. The hills were brutal. I had to walk some of them. Whizzing up to Harting Downs and a chance to take on my last gel and some water, I realised that after a positive start, this was just about the finish. Uphill allegiances were forged and then lost on the downhills as I overtook runners. The clock was ticking and in the last few miles struck up a conversation with Sam who was running his first ever marathon. What a marathon to choose!

Coming into the finish was great. I forgot how good a big finish was! Helen wand Peter were at the finish waiting for me. Helen finished just 10 mins in front of my 4 hours 30 and Peter in 3.50. After a boiling hot beer we got back on the way with some chit-chat in the car.

Only 5 marathons/ultras done this year. This was #51. Done! How good to return to my beautiful new daughter and amazing wife after such a good day.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Pegged Back

I'm feeling a little lost right now. Running, for me has not been in a worse shape since I broke my leg. The difference is then that the steely determination to get back to running again after the consultant at King's College Hospital in 2010 told me....."Marathon? No you'll be lucky to do some light running on the treadmill...." 16 weeks later Marathon I did and then a year later my first sub-24 100. Now where has that steely determination gone?

Mileage has been an issue. A gorgeous new baby and a 50 (sometimes 60) hour week are taking their toll on fitness. My heart rate has increased, lactate threshold decreased and up and went about 4 months ago! I haven't put on any body mass though. A small crumb of comfort.
So, focusing on the short was a way forward. Slowly, steadily my Parkrun 5k time dropped and dropped and dropped. Not yet at my 19 min 2008 5k best but close to a sub 20 with 20.23. Then....that began to slip also....21.29, 21.34 and now 21.36. I've tried some different things, hill reps and different routes. The one thing I have enjoyed is getting out on the trail. Something I need to do more of. I have a marathon coming up in the next few weeks. No training, the last time I ran over 17 miles was the 3FM 27. In the last month, the furthest I have run is 10 miles.

I think I have passed the low point and am now on a very very long uphill curve. It will be a struggle. I have less of a steely determination...more of a slow burning desire for improvement. This marathon is a bimble; a chance to get a long run in and by no means a speed test, more a test of my mettle to do this when the morale is low and for a boost. A chance to feel positive about my fitness again.

Less pegging back and more fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Catching up

It's been a long time since I blogged and perhaps it is well overdue that I catch up with what has been going on. This little darling has been taking up my year so far.......

So I have been on a running downward curve for the last 5 months. Believe me, it is totally worth it and both Susie and I are loving it. So instead of blasting for podiums and doing crazy miles I did some putting back a few weeks ago. After doing my fastest parkrun PB since my 19 min 5k in 2008, I was only focused on the short stuff. A lot of junk miles.....nipping out for silly distances like 4, 5 and 6 miles where I can has now developed into trying to run home.....a decent 12 mile run.

Then I was lucky to be given the opportunity to mark the last third of the NDW50 in late May. I took my good running buddy Phill Beecroft who is tuning into a tidy runner over ultra distance himself. Unfortunately for me, every time we go training together, he beasts me into a jelly-legged turd but luckily for me, every training run in the world doesn't count for podiums and race day strength, which is why he still hasn't beat me in any race yet! He will no doubt beast me again after my lack of training but we will still have a beer and a laugh I'm sure!

Anyway marking the course was a real laugh until we realised that what would be a normally quick run, with the addition of stop-start, mark, go back, check if it can be seen.........13 miles of course marking became 18 miles and about 5 we found a pub and had a pint of local ale. Super.

Feeling fresh, the next day Susie, Audrey and I went to the 38 mile CP and met James Elson, race director and also new dad. It was then a chance to finally meet Bryan (@ultraDHC) and plenty of other equally lovely runners and to wish through the runners. Typically Ewan Dunlop's nemesis Johnny Melbourne came in 3rd place through the CP and on form, motored to 2nd for the 50 miler. This chap beat Ewan and I to the top spot on the Norman Conquest 50 so I knew he was I was well pleased to see he sneaked the 5 min deficit on the chap in front in the last 12 miles!

