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Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Founders 27

It was back to Peaslake. I had not been here for a number of years and had fitted this in as was unsure if my Plantar injury had recovered and it needed to fit in with half term.

Lovely unseasonably warm weather meant it was end of October 22 degrees and t shirts for the day. I opted to start out with the runners at 10am, which was a bit late to be honest. After 3 miles it was good to bump into George Fairbrother who was running a nice-day-out pace with Michael Bennett.

I had opted to run with Malcolm of which I did for the whole race. We kept a good clip on but the course was a technical one and up and down the Greensand Ridge and North Downs Way was not going to make this a fast time.

Add in 1000 Schnausers on the national Schnauser dog walk day ("hey I've lost my dog.......What does it look like......Well its a........" How could you find one in 1000?!!) and some 3400ft of hills and we were just on a completion and banter day.

All in, coming back from injury and that, 11th place was OK.

White Cliffs Challenge 53.4 miles

This was a self navigation challenge on Bank Holiday Sunday 2018. It did not stop raining heavily all day and all night. Starting and finishing in Deal it was a 53.4 mile triangle course, along the coast, then inland, then back out to coast, on and off the North Downs Way, England Coastal Path and 1066 Route.

I met with Robert Cameron-Wood at the start and we basically ran together all of the way in the atrocious conditions that were the first 20 miles along the White cliffs through Deal, Dover and Folkstone in headwinds of 45-50 miles an hour with occasional gusts that blew us up in the air, or onto the ground. Add in face-hurting horizontal rain and the first 3 hours were horrid!

We ran with Malcolm for about 15 miles. Then at CP1 we split and the hilly inlands were as wet but not quite as windy. I'm writing this some months after running it and although it was miserable, it was good banter and certainly character building running. We made CP3 just before nightfall. I'm not sure why the start time was mid afternoon. It would have been good to start at say 7am, then get done before nightfall. It did mean that with the dark clouds and crap weather, that it was dark very early.

We were pootling along just fine. I'd used my GPX file as well as the navigation using the directions and we didn't get overly lost. With 30 miles done, my heel started to hurt. RCW said it was likely Plantar fasciitis, I thought not. It transpired to be. What was uncomfortable at 30 miles became unbearable at 48 miles. That said, a fast race walk/stomp/run got us round in 5th place, only a minute behind 3rd place, who started out an hour earlier....

A fry up at the end and the long drive across Kent and time for the recovery process.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Peak Skyline 50k 2018

There are a few times in my life that I have got nervous. My inaugural fell run last year, my first marathon and my fist 100. This was equivalent anxiety build up. The usual....will I be last? Will I DNF? It must be natural for all runners to think like this. Sometimes it can be all-consuming, like the very first toe-on-the-line of a marathon. Often it is beneficial to have a level of apprehension, or awe and wonder of the terrain ahead.

If you want to watch as well as read, this is the Youtube stream. Every time I watch it I get that hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck feeling. I didn't win. I didn't podium. The field was littered with pro runners. I had one of the best races of my life. For me, it was epic. Realising running through places I had not visited since a bowl-cut Mancunian upbringing. I am a child of the North, trapped in a London-centric bubble and I was out to conquer the hills I walked with mum and dad for many years as a nipper.

So after an eventful evening (AirBnB patron had locked the keys in his own house - cue neighbour with a break-in strategy. Every method failed so he fetched a bloody big ladder 'from a friend' and broke in through an upstairs window. Dinner was takeaway as nothing else was open, followed by a street party of Buxton delinquents in the street below, hurling lots of glass bottles at each other, smoking weed, fighting, shouting and generally pissing off all and sundry. Not even the village policeman came to intervene. It was 3am before they departed in a pre-dawn stupor.) I had a 6am porridge, packed and walked the mile up the road to the start. Wow. Razzamatazz. Raidlight, Inov8, Buff, runners. Hardcore Northern fell runners. I race prepped in my own little world. There were a couple of the usual over-geared-and-no-idea'd London types up for an adventure over the weekend. These types make me laugh. They used to fuck me off a bit as sometimes in my formative years I'd be psyched out by their gear-banter) but now I realised they go off like a shit of a hot chrome shovel and are all over the shop at the 20 mile stage. Bless.

