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Race Reports

2017 What went wrong?

by on Jan.25, 2017, under Blog, Race Reports

During the run-up to The Spine 2017 everything went perfectly. The training went smoothly, no injuries during my pre-race training.  I lost 14lbs in weight compared to last year & entered the race at 150lbs, the lightest weight I’ve ever been for The Spine.

I packed all my gear the week before, a first for me. My stuff is usually not packed until the night before the race. I even managed to get a hotel room in Edale for the night before the race, which meant I didn’t have to drive all the way home after the race brief then drive back again for the race in the morning.

All my food packed into resupply bags & labels for each checkpoint written on each bag. This was had to be the perfect Spine race!

It’s difficult to analyse what the catalyst was for my DNF but I think things were a little to perfect before the race. I tend to work better in chaos.

This time there was none of that. It seemed to be lots of little things conspiring to put me off track. I was expecting the usual Spine weather of cold -C temps & frozen ground. We got rain +6C temps and loads of water & mud. I  had over dressed for these conditions & being unsupported meant I couldn’t just change my clothes to more suitable gear.

The decision to set off slow was made before the start & I knew I would get stronger as the race unfolded. The only problem with this strategy, if I make a couple of bad moves and I’d be right up against the cut off times.

The journey to CP1 at Hebden Bridge went well with little need to worry about cut offs. My navigation on this section was spot on, as it should be by now!

The problems started during the trek from  Hebden to CP1.5 at Malham Tarn. The fog came down & I made a couple of bad navigation decisions due to lack of visibility over the stones at the top of the steps. By the time I reached 1.5 I only had 20 minutes spare before the CP closed! A quick brew & kit re arranged & I was out the door, heading for CP2.

At about 100 miles I started to realise the time had become very tight & doing a few calculations it became apparent I wasn’t going to make it. I had 15 miles to go from Horton in Ribblesdale & needed to do it at 3 mph. This would seem a slow pace but when your carrying a 20lbs pack and have only had a 1 hour sleep over the past two days, it’s a big ask. I ran the first 5 miles as fast as I could, no stopping. I would need to maintain this for another 10 miles. After another 5 miles and reaching a hill which went on almost to CP2 I decided enough was enough & called it a day at 110 miles.

I tried to ring in but had no phone signal, exhausted, tired and wet through with sweat, my only options were to either walk to CP2 over high ground or look at my map and find a pub nearby & maybe get a room for the night.

 It made more sense to get down out of the cold & make my way to the Station Inn near the famous Ribblehead viaduct about 5 miles away. Luckily they had a room spare & I booked myself in for a night & full English breakfast.

After a couple of pints I hit the sack. On waking the next morning I set off for the train station across the road to start my journey home. I never use public transport so assumed that it was just a matter of hopping on a train home. I was on a train platform & we have a train station in my home town so what could possibly go wrong?

Reading the timetable I soon realised that the next train was at least two hours away! It also didn’t go to my home town, I’d have to get a train to the bus station then get another train, than another bus! Oh bugger.

Just as this started to sink in I looked down the platform to see someone walking towards me, it was only Dunc Bruce. We met the day before on the Spine & he’d ended up in the same boat as me.

After a quick discussion we agreed to go back to the safety of The Station pub, they did some great ales & a nice line in pork pies. I rang my other half who said she couldn’t pick me up until the children finished school. Oh what a shame I would be stuck in this pub until 11pm. So after being in the pub for 16 hours I made a few new friends that night & started planning my next Spine race in 2018 . . . . .

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The Spine Race 2016 (The head, atop The Spine. . . .)

by on Jan.06, 2017, under Race Reports

Last years Spine Race was a tough one for me & I don’t  just mean the physical side. Although the physical side of the journey from Byrness & the Cheviot Hills to the finish line in Kirk Yetholm, just over the Scottish Border was challenging enough.

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It’s been said before in many other blogs about The Spine race, you need to run your own race & not get bogged down (pardon the pun) with other people’s problems & hangups. However that’s just what I did in 2016. I ran with people in the middle of the race who ended up sapping my mental & physical energy.

This year I’ve promised myself that as soon as someone starts to annoy me or need too much help, it’ll be time to go it alone. Sometimes it’s hard to leave someone when they start to falter & you start to form a bond. You can feel obliged to stay with people who can drain your confidence & lower your moral.

The problem for me is I’m not very good with people, I spend most of my time on my own & like my own company. Sometimes finding it hard to understand what other people are thinking. That’s the main reason I missed the warning signs, the little things most people would probably have noticed.

The Spine isn’t like any other race, you don’t go home & have a nice hot bath after running 100 miles with no sleep & feel great in the morning. On The Spine you get almost no sleep & what you do get is mostly in a very noisy environment. It’s like a pressure cooker, everything is just about THE RACE! The rest of the world outside ceases to exist & it’s just you and your own thoughts most of the time. Sometimes even for someone like me it’s nice to talk to another racer, maybe share a laugh. Break up the monotony of a race that you know will last the best part of a week. A week on your feet in some of the worst weather this country has to offer. Maybe share some of the navigation between you, make the miles pass a little faster.

On The Spine 2015 I teamed up with Alan Rumbles & Colin Searl for the last section & it worked very well. The miles seemed to fly by with the constant banter. All I remember was the laughter and banter flowing freely between us all. Nobody took offence or sulked about any comments or went off in a huff. Hence why I called that blog post “a brutal walk to the shops” If your head is in the right place anything is possible. The pain seems to go away.

Suppose what I’m trying to put across here is be careful who you team up with! Notice the signs & move on, run your own race. Have confidence in your own ability & if you do team up, when it starts going awry do your own thing.
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On a lighter note, my training this year has gone very well. I’ve tried some new (to me) techniques in my lead up to this years race. More gym based workouts, 10 miles a day on the treadmill plus loads of body weight exercises. I’m also the lightest I’ve ever been. Taking more care in what I eat & sticking to my goals. I’ll be going into the race at about 150lbs which for me is light.

I never eat processed food (apart from on The Spine). So it’s all been game meat, Trout, fruit, veg, dairy, all the good stuff. The things I enjoy eating. Anyway that’s enough for now. I don’t advertise my posts on here, it’s just a personal record for me to look back on & see how or if what I do affects my race.