All in all, a good day although the last time I managed a run over 15 miles. Daddy duties are definitely taking over at the moment and falling out of form is much quicker than getting back on form. I actually have no plans for the summer other than some pencilled-in dates of maybe-races but this is all about ticking over for another few months until I can pick up again in the autumn. I've been averaging 12 marathons and ultras a year over the last 4 years and not running these distances does feel a bit weird. All I know is that next big race is more of a mid pack bimble than a back-of-the-front-of-the-pack-and-occasional-lucky-break-to-get-a-podium race. I can't wait to get back into it, especially hearing stories from the likes of Immune's 100, Ewan's #podiumpals exploits, Jenni's sub 8 first ever 50, Beecroft's northern fell runs and Bryan and Paul's GUCR races. I'm getting itchy feet just thinking about these future events but until now, much of the running is with my running pram.......

Sunday, 4 May 2014

3 Forts Challenge Marathon

I've not been blogging anything like I have done in the past. No time. Not really ever. However I thought it was high time I fed back on the race I completed today as it was a special one. Marathon #50. A belated BD pressie to myself.

A good Saturday evening carb load and a reasonable sleep followed by a decent brekkie and I was en-route to Worthing in the cold but clear sunshine. On arrival I was surprised to see the largest field I've seen on the 4 3FMs that I have done. I had to park miles away. This lateness and a queue to pick up my number meant that a fleeting conversation with David Thompson at the start was all I could muster before the klaxon. The start is always a great leveller, with its narrow 734ft climb up to Cissbury Ring. The last 2 years I have lamented this climb, having run the Bewl Marathon the previous day. This year, I enjoyed the run up it.

No sooner that I had crested then a welcome hello from Jen who I had met at the Tanners 30 earlier this year. She was looking on form with her 'A' race of the NDW50 coming up in 2 weeks. We ran together on and off for the first 8 miles or so, mainly punctuated by a long chat with Steve Barnes who I didn't know who was running. Always good to catch up with Knockholt's self-styled hellraiser himself and glad to hear his training is on good form.

Between us lay the formidable 720ft climb of Devil's Dyke, from sea-level tidal River Adur. Upon crossing I recalled the 50 mile point that I retired from the SDW100 in the summer needing to go to A&E after smashing up my face and arm 15 miles back in a fall. Today, buoyed by caffeinated gel and sunbeams, I realised I had run the first 8/9 miles faster than my lack of training would carry me. I dropped down a gear and ground out the undulating climb punctuated by steep descents up to Devil's Dyke switchback, mainly now with Steve. A recurring 'shoe malfunction' set in. Something where the insole of the Invov8 popped out and up my Achilles, driving its foamy wedge into said tendon. Race admin required on the first of 4 separate occasions.

Back down to the Adur was a welcome high 5 with John Kipps, on marathon 98. Congrats to come buddy! I then entered a 5 mile grind fuelled with dehydration, thousands of horrible flies (particularly near the ever expanding pig fields above Botolphs) and a headwind. I struck up conversation with a couple of chaps but neither they, nor I, appeared to be in the mood. Calling upon the Dark Arts of race focus, a period of walking was soon far behind as I began the ascent of 792ft Chanctonbury. The top revealed a checkpoint, where copious juices were quaffed, cake washed down and from this 21 mile point, the chance to run with my awesome running buddy Helen Smith. We exchanged plenty of banter, except when she went into insane downhill mode and it took nearly a mile to catch up with her. We got a real good clip on which oddly, except for miles 2-7 was my fasted of the race. I love this last 6 miles or so....perhaps as much as any marathon I've run. After Chanctonbury, a 2 mile descent, a 500ft ascent and then some flats, all at good pace, followed by another ascent of Cissbury with a welcome last checkpoint at her base.......a swift climb and then Helly and I went for the brakes off brain off 2 mile 700ft+ descent, overtaking at least 20 people in the process. Utterly awesome! The time was not amazing. 4hrs26 for the 27.5 mile 3800ft course. However faster than my 4.32 last year (although that was the second of my B2B marathons) and bearing in mind on no training, I've got to be pretty pleased with that. Still don't know how I did 3.43 on this track?!

This is the first time I've had stiff quads for ages. Normally I don't get them. However I am looking for a sponsor for sun tan lotion. I had factor 50 waterproof on today. Burnt to a crisp! Anyone recommend a factor 100?!!

Marahton #50 DONE!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Race Report Essex Walker Purleigh Marathon

Sometimes when you get up you know that you are just turning up to make the numbers. There is no fire in your belly. Today was one of those days. I'm not saying that I didn't enjoy myself as I did, but you know when you KNOW, if you know what I mean?