A walk up to the start which I reminisced as I had been there for a massive family reunion winter the year before. Last time I ran from Buxton up to Solomon's Temple there was a foot of snow on the ground and it was -6 degrees. I placed myself pretty much at the back, such was my confidence, but climbing the first hill of 450m I found it easy to move through the pack.

Then....a bagpiper at the top of Solomon's Temple. Epic.

At the start I had spotted Hakeem Okoye.  We'd run together in 2017 and he was looking lean. I'd seen him at the Fox ultra and managed to get within 50m of him after about 20k, then never saw him again. He was ahead for about 5 miles and then I caught up and we ran together for 12 miles or so. To say this event was hilly would not compute with our southern runners. 7000ft in 50k, Climbing, scrambling and brain-off-brakes-off silly downhills. No scree like the lakes, but some bloody big peaks. 9 of them.

CP1....CP2 Ramshaw Rocks. BTW, there were 3 CPs manned. plus 7 clip points. I was fine up Axe Edge Moor and down to 3 Counties, I was struggling a bit from about 2 miles before Ramshaw up to Hen Cloud and then the Roaches. Once I had traversed the back end of the Roaches, something kicked in. There was nobody about. I had dropped the group of complainers and gear-tribes. Something verging on primeval kicks in to the pre-frontal cortex. I am now on my own in the mountains. The wind is all around me, the bracken whips my legs, there is a lone kestrel in the sky, hovering. This is what it is about. Purity. Hakeem had left me to run ahead.

Off the Roaches and down into the valley, then a long ascent to Shuttlingsloe (the Derbyshire Matterhorn) which was a climb to the CP clip point at the top. Thankfully someone put water at the bottom as it was 30 degrees by now. Hakeem was at the bottom. Broken. I reached into my backpack. A gel, a Salt tab. He had it. We ran again, uplifted. We got to the base of the climb and he sat down. I had to go on. After the summit and return, he was still on  the way up. For me, the grind onwards to the Goyt and Shining Tor. The heat beat down on my shoulders through neck high bracken. Obscure paths and the thought of only 10k to go was quickly dampened by a slow summit climb past the Cat and Fiddle to what I thought was the last climb.

Straight down with tired but happy legs I headed for home. One last peak (that I had forgotten about) remained. Burbage Edge was not high but awkward in its presence as a final ascent of 1640ft. A quad mincing 3 miles of downhill into Buxton to go. With all the pomp and splendour of a big race, arms aloft I crossed the line. 2 hours after the winner. However, the sadness of the runners behind became a reality as the organisers told of their strict enforcement of the cut offs. 192 started. 73 finished. I was 43rd. Pro-runners, fell runners. Me. Happy. Probably my favourite short ultra.

I'll be back next year

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

High Weald Challenge - The 'Smugglers Marathon' and a PODIUM!!!

The Weald is a big place and I haven't explored it all yet.....Today was Goudhurst southwards and territory for me and a new route for the LDWA High Weald Challenge otherwise known as the smugglers marathon (after the legendary Hawkhurst gang)

We have just been in a sustained 3 weeks of 30 degree heat. Saturday was 33 and Sunday was 31. I started off early, as the RD said that runners starting the 10am start could go early. I thought I'd loosen up and amble into CP1, of which I did. I ran past Peter Johnson and had a quick chat. He was running with none other than running legend Ken Fancett. Fit as a fiddle 60 year old.

I got to CP1, and the nuggets that were running it stopped me and another couple of runner s for 5 mins "until the CP officially opened". Silly administration really. The RD had emailed to state runner could go early and hadn't communicated it forthwith.