Happy running & see you in Kirk Yetholm!

 

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The Spine Race 2015 (A brutal walk to the shops)

by on Mar.26, 2015, under Race Reports

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A few thoughts on The Spine Race 2014-2015 

I’m not going to write another review or report about The Spine Race. It’s been done to death by better story tellers than me. What I do want to do is a blog post which will help me remember the reason this years race (2015) seemed easy compared to last year. A way for me to remember what was different so I don’t make the same mistakes again. If it helps anyone along the way, well that’s good to.

The Spine 2014 & my mindset going into the race

I thought it would be just like any other long multi-day ultra event. You know the way it goes. You show up, run as fast as you can carrying as little as possible & slog it out to the end. That was my main mistake, The Spine is a different animal as far as other races go, I can’t compare it to any other race. You can’t just batter it into submission, it will fight back. Last year I had a terrible time on The Spine race, suffering the runs (the bad kind) for the first 18 hours then falling coming off a mountain in the dark & getting concussion. This caused me to slow down and eventually get hypothermia.

The Spine 2015 

I needed to finish this one, it was my main race of the year. The Pennine Way & I would share our 50th birthday in 2015, which made it even more special for me this year. It’s the oldest National trail and the hardest to complete.

What I needed this time was a new strategy. The main thing I did differently this year was go with the flow. No trying to change things outside my control. No expectations for things going how I want them. No expecting anything & if good things happened then great! If they didn’t happen, get on with it & don’t look back. It’s not the type of race to dwell on bad stuff, bad stuff will happen. If you fall into a bog or fall on your ass don’t let it spoil your day, move on.

Good stuff will happen to, like a great sky or the sun shinning or a fantastic view. You’ll probably laugh lots (I did) & meet some fantastic & inspirational people. You’ll all have something in common, the goal of finishing the race & getting to the end in as good a shape as possible.

 

The important stuff . . .

Sleep

The idea this year was not to have a strategy but to go with the flow. I managed to make it to a checkpoint before I fell asleep almost every time. If I managed to sit down anywhere for longer than 5 minutes I would try to have a cat nap. I had one hour of sleep over the first three days! Split roughly into 20 minutes at each checkpoint. This was mainly due to not being able to get any sleep at the checkpoints & being hyper when I could have slept.

I don’t sleep much at home though so it wasn’t a big deal. The section before the Tan Hill Inn I got really tired. The pub had closed when we arrived in the early hours of the morning & once inside the front porch I sat down for a quick rest before taking on one of the boggiest sections just after the Tan Hill. Don’t remember a lot about the next section through the bog but I remember not being able to keep my eyes open in the pub porch. My eyes just kept closing & I couldn’t stop myself falling asleep. As soon as we got outside I started falling asleep whilst running which I have had before but not for as long as this phase lasted. By the time I’d got my head back together the bog was behind me & I don’t remember how I got through it. This was good, the worst bit of the race was over & my mind refocused on the goal.

Food

Most of the food I took with me was still in my drop bag when I got home. I ate anything that would fit in my mouth from anywhere I could get it. We had some good food at the checkpoints but mainly porridge & toast. I had some good food in a couple of pubs on the course & also in the guest house at Forest View Walkers InnThe owners Joyce & Colin made us feel really welcome & even let us have a quick nap on the sofas with our dirty gear on. We later found out that they had donated the food we had for nothing!

The good stuff for me far outweighed the bad. The worst parts for me happened in the last 10-20 miles. On the last section from hut 2 to the finish I fell on my ass about 20 times or more. The ground was ice on top of grass & you couldn’t tell which bits were ice & which bits were grass. Especially looking at it through tired eyes and the light of a head torch. A few days earlier my snow spikes fell to pieces which didn’t help.

I fell & landed on my elbow & it went numb from my elbow down to the tips of my fingers. My first thought was maybe it had snapped on the fall. This happened just before Allan Rumbles, Colin Searle & myself all shook hands & agreed we had been on one hell of a journey & we had shared some great laughs along the way. This made me forget about the pain in my arm & we set off for the finish about a mile away. The finish was like nothing I had felt before, not the feeling of having completed a great race but the end of a journey. Somehow a bit of an anti climax. I’m missing the race already & can’t wait for next year!

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Colin Searle & Myself at the finish

 

Gear that helped me get to the finish . . . 

I’ll probably do separate reviews on this kit at some point but for now this is just a list of the stuff I think helped get me to the finish.

Hilly Socks 

30061I used the Merino Wool Off-Road for alternate sections which keep you warm & wick away the water fast. The thinking here is that you will get wet feet wearing trainers so it’s better to plan for this by wearing a fast draining sock. At the end of the race I had no blisters, so this stuff works for me. It may not work for you, but it’s worth a try. If you are doing The Spine for the first time I would recommend doing at least two sections with full gear before the race itself. Just to make sure all your kit is good & wont fall to pieces.

hi-000412_h00013_trail_peak_compressionHilly Off-road compression socks for every other section. I wore these with my boots to give my feet a rest & stop blisters or trench foot. The extra compression also stopped some of the swelling which happens when on your feet 23 hours a day.

Buff Headwear

Polar Buff Always used these as they’re great multi function items. Attached to a couple of carabiners on the shoulder straps of my pack. They dry fast & keep the draught out.

Flag UK/Navy

La Sportiva Bushido Trainers

These were great on mud, snow & wet rocks. I live on the edge of the west Pennine Moors & it’s about the same terrain as The Spine (we even have the slabs), the mud we get around here destroys Salomon shoes in a matter of days but these had 200 miles on them when I wore them on The Spine. They were still good at the end of the race.

Scarpa Terra GTX

Terra GTX Men's Walking Boots

Used the Scarpa’s on every other section to give my feet a rest from the wet. They do keep feet dry but on The Spine water tends to go over the top of the boots it’s that deep. Obviously if your wading through rivers you will get wet feet but they keep most of the water out, most of the time.

Montane eVent Air Jacket

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I used this for the first couple of days when running & it kept me warm & dry. It’s very breathable & managed to flow enough air to keep me from getting sweaty. It did however wear out in certain places, it has worn right through. Not what I expected from a £240 jacket!