So after a few pleasantries with a couple of folk that I vaguely knew I bumped into fellow Twitterer Vinny Purdy on marathon#97 looking fresh and focused. The field overall was small, 200 and this included those that went off early. Potentially there were about 80 at race briefing, many familiar faces and good to get into conversation with runners who know the area. My folks moved about 25 miles away from here and I haven't really run the landscape apart from Mersea Island and NE Essex. We set off at 10 with the sun already beaming down. There were about 15 of us in a group at the front for the first few miles and after a couple of wrong turns (LDWA early map reading issues) we settled into a good clip of about 10 guys and a girl. Running down to the River Crouch was lovely. I forgot that I wasn't really in the mood for this earlier......after a roast dinner on Saturday lunch, I didn't eat in the evening, breakfast was cereal and there was NO CIDER CARB LOADING!!

Two chaps (the one in the orange compressions) and another chap started smashing it along a disused railway line and then along the coast path. Annoyingly, this was like the Mersea Island back 8 miles where the path is about 4 inches wide and calf deep in grass. I don't like running like a princess as I've got big bollocks and they need some room to manoeuvre. Anyway these knobs obviously had no balls as they shimmied away at silly pace.

I then ran a bit silly. Buoyed up with fresh conversation with some chaps who had done the SVP100 and the Saltmarsh 75 and had won or come in the top 3, I blasted away until 15 miles. We came in off the coast and I started having a paddy. Wrong shoes, out of water, not enough balls.


And then 3rd place went to 4th and la la la la la la


I don't even know where the 1000ft of climb came from as we ran in and out of rivulets and inlets for about 10 miles??!!

So I took some pics of petrified trees as I had no water and no food for this part of the race

So as I was told as I was being overtaken that these had been written about in the Doomsday book. Well I was beginning to think that I would. Piss poor consideration of my own hydration and feeding had led to me reaching the 21.6 mile CP4 having only downed a 500ml drink. Tosser. I felt a bit shit but was on autopilot and enjoying the last few miles.....I watched the top few guys go into the distance and settled into a bimble with 3 looks over my shoulder coming off the estuary seeing nobody behind for about a mile, I trotted home with a feeling that this wasn't a big race and it was just some training under the belt with many more runs to come.

Marathon #49 DONE.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Catching up

I haven't blogged for a while. I've been busy with work and fatherhood. It's all been a bit of a blur and the aside from a significant Parkrun 2 weeks ago, where I equaled my PB, although chatted to Cookie and Phil for the first 3.5k. Still, it is 45 seconds slower than my actual 5k PB which was way back in 2008. Having said that, I haven't been working on my speed for a while!

This morning I have a really good 15 miler with Eric. We haven't had a proper catch up since the birth of Audrey so it was nice to cut through the chill of the spring air with a blast down to Greenwich along the Waterlink Way and back via Nunhead, Peckham Rye Dulwich and Sydenham Woods and Crystal palace. Really good banter this morning which is something I have missed. I have to pick and choose my runs and this was definitely a good Sunday session. I've got potential plans for a quiet training marathon next week. I want it to be low key, so that I can tick off some miles. I can't now do the Liverpool-Leeds Canal 130 miler in the summer as Glenn and Sue are getting married on the same day. I've altered my running schedule to not have an 'A' race and to use this year to just keep on top of the running and to aim for a marathon or ultra every 6-8 weeks minimum.

Having said that, there are a few that I will do in the holidays so that the impact of racing on a weekend is reduced. I don't think its fair to disappear for the day on a weekend when I work a 60 hour week which impacts on the family enough as it is.

Plans will be close to my chest for the moment, but I shall be trying out a few new events to whet my appetite, whilst aiming to blast some favourites too.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Race report - Midnight Challenge

When the Race Director starts his spiel with "I'm not prepared to take my Land Rover down that track" and "The mud is calf deep" and also "There is significant flooding on the course" got the juices flowing from the start. I've been a bit under the weather lately and have not been running at my best. Phill on the other hand, has been running like a warrior. Blasting down the M2 into the Hinterland/Banjoland of the North Kent marshes filled me with dread. Upon arrival and a car park underwater and mud, just getting out of the car was a chore. We had to go through the boot as the water we parked in was so deep!

Race briefing was a sanguine affair. There were about 100 hardy souls and with forecast of high winds and heavy rain, the field resembled the start of the Yukon ultra. Phill and I hatched a plan. Travel light, spend little time at the CPs and motor on.