Anyway, through the gorgeous countryside around Cranbrook through to Benenden, the hot weather took its toll. I was just about hydrated between CPs, but the paths were unrunnable 8 foor high with brambles at ankle level

After a slight detour, I went past the last of the early runners. I was on my own.....the next 15 miles were totally alone. Something liberating about that but also self preservation as the thermometer crept up above 30.

So how would you get through this? Its over 10ft high!

Instructions were sometimes hard to decipher....sometimes impossible

See what I mean?!

So after a gruelling 5 hrs 45 mins I crossed the line to great pride of seeing my wife, Audrey and Greta (that totally surprised me) and some very sweaty hugs before heading home.......

Amazing run. Hot hot hot.

Marathon#93 done

Footnote...... It wasn't until about 5 days later that the results were out and I was sort of shocked but I also knew that it was a very tough course through tens of miles of overgrown trail. Results stated that there were 67 finishers. I finished top of the shop - 1st place for me!! 18 minutes ahead of the second place and 1st lady Annabel Stearns. Some very very good marathoners who are genuinely quicker than me took over 7 hours......My second ever 1st place. Unexpected but you have to be in it to win it!

High Weald 50k

Its been a while since I updated my blog. 2 amazing children, a 60 hour a week job and just having moved house have taken up a lot of my time from running and I am probably now averaging 20 miles a week less that I did about a year ago. The good thing is that there are no junk miles. There is a lot of trail here, plus a lot of hills, so always a decent workout.

Anyway, last month I was fortunate to have Paul Thompson's entry to the HW50k. Charity money duly donated to his chosen, I took on his race number, which was #1 and then became #117.

Starting only 40 mins away from home was a delight not to have a 2 hour journey each way out of London...something that I love. There are loads of marathon routes round here. I bumped into Robert Cameron Wood and Dave Barker at the start. A quick catch up, a short walk to the start and we were off

David had recovered well from an injury earlier in the year. I hadn't seen him since my inaugural run at Tunbridge Wells Harriers but he was on form and went on to his 3rd top 10 finish. I ran with him for about 3k, then settled back to 'bed in' to the race. A hot day but fresh early on, I was bimbling along at a nice pace and at 10k in, not far from CP1, I was in longish grass and felt the slow motion pain of my foot disappearing into a rabbit hole. I got straight up and started running but quickly realised something was wrong.  It was a bit too late to turn around and go home. Not only that, I was mildly distracted by some inquisitive cows that wanted to get in my running line. As you well know, me and the bovine are not best friends. Why do they always go for me?

So, the next 41km was more of a hobble with a wince and a big shooting pain up the tendon across the top of my ankle and up my shin. Downhills were particularly unpleasant, so I had to walk the downhills....which was odd as everyone bundled past and I caught them up on the uphills.

I got to about 5k before the last CP. I could see others starting to tire. I was in limp home mode and the thought WTF and went for it. In the last 12k realised I was overtaking lots of people so started counting. From there on in I overtook 35 runners. All amazing folk. I had the energy but not the ankle. Crossing the line another runner about 50m ahead gave me a big hug. "I wasn't going to let you overtake me' he said. "Well done" said I. It was a disappointing time for me at 5.43 for a 50k, 1 hour and 33 mins slower than my pb, but with obvious concerns over the ankle. A lovely mug and a handshake from Stu Mills (legend) as well as a medal and a short drive home for a cider.


Monday, 14 May 2018

A few marathons and ultras later

Such has been the last few months of busy times, moving house, kids etc....... that I have not blogged

So some updates....

Winter Tanners - 6 hours 38 9th place
Unusual Suspects 4 hours 13 - 7th place
Fox ultra 61km - 6 hrs 55 - 46rh place
SDW28 - 4 hrs 55 5th place

I'll update some pics soon. 91 marathons and ultras raced now. Approaching mid 40s so slipping slightly back from the back of the very front group to slightly further back now.....but bloody enjoying every race