Mountain Equipment Kongur Jacket

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A great GORE-TEX Pro jacket which proved it’s worth in the snow & high winds later in the race when the pace slowed. Not very breathable but if your moving slow & need warmth more than breath-ability you can’t beat a full-on mountain jacket.

2016

Well it’s taken me a long time to do this blog post. I’ve just found out I’m in The Spine 2016! Really looking forwards to doing it all again & hopefully a bit faster this time. Although not to fast as to make it miserable, I do like to take it all in and enjoy the journey. Finishing this beast is enough, I’m not going for any records.

Happy Running! . . . . . .

 

 

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Hardmoors 110 Ultra

by on Jun.04, 2012, under Race Reports

What a day, lost my car in the center of Manchester & had to carry Miles for 3 hours with Ruby & Scarlett in tow down what seemed like every side road looking for it. We even had the police & traffic wardens looking. When I asked a policeman if he could help he said “hang on a second while I get the special car finding kit from the back of the patrol car” very bloody droll!

Found it when one of the traffic wardens said he’d put a ticket on a silver Range Rover, 2 miles away! He said he’d never seen anyone cheer when they got a ticket before. By the time we’d walked the last 2 miles I was exhausted.

We got back late & had to drive the 150 miles to the start of the Hardmoors 110. On the way I realized I’d left my hydration bladder at home & had to run round town looking for a shop. The first 2 shops were out of stock but luckily the last one had them. We eventually made it to the start of the race an hour late.

At the 50 mile point my watch gave up, I forgot to charge it before the start & didn’t know how far I was from each checkpoint. Finished the 110 mile race so tired I’d forgotten why I was there, near the end.

I’m not going to do a race report as they’re done by so many now it’s a bit boring. The main points of the race are, it’s very beautiful & scenic with about 18,000ft of climbing, the first half is up & down hills & the second along a stunning coastal route. I didn’t count the steps but it must be in the thousands. One point alone has 200. If you like a challenge this could be your race. I’d say it’s on a par with the Lakeland 100 as far as difficulty goes.

Very well organized by Jon & the team who did a fantastic job of making sure we all got round safely.

 

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Race Report “Montane Lakeland 100” 23rd-25th July 2010

by on Jan.22, 2012, under Race Reports

The organizers of this race wanted it to be directly comparable with the  Ultra Tour du Mont-Blanc® hence the actual distance of 104 miles. I got to the  race start point at John Ruskin school about 2 hours before the off & met Neil Bryant & Steve Gordon, friends from JOGLE.

Medal

The race organizers gave us a very detailed map & a road book (all waterproof) and we all had to attend a pre race briefing before we were allowed to start. This included a talk by running legend Joss Naylor MBE. He talked about some of his running achievements including running 84 miles in around 9 hours off road! We also got a very nice Montane technical t-shirt before the start of the race which was at 5:30pm on Friday. The race used the “Si system” to check into each of the 14 points along the route, so we had accurate timings for all our CP’s.

As we lined up for the start I suddenly realized I hadn’t dibbed in my timing chip before we set off so I had to go right to the back of the line-up and dib in, great start. As the race started we slowly made our way out onto the road and up the first hill. This first section included 2,100 feet of climbing and a 1,950 decent. I ran the first 15 miles with Neil & we chatted about previous ultras we’d done together. We soon reached the first checkpoint at Seathwaite village hall, filled our water up & went on our way, food in hand. I try not to spend any time at the checkpoints as later on you can get tempted into staying too long.

The next section was Seathwaite to Boot with a climb of 1,165 feet & descending 1,345 feet. I soon found out that each section of about 6+ miles was to be like a fell race. The weather was good on the first day with no rain and quite warm. I stayed with Neil for about 15 miles & then settled into my own pace. Before long I’d reached CP 3 at Wasdale Head just as the light had started to fail, I decided this would be a good time to break out my head torch just before the next climb of 2,437 feet up Wasdale Head followed by a 2,306 foot decent. I also put on another Buff to keep my neck warm as it was starting to get a bit chilly despite all the climbing. This was a hot food CP also so I had some soup to keep me warm. On the way up Wasdale head we spotted a few fireflies flying round the ferns, I’d never seen them before. It seemed like quite a climb to the top maybe it was the dark or just staring at the pool of light from my head-torch but it seemed to take a long time to reach the top. I was glad to see the next CP 4 at the village hall in Buttermere, as I approached the door I got a cheer from the support team which was nice. On the inside we could have some more soup & a roll, I just had some soup and re-filled my water pack. On my way out I could hear a runner telling the organizers he’s had enough & wanted to quit, it was going to be a long night. I’d now covered almost a marathon, 25 miles done & only 79 miles to go!

The next section was Buttermere to Braithwaite which would be another 2,440ft climb & 2,539ft decent. By this time I’d been running on my own for a few hours & was glad to catch up to 3 runners ahead I said “Hi” but they didn’t answer, they looked very tired as we ran up yet another mountain. I tucked in behind as the path we were on was very narrow with a very big drop down one side and a steep climb on the other. The path was covered with ferns and you couldn’t see the stones underneath, the guy in front of me kept tripping up and falling. I was worried he may fall down the drop but somehow he always managed to miss it. After a while they moved over and let me pass, the guy in front said they were all falling asleep! I could see some more runners up ahead & thought I’d see if I could catch them. As I got nearer I realized I’d not looked at my SatMap for a while & decided to check I was still on the right path, I wasn’t! I’d been too busy trying to catch the others I’d forgot to check my course. I was only a few hundred yards off where I should have been but it almost ended my race. I’d come to a very steep section of rock and ran halfway down towards the other runners when I realized my mistake. This meant having to retrace my steps back up in the dark, it was very hard to get my head around having to climb another 1,000 feet for nothing. As I reached the top again I saw another runner who pointed to the runners on the other side of the river & said he doubted they’d make the next checkpoint in time & were probably out of the race. That was a close one, we ran together to CP 5 at Braithwaite & chatted on the way. This was nice as it had been a while since I’d spoken to anyone. Eventually we reached Braithwaite at 33 miles, this was one of the better checkpoints and they had biscuits, coffee, tea, rice pudding etc. I filled up and set off again just as dawn broke, it’s always nice when you see the sun starting to rise on a new day.