The course was mainly 1m above sea level and around some large drainage ditches so water, after the heaviest rainfall in Jan/Feb in 300 years was everywhere. I opted to go maximum lite with Xtalon 212s, lightweight clothing and just a handheld with a gel in the pocket. Potentially I was feeling the 5.5kg I had lost since Xmas....nearly a stone lighter.  We hit the front of the pack in the first mile. A couple of cowboys darted to the front and as soon as the mudslider section hit, they peeled off, mainly with a tail betwen the legs as Phill and I ploughed an early clip in the front 5/6 runners. The course was a 6.6 mile figure of 8. The only section that was not underwater was the 1.4 mile road section past a pub full of cheering ever unwaivering supporters.

I felt that if we ground out a 1 hour loop, we would probably top 10. How wrong I was! After the first lap, we were 3rd/4th which we maintained.  One part of the run was a road section past a pub.....plenty of support from boozed up locals! We blasted the first muddy lap in 57 mins, the second in 50 mins, the third we were stamping our authority on the podium but the wheels started to come off in the 4th lap. The mud was taking its toll. Sliding around struggling to get grip in spikes was an issue. We were almost at walking pace through the wet, deep clay. Lap 3 was a grinder for Phill, I would not give him the key to sit in the lap 4 was a real push. having said that, we had lapped at least 30 runners.

With the marathon finish plan concocted at the finale of lap 3, Phill showed some relief that we were not going the full monty with 5. I was happy as the 90 min drive back home would be at least an hour earlier. We had kentish Ale in the car and we were determined to have a bottle at the finish. 2.5 miles to go and with no headtorches on the horizon for the last 8 miles, i thought a cruise into a podium would be the order of the day. All of a sudden, a plethora of lights were on us. Lap 3 or 4? I did not know whether they were in our race or a lap behind? Would I stop to ask? Phill had stated that I should blast it to the finish.....cameo show....but I wanted us to run in together. I turned around. Phill's light was amongst the crowd. I pulled up the anchor, downed my juice and 7.30s through every puddle for the last 2.5 miles lapping even more runners. I hooned it past the pub and did not look back. No lights were even near as I came into the finish of the marathon in 3rd place. Phill came in about 15 mins later although I think the organisers have fucked up as they timed him 6 mins quicker than me??!!

Beer. Change of clothes. Car heaters on full. Job done. This is the first time I have run with Phill where he has been on the money for a run. Well done fella! Awesome, based on me having v little sleep with new little Audrey. She can play with my shiny new medal.

Friday, 14 February 2014

I'm expecting mud

glorious mud by ultraBobban
glorious mud, a photo by ultraBobban on Flickr.

The email from ChallengHub about the 32.75mile run tomorrow states that there are "stretches of up to 400 yards where there is calf deep puddles and mud" and sections of the event that "resemble the Somme"

All of this is going to be in the dark and with driving rain and 50 mph winds.


Sunday, 2 February 2014

Welcome training miles

After a few weeks of Daddy time and reduced sleep, far more things to do and generally being tired, it was no great surprise that getting up at 5.30 for the Lee Valley navigation run with Phil this morning was going to be a challenge.....and it was.

After NO TRAINS anywhere it was a run, bus run bus run to Tower Gateway to meet PB. We had a bimble through the City and down to the Limehouse Basin where we hit the Lee Channel about 40 mins after the sun came up. It was the sunniest day I can remember in the last 2 months or so and this made for a light mood with plenty of banter taking the piss out of Eric......With the sun on our backs we traced through post-industrial heartlands of East London out to the very flooded Walthamstow Marshes, Hackney Marshes, Tottenham and then out into Essex/Herts.

We decided that probably Cheshunt was a little less far than Ware but then opted to dip out as tiredness took over my shit body at Enfield.

With a wiat of 25 mins for a train, a rather convoluted search for a greasy spoon cafe so we could have a bacon butty and a cup of tea meant we had to leg it down Enfield High st with butties and drinks in hand. Upon arrival at Liverpool St, we ran across town to our respective termini and then trained and ran home. All in all the last few miles of the 24 was better than 14-19 where I was running like a slow twat. Phil did tell me it was time he went faster than me as it is always the other way around. He has been in training and is getting pretty sharp. Wait until he is a dad! Cheers buddy.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Bucket List

Tree of the buckets by ultraBobban
Tree of the buckets, a photo by ultraBobban on Flickr.

Much to the concern of Mrs UB, my entry to the LLC130 will mean that I have to sneak in some training. I've got a bit of a bucket list for 2014.

Midnight Challenge 50k - coming up in 18 days
2nd March - Steyning Stinger
Easter - plenty of runs but fitting in a couple of cheeky marathons might be the case.
Then we get into May and I am torn between the Malvern 52 and the 3FM.
Bewl will be a goer in mid may....or even neolithic....One that me and Immune blasted a few years back.
I'm hoping that if I can wangle a nice hotel and something to do on the other non-running day then possibly 3 rings of Shap 100k(would love to) and a big wish would be the Osmotherley Phoenix 30 in the summer. There are some easy getaways for the morning such as Fairlands Valley 50k and SDM
All in all, exciting stuff.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

How to get in the miles?

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

Since this little UB has come into the world, running has taken a back seat. Not that i am begrudging this at all as this is the most amazing part of me and Mrs UB's life so far, such a journey.

Not only that, work has been crazy and school has been very busy, both from a leadership point of view and also working with GCSE and A levels at this time of year. So luckily I took the initiative this weekend to become a postman and hand deliver the thank-you cards to the very generous friends in the South London area. 2 distinct runs; Saturday, t-shirt and blasting out the miles. Sunday, pissing down with rain, a tight calf and a bruised couple of metatarsals still from the Winter Tanners 30. Not a mega weekend by any stretch but still a decent 20 miles of running that is much needed as I did not get out from Monday-Friday! That has not happened for a while and I'm sure it won't again.

Luckily I have loads more cards to deliver this week after work.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Winter Tanners 30 Race report

It was a cold and frosty morning as I arrived traffic free at 7.40am in Leatherhead Station car park. The dashboard stated that it was just -1 degrees C. Time for an extra layer. I walked down to an amendedstrt at Leatherhead Leisure centre where I had a quick chat with Kelvin, who we had agreed would start at 8.00am. Kelvin had already picked up his number and was keen to go so after a chat, off he went. I was looking to catch up with Jerry at the start and after some race admin, picked up my number and conscious that I was a little later than planned, checked if he had picked up his. I waited around at the start, for Jerry and as I realised that I needed to get on: it was now 8.42am, decided to head off on my own. It was good to bump into Pete and also Paul Ali who was running with his buddy Matt. Paul has a pic on his own blog which has him top-to-toe in all black Salomon. Snazzy. However, it will only end up as brown later!

Off I went. The first couple of miles were 'grind-out' uneventful and then came an awesome view.

This was the NDW in full spleandor and lifted my spirits. At the time it was needed as I was feeling a bit mopey and wasn't really enjoying it. There were a lot of ups and downs across Mickelham Down and Juniper Hill. After a particularly hair raising descent of a few hundred feet I started to get a clip on. However, only 5 miles covered in the first hour meant a long day ahead. Nevertheless, short conversations with other runners during this part allowed me to spend time thinking about important stuff like my new beautiful daughter Audrey and my amazing wife who needs a gold star for letting me out on my first 'daddy ultra pass'. CP1 came and went with a gob-full of Jaffa cakes. 

The next hour was slightly quicker and grinding out 5.5 miles this time. I hooked up with a small group of chaps but frustratingly, their navigation was pretty bad and they would run off, get lost and then wait around for people to check with. If I had heard how many extra miles they had already done but 12 miles in, then it was time for me to get away and do my own thing. The mud here was incredible. I caught up with Kelvin at this point, then ran along for a couple of miles with a Dorking and Mole Valley runner who was at Boston when the bomb went off at the marathon. Insane.

After what was clearly now a much less swollen River Mole, all of the surrounding fields yielded muddy water, once the ice had melted.

Muddy bridleways, woods and trail gave way to metalled track for a couple of miles. It was time to get my foot down and once I had crossed a railway and snaffled some gels, my energy levels were up and CP2 came about quickly for a refuel. 3 hours in and 16 miles down. Slow going I know but the mud and surface water slowed everything down. Off road and back onto established Forestry Commission trail, I got chatting with a couple of runners who were quick, but unsure of directions. Jen and her running partner Chris (?) were training up for the NDW50 of which I am laying the markers for James Elson's Centurion Running. Both were fairly new to running but we struck up  conversation that lasted for the next 14 miles or so, on and off. This was great as it was about the right time for me as I had been in quiet contemplation and definitely enjoyed listening to their training and experiences. I like to run with my own nav work and it was down to me to do this now. The other two were on my instructions and this was quite nice for me to lead. I took down my last gels between CP2 and 3 and a small mistake here to pack 3 and not 4 or 5. I usually graze at CPs but didn't spend too long today. CP2 was populated by none other than Peter Bowles, fresh from blasting the C2C yesterday. He said that Helen was here, and was there yesterday, although I didn't see her.