On my way to CP 6 Blencathra at 42 miles it came light & my thoughts turned to how long I still had to run, it was difficult to think I still had another full day & night to go in this race! I ran alone again for a few hours before seeing anyone. This is when things can start to go downhill mentally as your left alone with your thoughts. As I approached yet another mountain climb I saw 2 runners up ahead, they stopped for a while as I ran past and we exchanged a few words. As the hill got steeper we passed each other a few more times. Just as I thought I’d got passed they sped up & passed me again. We were running at a very similar pace so I tagged along. As it happens this was a good move, Nigel had done the 100 the previous year & Hannah the 50 so they both had a good idea of the rout. As we chatted I discovered Nigel lived only about 6 miles from me. They both had lots of experience in various ultras so knew what to expect. The next section of the course was past Lonscale fell which was a horseshoe shaped trail around a river, you could see the other side only a few hundred yards away but because of the river in between we had to run another few miles to get to the other side. As we looked back we didn’t see any other runners which seemed strange as we left quite a few at the last checkpoint. We made our way round looking back now & again & still nobody behind. Just around the corner & on our way down the hill we saw a photographer who was taking pictures of the runners, I was glad to see him as it just confirmed we were on the right path. We reached the bottom of the hill & just around the corner was checkpoint 7 at Dockray we’d now run 49 miles. We all had some Soreen and filled up our water and set off for CP 8 at Dalemain.

Nice tech T-shirt

I was looking forward to CP 8 as it was about half way through the race & I could change my socks & trainers. By this time it was getting very hot and my feet felt quite wet from all the water the night before. The skin on my feet had gone soft & I could feel a big blister on my right foot just under my big toe. As we reached the long driveway up to the tent at Dalemain, I stood on a large rock and as my foot slid off it the skin covering a large blister came off. I could feel it throbbing through my sock, running on bare skin was painful but I knew I could change into some fresh socks in a few hundred yards. I had a drop bag with some clothes, socks & my own food which I filled my rucksack with. When I removed my trainers I found my feet weren’t as bad as I’d thought, I put some antiseptic cream on & new socks and felt much better. Most of the runners around me said they were having foot problems with all the water. I sat on a massage table to eat a bowl of pasta & Pete & Andrew came into the tent to ask me how I was doing, they were doing the 50 miler which started at Dalemain. It was nice to see a couple of familiar faces. We chatted for a few minutes before me, Nigel & Hannah set off again. It was great to be running with someone as the time passed much quicker. As we ran across the fields away from Dalemain we picked out a few 50 milers & decided to catch them. My feet felt much better now and I could start to allow myself to think of the finish.

We ran together for quite a few miles & as we ran it started to rain. I couldn’t be bothered to put my full weather gear on so it got very cold. The good side to this was that my stuff started drying as soon as the rain let off a bit. The last part of the race was almost totally wet & windy but I was almost 75 miles in by now and just kept going. We noticed that Nigel had gone quiet & he said he was nauseous & couldn’t get any food down, at this stage that’s never a good thing but he seemed to get over it and started feeling better after eating something.

At around 90 miles I decided to part company & carry on alone. I sometimes feel the best way to get to the finish is to be on my own.  It was sad to part company with Nigel & Hannah but I was going through a bad patch & needed to be alone. I picked up a couple of runners as I started to feel better & we chatted as we ran the last few checkpoints to the finish. As I ran the last mile I asked a lady which way the finish was (my usual rubbish navigation) and she said she would show me! She ran about half a mile with me & pointed to the finish. I got back in 37:46, which I was happy with considering the other big races I’d done just before the Lakeland 100. When I got back my Forerunner said 104 miles which after asking around a few other runners seemed to be right. Lakeland 104 doesn’t trip off the tongue as easy though so maybe they shortened it a little! At the finish they weighed us and I’d lost 2lbs, I wouldn’t recommend it as a diet though. If your thinking of doing this race you don’t need to run it in full on trail shoes, I used trail shoes for the first 50 miles (blistered) then Brooks Adrenaline for the last 54 miles. Some runners did the whole race in road shoes which I would do if I do it again.

Overall this was a very well organized race with the right food & plenty of it at each checkpoint, the checkpoints are maned by runners from local clubs so they have a good idea what your going through. I would recommend this race to anyone looking for a good challenge without going to the extremes. A very doable race & mostly on good paths & trails. Just make sure you take a good head torch for the night sections.

Happy Running!

 

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Race Report “450 Miles of JOGLE” April 30th – 7th May 2010

by on Aug.06, 2010, under Race Reports

this is how we all looked before the start

Well its taken me a long time to get my head around writing this report, not because I’m sad about how far I got but because of how emotional it all was. I think everyone involved with this race/run shed at least a tear or two at some point, I know I did. It all started for me a few months before when I completed all the training runs. The first run gave me an insight on how hard this was going to be, after the the first day I was completely exhausted & didn’t think I could do the second day! I got out of bed & was so stiff & sore it felt like I’d been hit by a train. This was a wakeup call & made me realise how much training I needed to do. Over the next few weeks I increased my mileage to 180 miles a week plus loads of gym work. I also did every ultra I could in the lead up to JOGLE just to build up some mental strength.

I was the last one to board the sleeper coach which was to be our home for the next few days & had already met most of my fellow runners on training weekends or in other ultras over the past few months. By this time we were all quite experienced ultra runners but none of us had done anything of this scale before. Most ultra distance races are over a single day or a couple of days but to run this kind of mileage over and over again would be something new to us all.

John O'Groats 2010

Just before the race I was lucky enough to get sponsorship from Hilly Clothing who supplied all my socks for the event & Soreen my favourite energy food & Buff Headwear and for energy drinks I also got Science in Sport who are local to me. This was great as it covered some of my expenses & as I already used all of them in my training runs I was familiar with them & knew they worked, this is good as you don’t want to be finding out you don’t like something after the first day!

Chris who I met on a mountain in Scotland doing JOGLE on his bike

As we all lined up on the start of the first day I cant help feeling we were all unaware of the way we would feel over the next few days. The first day was quite an easy day as we were all fresh & running on adrenalin for the most part. I did worry on the night before as I’d had a problem with my right knee, I fell on it in training and this caused my kneecap to rub on my femur. I’d been having intensive physiotherapy on it over the previous weeks with  Amjad Butt who had done a great deal of work with me in getting my knee ready but who advised me to rest for at least another 4 weeks. This I couldn’t do so I just had to risk it. The night before the race started I had a quick jog down the road at John O’Groats & my knee just felt wrong. I would either be out of the race before the first mile or it would be OK, I wouldn’t know for sure until the start! I managed to make it through the first day & ran 63 miles without injury & in pretty good shape, the next day I woke up & was very stiff & sore but felt OK to carry on, after all we only had 58 miles to run today!

what hills?

We all set off to meet the support van every 10 miles along the rout. As I reached the van at the first checkpoint I saw someone sat in the passenger seat, it was Joe who had picked up an injury on the first day & her foot had not healed overnight. We all felt sad when someone left & it never got any easier. The A9 was a hard road to run down, the traffic was showing us no mercy. With 28 miles to go, Justin was now feeling crippling pains in his feet. We had run together all the first day & now Justin was feeling the miles. Later that day I approached the support van & Justin was out. Because we had run so far together I really felt it when Justin left as I knew the days were going to be a lot lonelier without his company & humour. Annette and Graham were also beaten by the miles today, this made me wonder who would be next?

I had 54 miles to run on the third day & felt terrible, it just seemed to take forever. The hills were taking their toll on me & I was feeling the pain. Me and Bethany ran together & as the day went on it became apparent she was in pain with her back. At the checkpoint Rory looked in her pack and decided she may not need all the things she was carrying such as spare head-torch batteries in the daytime! She emptied a load of weight from her backpack & we carried on together. She was in great pain & I felt useless as there was nothing I could do to help. I didn’t want to leave Bethany on her own as I knew how hard it was keeping going alone & trying to keep yourself motivated in such pain. Amazingly Bethany managed to walk the 9 miles back to Spean Bridge. Smithy was also having a bad day with severe shin splints. He had gone industrial with the pain killers & managed to make the end of day 3 in one piece.

ah Soreen!

Day 4 was 55 miles & we were all suffering in our own ways, Bethany was still in severe pain from day 3 & wisely decided to call it a day. She had been up all night & couldn’t sleep in her bunk as she was in agony with her back. I set off with Smithy who was by now keeping the workforce at Voltarol in overtime. It was a very cold misty start to the day & it took us a while to get to the first checkpoint. Steve was also having trouble & was in pain from the start of day 4 & unfortunately didn’t make the end of the day, we were all beginning to wonder if anyone would make the finish! Even Rob who led the race was in trouble with his right ankle tendon gone & limping badly. As I reached another checkpoint Rory told me Smithy who I ran with earlier in the day was out. I’d miss his dry sense of humour which had kept me going at the start of the day. He said he was the the token Southern softy in a race full of hard as nails northerners, I think it was humour in the face of adversity which was keeping most of us going by this time.

land of the giants 🙂

Day 5 & 57 miles, Rob was in such pain he didn’t start today. I think we all realised early on that if Rob had made the end without injury the rest of use would have been left in his wake. I was sad to see the big man go.

By this time we had started to find ways of adapting to the hardship & one of the things we learned was how to find ways to go to the loo whilst on the road! We couldn’t use the loo on the coach so everyday had to find somewhere to go. We were consuming massive quantity’s of food & needed to go a few times a day. We found one of the best things to use was a car tyre wedged between two stones! I also found that as we ran along lots of dual carriageways cones turned upside-down made a great mobile toilet (sorry road-workers!).

the road is long

new trainers after 3 days of JOGLE

bad ankle day

Day 6 & 58 miles By this time everything hurt like hell! Every day we would set off in pain & know it could only get worse. The days would seem to last forever & getting to the next checkpoint was all I could think about. I’d run almost 290 miles now & Rory said I looked in the best shape, this made me wonder what state the other three were in? Mark was still suffering with severe shin pain which he’d had for days, how was he keeping going? Dave had pain in his feet & Neil was struggling with ankle pain, I had swelling in my lower legs from being on my feet so long. At every chance I got I put my legs up to try to drain some blood from my swelling feet. I ran with Mark today & somehow we both decided after consulting our Google maps that the right way to go from a roundabout was onto the M74! As we made our way along the hard shoulder a truck came up behind us with bright yellow flashing lights and Mark said he thought he saw lights flashing on the road in front of us, I looked back & saw a truck was following us and the driver was telling us to get off the motorway! We didn’t know what to do as we were so tired the thought of going back was a none starter so we just carried on & ignored it. After a while we found a place where we could climb over a wall and get off the motorway so we did, straight onto some private land, a security guy started shouting to us from his hut & again we decided to ignore it & carry on. A few minutes later the police turned up! They took our names & addresses & were about to take us in when we decided to tell them we were running for a famous cancer charity. On mentioning this everything changed & they decided to give us a lift to where we were supposed to be on the other side of the motorway! By this time it was getting dark & we met up with Rory & Jen who had a good laugh at our expense. The next few miles to the end of the day & the coach seemed to take ages but we made it.

Day 7 & 58 miles. By the end of today I would run 406 miles, I felt good & keen to get started on the day. Rory told me I needed to stop talking to passers by & get on with it. No more f***ing around! It went well today & I made it through another day without injury. Everything hurt like hell but the swelling in my feet had gone down a bit which was a bonus. It got harder & harder to find something that made me want to eat but that was a daily struggle, at first sweet things taste great but after you’ve eaten them for days you begin to crave just savoury things.

Day 8 & 60 miles. I didn’t know it yet but this was to be my last day of JOGLE 2010. I set off & felt OK to say I’d run almost 450 miles. As I passed some roadworks the workmen shouted to me “didn’t we see you yesterday in Carlisle?” yes I said “have you run all this way” yes I said & they started to clap as I ran past. This spurred me on when I felt low, it was things like this which kept us going at the bad times. I had a bad patch on the way up the Shap later on that day & a cyclist shouted to me ” you look like you need a brew mate!” he had a cottage on the other side of the Shap & said if I stopped he would make me a brew. He did and gave me some loo roll which was great. I was so tired I was falling asleep & the coffee woke me up.