I did a small wrong turn here. Luckily not much mileage lost (about 100m) but a total confusion after a missed footbridge. Back on track I hooked up again with the lost couple I had run with before. We got a good clip on and apart from the massive steps and hill up to Steer's Field CP3 at 25.8 miles, all was good. A hot coffee and a blast for the last 4.7 miles. All was going great until the last 2-2.5 miles. being out of sugar (potentially just that one extra missed gel from 25) was the difference between a cameo 7 min miler for the last 2 and changing down a gear for an ultra shuffle in. Determined to get under 6 hours, the last mile was painful and took a little out of my legs. 5 hours 50 for the round, 30.5 on the instructions and I ended up doing 30.74 so hardly any mistakes. 

I really enjoyed today, the mud, the run, the weather, the people, but most of all coming home to the family and a big fat roast dinner with brother-in-law and my sisters-in-law. Marathon/Ultra number #46. Done. 

Monday, 6 January 2014

'A' Race for 2014

Thank you Dick Kearn for accepting my entry as I am now 'in' the 2014 Liverpool-Leeds Canal race. 130 miles of northern monkey. Scousers? Great....Mrs UB is a Scouser. Mancs? Great, I grew up in Manchester.....Leeds? The only thing I know about Yorkshire is hills, rain and Geoff Boycott. Still, I am looking forward to this....

and then some minor undulations up to a max of 450ft along the way

So it should be a blast. Bank holiday weekend. Any crew would be most appreciated.

Winter tanners 30 pass

beware soft mud by ultraBobban
beware soft mud, a photo by ultraBobban on Flickr.

I'm posting the same picture I know....but the weather is pretty unreal. Last year was snow for about a month. This year it is incessant rain! The Tanners is on and I am going to run my first ultra of 2014......also first as a Dad.

I have my tested new Inov8 X-Talon 212s and am raring to go. Towels at the ready as there are 12 flood warnings on the route......I am not taking the mobile phone this time but an old brick that is waterproof just in case. Race report will be here but in the meantime, running is on the backfoot for being a daddy and a 60 hour week at the chalkface.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Crystal place Parkrun

beware soft mud by ultraBobban
beware soft mud, a photo by ultraBobban on Flickr.

Undeterred by the howling gale and driving rain, I expected a smaller than usual crowd to be at CP Parkrun. Bromley Parkrun was closed due to flooding so the numbers were swelled. Good. More to huddle around at the start! I bumped into Katie on her first parkrun since baby Frank. Tappo was on his way too.

A slight course alteration owing to the flooding and waterlogged ground but a god awful muddy, with some slippy tarmac and lots of areas where the incessant rain had gouged an undulating surface on the gravel. Puddles I went straight through, but fallen branches and trees needed avoiding, as did the half dozen random dogs this morning. I definitely ran within myself today. I had 2 niggles so took it at a reasonable pace and timed in at 22 mins and 15s. CP parkrun has 250ft of climb on the 2.5 laps so for me, an OK time.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

New Year 2014

It is always nice to start the year with a purge from NYE. This year it was a stay at home affair with the gorgeous Mrs UB and our new baby Audrey. Aside from about 3 hours sleep as would be expected with a new born, a number of ciders and a glass or two of cava needed to be purged from the soul. The answer: Parkrun. 

I think a number of the usuals from the running club had deferred to the Serpentine 10k in Hyde Park so a small number of the club; Margaret, Derek, Cookie and myself set off in the cold pouring rain for the only Parkrun in South London at Dulwich. Cookie had recently run an 18.56 so I said goodbye to him after exchanging pleasantries, happy with a sub 24 as I was feeling a bit lacklustre. Off I went with 172 other hardy new year runners and quickly found that I settled into a nice pace...not looking at the watch but running very confortably. After mile 1 I caught up with Cookie and we chatted for the next 2 miles as we trotted round in 7.10s and caught up with the Xmas and New Year news and gossip. Cookie blasted off for a cameo last 300m. Nice to clock a 21.58 for an event that an hour go I was still in bed. There is some real quality at this event as I came in 50/173 runners.

A nice 3 mile warm down in the heavy rain and a big fat sausage and onion sandwich later and all is well. Happy New Year readers.