I wasn’t beaten by the clock but by the map! I took a wrong turning at a roundabout and ended up running about 16 miles in the wrong direction, if my iPhone had been with me I would have been fine, I’d been using it for navigation most of the way. When Rory told me I was out I’d done 45 miles on my Forerunner so would have only had 15 miles to go to the finish. I feel this could easily have been done as I was going well with no injury and absolutely gutted to have to stop.

the end

I’d just like to say of my fellow runners, every one of you are fantastic, I cried most days when I was running alone, not because of the pain but because I’d never seen such bravery in people before. We all went through so much pain & suffering it would have put most people out after the first few miles in Scotland. I met some fantastic characters who’s humour lifted all our spirits & made me cry with laughter daily. It was a very emotional run that’s for sure! However for me the biggest pain was being separated from my wonderful family who supported me through all my miles of training leading up to the run and the run itself.

We all thought we’d lose loads of weight, I heard two stone mentioned. I lost one pound, so wouldn’t recommend the JOGLE diet! My body fat % went from 12% to 7% though! This one is going to be filed under unfinished business and after seeing how well I recover . . . . . maybe. I’d just like to mention my fellow runners who finished JOGLE in 2010,  Mark Cockbain is an absolute star & showed immense courage carrying on with severe injury, a true legend in the ultra running world for good reason. David Miles who’s humour kept us going when things got tough & always has a smile for everyone & Neil Bryant my friend from the Ridgeway who can push on no matter what injury he has & is always extremely positive in adversity. I’m sure the Bryant family are very proud of their son. Your all winners & made it to the end!

Happy Running!

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Race Report “John O’Groats to Lands End” April 30th 2010

by on Jul.26, 2010, under Race Reports

My aim this year is to complete as many marathons & ultra distance events as possible in the lead up to my attempt on the John O’Groats to Lands End ultra run on April 30th 2010. I’ll be running all 867 miles in 15 days with daily mileages ranging from 50 up to 63.

Below is a list of the mileages & Google maps for every day & where I’ll be starting & finishing.

Day Map Link Distance Total From To
Thurs 29-Apr Travel
1 Fri 30-Apr 63.7 Miles 63.7 John O’Groats Brora
2 Sat 01-May 58.5 Miles 122.2 Brora Beauly
3 Sun 02-May 54.5 Miles 176.7 Beauly Spean Bridge
4 Mon 03-May 55.8 Miles 232.5 Spean Bridge Tyndrum
5 Tues 04-May 57.7 Miles 290.2 Tyndrum Paisley
6 Weds 05-May 58.2 Miles 348.4 Paisley Moffat
7 Thurs 06-May 58.4 Miles 406.8 Moffat Penrith
8 Fri 07-May 60.1 Miles 466.9 Penrith Garstang
9 Sat 08-May 58.4 Miles 525.3 Garstang Tarporley
10 Sun 09-May 63.3 Miles 588.6 Tarporley Ludlow
11 Mon 10-May 61.4 Miles 650 Ludlow Severn Bridge
12 Tues 11-May 56.9 Miles 706.9 Severn Bridge Taunton
13 Weds 12-May 51.6 Miles 758.5 Taunton Okehampton
14 Thurs 13-May 54.5 Miles 813 Okehampton St Austell
15 Fri 14-May 54.9 Miles 867.9 St Austell Lands End
Sat 15-May Travel Home
867.9 Miles

the end of day one Wigmore to Severn Bridge 58 miles JOGLE training weekend

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Race Report “Thames Trot, The Boat Race 50 Mile Ultra” 6th February 2010

by on Feb.06, 2010, under Race Reports

it was early!

This was to be my 2nd ultra in 2010 & also a qualifying race for The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc®. As such I was expecting quit a tough race. I got to the hotel the night before the race & realised I’d forgotten one of the most important bits of my kit, my head torch! My wife Sam said she’s get one and somehow get it to me before it went dark. We arrived in Oxford at the Prince of Wales Pub in plenty of time to register & sort out my kit ready for the off. I talked with some of my friends from the Lands End to John O’Groats team who were also using this race as a training run. We heard two runners had done the full 50 mile course the night before just to reach the start! I started at the very back of the field this time just to make sure I didn’t get caught up in the race for the front. I needed to pace myself, this was just a training run.

race number & medal

We ran down the main street of Iffley and over the locks leading to the Thames path. The first bridge we came to felt like it would break under the strain of all the runners & bounced up & down as we crossed. I was surprised how narrow the Thames was at this point, not much wider than a canal. As the inevitable fast start passed we started to settle into a pace for the rest of the course. About a mile in I met one of the runners who had run the course the night before and asked him how he felt, I can’t repeat what he said but he looked very tired! He also looked very muddy & I asked him if the course was very wet later as we had lots of rain the previous days before the race. He said it was muddy with just a few wet patches.

I’d taken two pairs of trainers for this run, my favourite off road shoe the Saucony Grid Jazz 12 & my proffered road shoe the Brooks Adrenalin GTS. It’s always hard to know weather to go for a road shoe or a trail shoe, if you wear a road shoe it can mean slipping about in the muddy sections but having better support. If you wear trail shoes the mud can clog the tread and you end up with a huge clump of mud on your feet. It soon became obvious it would be the latter!

As we made our way along the Thames the mud got thicker and thicker, we ran through a very wet field about 2 miles into the race which meant giving up on having dry feet for the rest of the race. I’ve never run such a muddy course, it stuck to the tread on your trainers, then when you ran through a stony section the stones stuck to the mud and made it tough going even on the rare road sections.

nice tech t shirt with Thames Trot Ultra logo

I passed checkpoint 1 Culham Lock at 10 miles feeling quite fresh and ready for the next section. At CP 2 Benson Waterfront which was 19 miles into the race I was feeling very hungry & knew the organisers had provided the famous fruit cake which I like, as I got to the CP I could see quit a crowd & decided to quickly fill my Camelback with water & grab some food to make up a few places. Just as I finished filling my water I looked over to the aid station food table & noticed only 1 big piece of fruit cake was left! I grabbed it & some jelly babies and set off for the next CP at mile 27, Streatley-on-Thames. As soon as the cake hit my stomach I felt better & managed to stay on pace for the next few miles until CP 4 which was Mapledurham at 36 miles. By this time I was getting a bit worried that I may not have a torch for the last few miles which were tricky in the dark because of mud and the fact we were running along the Thames. I’d left the CP at Mapledurham & started running through the village which was one of the last places I could have met my support crew & got the new head torch. Just as I thought it was too late I saw a people carrier in the distance and it was Sam, she handed me the torch through the window as I ran past. It’s at times like these you really need a good support crew who can work out where you’ll be at a given time.

When I got to CP 5 at Sonning I could feel myself tiring and was again ready for some food, this time it was meat pies and energy bars. Just as I got back onto the Thames path I could see 3 swans in the distance, as I ran towards them they started to take off. I never noticed before how big they are & how long it takes them to get off the ground. They flew past me & I could hear their wings flapping. It was a beautiful picture seeing them fly off just as the sun was setting.

As I ran along I heard someone behind me, it was another runner who was struggling a bit with shin splints. We chatted for a while and as it got darker I put on my head torch. Soon I was on my own again & thinking about the finish. It got very cold as it went dark & the sweat on my clothes felt cold against my skin.

I glanced down at my Forerunner & it said I’d run 47 miles. Only 3 more miles to go & I could rest. The path which we ran along got very narrow and at one point I was very glad I had a head torch, the path had crumbled away and it was hard to see where you were going. With about one mile to go we came onto a tarmac path and one of the marshals told me to run for where the lights were. I ran up the path and through the finish to collect my t-shirt & medal & some very welcome food and a nice hot cup of coffee. I thanked the organiser for what had been a very scenic & enjoyable race and made my way to the car for the 200+ miles drive back home.

Medal 2010

Happy Running!

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Race Report “Country to Capital 45 Mile Ultra” Saturday 16th January 2010

by on Jan.18, 2010, under Race Reports

the finish of the country to capital 45 mile ultra 2010

This was to be my first time running the Country to Capital 45 mile ultra. The race starts from Wendover, Aylesbury to Little Venice in London. We arrived at Premier Inn, Hemel Hempstead the night before and from there made our way to the start at 8:30am. I wasn’t hoping for a great time on this one, just to make the finish comfortably & without injury. I’d taken 3 weeks rest from my normal training schedule just to get some mental & physical rest from the constant training over the past few months. I’d also overindulged at Christmas & somehow managed to put on 2 stone! Probably due to eating the same as usual & doing very little training because of the snow. I did however manage to put in 3 x 10 mile runs and one 22 miler (not much fun on ice) before the race which together with the fitness carried over would have to be enough.

As we set off I could feel the extra weight straight away, just didn’t feel as good as usual. I talked for the first mile or so with my fellow JOGLE’ers Neil Bryant, Mark Cockbain & Robert Treadwell then settled into my stride. I decided to go a little slower than usual just to make sure I finished & before the cut-off time. I had in mind a time of around 10 hours as the following weekend I’d be doing another 90 miles, 2 x 45 mile ultras on Saturday and Sunday.

Luckily the rain had washed most of the snow from the course which just left a few stubborn pockets of ice here & there, it was however very muddy and wet. I always try to keep my feet dry on long runs as they tend to go soft and blister more easily. On this occasion however this proved to be impossible. At one point we had to wade through freezing water over a foot deep.

Just before the first checkpoint at Chesham the group of runners I was with got lost. When we reached the road to ask a local if he’d seen any runners with numbers on he said yes, but they were going in the opposite direction! We were all given maps to navigate the course which many runners (myself included) thought were printed on water proof paper. The first time I needed the map I discovered it wasn’t & had turned to mush in my pocket! Luckily my SatMap was with me and I found my way back on to the right track. It was so wet even the stuff which is normally kept dry by my Camelback was wet through. Just before checkpoint 2 at Horn Hill I decided to take my coat off as it was so wet inside it just couldn’t get any wetter.

The runners had already started to thin out and I was running on my own again. My main aim was to make it to The Grand Union Canal without getting too lost as it was just a case of following it to Little Venice & the finish. Looking down at my new Garmin Forerunner to see how many miles I’d done I was surprised to see only 7 miles! This cant be right, something had gone wrong. I kept an eye on it for a couple of miles & it stayed at 7 miles. Pressing every button on it whilst running on mud was not the easiest thing in the world & didn’t seem to make any difference to the mileage. I tried to turn it off but it wouldn’t go off either! I decided to just leave it and use my SatMap to record my miles.

all finishers got a nice tech t-shirt

tech t-shirt (back)

The next checkpoint was 3 at Cowley Peachy, I was looking forward to this one as it would be savouries to eat instead of the jelly babies & fruit cake of the other checkpoints. Another reason to look forward to this CP was it was the first one on the canal. As I approached I could see some of the runners who had passed me earlier. It must have looked quite strange to anyone passing by to see so many runners huddled together under a bridge eating cake & meat pies. It seemed to raise our spirits having some food and a bit of company for a few minutes. I had been unwell the night before & had lost my appetite but as the race went on it came back. I stopped under the canal bridge for just long enough to eat a meat pie & some fruit cake washed down with a bottle of Lucozade sport. Never been a big fan of jelly babies but I put a few in my pocket for later, just in case. As I reached round for my pocket I noticed my Garmin had started working again, maybe it was the cold or wet but it’s been OK since.

country to capital medal 2010

It felt good to be on the canal & not to have to worry about navigation, I settled down and started to enjoy the run a bit more. I was surprised how many Herons stood on the tow-path, as I ran by they didn’t even try to fly away. They seemed tame compared to the ones where I live.

The next CP was Greenford & yet more fruit cake & jelly babies, I was starting to like the fruit cake and had 4 pieces. Filled my Camelback with water & set off for the next checkpoint. Leaving behind most of the runners who passed me earlier felt good but it was to be short lived! I thought I heard someone running behind me & when I looked around it was three of the runners I’d left at Greenford CP. They passed me in quick succession, asking me how I was. I said fine & they went on their way. A couple of miles down the path they were walking & I asked how they were. Just after I passed them they started running and caught me again, passing me and off into the distance again. Two miles down the path they were in sight again, walking. As I ran passed they told me they were on a run walk strategy. We caught & passed each other a few more times until it started to break my concentration. Everyone who’s ever run long distance knows how this constant overtaking and slowing can wear you down. I decided this time I wanted to pass & make it stick! I picked up my pace and caught up but when they started running to catch me I kept going just a fraction faster. Just enough to stay in front, but in the back of my mind I knew this was not a good idea for my race overall. It’s easy to crash and have to walk or not finish at all by going just a bit too fast. This time though I got away with it & left them behind.

not too bad for 45 miles in the wet, no blisters!

I reached CP 5 Alperton about 30 minutes ahead of my planned time due to speeding up. More fruit cake & water and some chocolate this time, don’t know if it’s psychological or not but chocolate always seems to lift my spirits. Just as I was closing the top on my water bottle I saw some runners rounding the corner, it was the three from before! I quickly gathered my things together and set off fastening my buckles on my pack as I ran.

By this time it was starting to get dark & I could see in the distance the three head torches. I’d been doing the same pace for miles, they must have speeded up! For one last time I increased my pace slightly, just enough to maintain the gap. It was now getting too dark to run without my head torch so I put it on as I ran so as not to lose any time.

I started looking for the finish, not sure how many miles I’d run because of the problem with my Forerunner earlier. It said I’d run 38 and I added this to the 10 miles I thought the GPS had missed to give me around 48 so the finish must be near allowing for a few wrong turns. As I rounded the corner I saw in the distance the flag with the GoBeyond logo and started sprinting just in case anyone was in within range! I finished in 8:58:58 a full hour under my predicted time, result!

Happy Running!

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Race Report “Snowdonia Marathon” 24th October 2009

by on Oct.25, 2009, under Race Reports

Snowdon Marathon coaster 2009

Snowdon Marathon coaster 2009

This was to be my second running of the Snowdonia marathon, the first time was back in 2004 my first full year of running. Back then I did it in 03:48:35, this time it was more a training run and the end of a hard weeks running and gym work. The day before was my spin class & a static rowing class after that, this was still in my legs.

Llanberis Pass in the rain 2009

Llanberis Pass in the rain 2009

We set off for Wales at about 5am and arrived at a very rainy Llanberis for 7:30am. The bus which takes you to the start was running late so the race was about 30 minutes late starting. As we queued for the bus it started getting really windy and poured down the whole time. Some of the runners had just a cotton t-shirt and shorts, the t-shirts were so wet you could see through them. I was glad to be wearing my Marmot running jacket & a nice warm cap under the hood and some gloves! Most of us were freezing by the time the bus came having waited about 45 minutes in the pouring rain.

This was the 27th running of the Snowdonia marathon & it’s one of the most scenic races in the UK. Once we got under way the cold and rain was largely forgotten as we made our way up Llanberis pass and took in some of the most spectacular views of any marathon. They say you should never look at the white house at the top of Llanberis as it never seems to get any nearer.

It was so windy the water was blowing back up the waterfalls and up over the mountain! As we reached the top a group of walkers had gathered to cheer us on. The course then starts it’s long decent to the right turn at the bottom of the mountain. This is where you get a chance to see the mountains in the distance and it’s well worth doing the marathon for this alone.

Snowdon Marathon T-shirt 2009 (front)

Snowdon Marathon T-shirt 2009 (front)

Some say it’s the hardest marathon in Europe. I’m not sure about that but it is challenging especially if the weather turns bad. Most of the course is exposed to the full force of the wind and the descents as much as the accents mean your calf’s and quads get a good workout! My Forerunner recorded an elevation gain of 1,613 meters with a total elevation loss of 1,611 meters, this might not sound like much but it’s where it is that makes all the difference. Once we reached the top of Llanberis just before mile 4 it’s a pretty steep decent down to just before mile 8 and then undulating for another 4 miles then another accent just after12 miles until 15 miles.

As I’d done Snowdon before I knew what to expect at mile 21, depending on weather like hills or not you’ll either love the next bit or hate it. Most of the runs from my house are uphill so I loved it. As I turned the corner and saw the road winding it’s way up the side of the mountain I thought this would be a good chance to make up a few places. Most of the runners were walking up the hill, as I passed them I could see someone running up ahead and decided to try to catch her up. As I reached her I said well done & she told me she used to be a local and knew the hill well. We both made it to the top without stopping and as I reached the off-road section I looked back and she was maybe 50 yards behind me. I tried to stay in front but just as we started the long decent she sped past going very strong. I said well done and she was off into the distance, girl power!

Snowdon Marathon T-shirt 2009 (back)

Snowdon Marathon T-shirt 2009 (back)

On the way down I could hear people wincing at the pain in their legs, you’d think it would be a nice relief running down hill after all the hills but quite the opposite. The pain in your quads is excruciating & the mud underfoot makes the downhill treacherous. The good news is they changed the course from last time I did it, missing out the run around the town. The new rout now takes you round a country lane and then onto the main road for the finish. The support along the final stretch was great. I felt strong all the way to the end and even managed a sprint finish, that’s me in the white cap in the video. We got the usual (for this race) piece of slate made into a coaster, a nice memento of this unique marathon. The race is now chipped which is nice as you get a very accurate time. The drinks stations had a choice of water and energy drinks with the later stations having energy bars also. You get a nice t-shirt (see pictures) and an energy gel for on the way round.

View from the top of the hill at 24 miles

View from the top of the hill at 24 miles

The lights were out in the hall at the end of the race which made it difficult to find your supporters however the organisers did a sterling job of making everyone a drink & biscuits. Overall with most marathons these days creeping up to £30-£50 this one is good value at £23! I would certainly do it again and can recommend it as a good challenging run. Its a great marathon & one which seems to get bigger every year, with good reason. The scenery is breathtaking & the supporters along the rout are friendly and even bring out food for the runners.

Entry Fee: £23.00 (affiliated) or £25.00 (Unaffiliated)

Download course map

Download course profile

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