Shuffling Along . . . . .

Run fat boy run!

by on Apr.16, 2011, under Blog

I’ve been very busy recently with my day job as a property developer; this is a great time for us to take advantage of the falling market. I’ve not done ANY running at all for at least 5 months other than a very slow 5 miles off road. This along with eating as I did when running ultras has meant my weight increasing from 11st 4lbs to 13st 7lbs! Yes the belly has got me. I look at this in a positive way though, I think not running for a few months has made me look at my fitness in a new way & also given me a rest mentally which after last year can only be a good thing.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m now looking for new goals with the ultimate aim of completing JOGLE in 2012. I’ve got some new ideas which I’ve had time to think about during my rest & am looking forward to putting them into practice. At the end of last year I got a Kurt Kinetic spin trainer (review soon) for my bike which should get the pounds off fast. I used a spin bike last year in my training for longer ultras & it seemed to work well. It’s a good idea to use none impact exercise when possible if you’re doing lots of road miles, gives the joints a bit of time to recover from the constant pounding.

We also moved house this year which is always fun. I’m looking forward to running some new trails from here, it’s just a few yards to the local park and up onto the moors.

That’s all for now, 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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Driving to Slovakia

by on Aug.05, 2010, under Blog

Just got to England after driving to Slovakia to see my son Alex get married to Vladka. It was an epic drive through France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Slovakia & Austria all in a week. We drove a total of 3,500 miles which was a bit of a driving ultra! We really noticed the difference between driving in the UK and driving on the continent. Most of Europe we drove at 70-90MPH on some great roads & only got stopped by one traffic jam for 10 minutes in around 2,200 miles! Back in England the traffic crawled along at 50MPH through endless cones & roadworks with nobody working on them. 

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Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra £80.95

by on Jul.26, 2010, under Kit Reviews

I was recently sent a pair of Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra shoes to test from Fitness Footwear & as I’d already entered the Lakeland 100 thought this would be the greatest test for a pair of trail shoes.

Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra

I’d done a recce of the race in a pair of Saucony ProGrid Jazz 12 TR the week earlier & the soles tore off in places due to the large amount of sharp stones on the course. All shoes are a compromise in some way between being hard and lasting longer or soft & wearing out quicker. The XA Pro has a hard sole which adds good stability & pronation control by using triple density EVA. They don’t have the deep tread pattern of a full fell shoe but more of an aggressive road shoe. Salomon have also incorporated some great technology into the XA Pro, I like the lacing system which you can just pull to tighten or slacken & then tuck into a small pocket which is built into the tong. This stops the annoying problem of laces catching on things and coming loose which is not what you want when your feet are covered in mud and wet through! They also have a loop on the back which is big enough to put your finger in to pull them on, I found this useful when at 50 miles into the race I changed my socks & the shoes were muddy. Salomon also do a Gore-Tex version of the XA Pro called the Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra GTX exactly the same shoe but with a Gore-Tex upper. The front of the XA Pro has a hard rubber toecap which protects your feet if you stumble or kick any rocks, I seemed to be tripping over large stones quite a lot on the two night sections of the UTLD 100 & made good use of this. Nothing broke on the 104 continuous miles of my race & my feet are in pretty good shape. So overall I liked the Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra a good solid shoe which should last well.

What’s Good?

Lacing system with pocket

Loop in the back

Good stability

Hard wearing

What’s Bad?

If you have wide feet you may need the M+ which is wider

Overall 4/5

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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1 day before JOGLE 2010

by on Apr.29, 2010, under Blog

We drove to Lossiemouth beach today and collected shells with the children. It’s a fantastic beach which is popular with the local surfing community. It’s been really warm and sunny & I’m sure looking back on some of the nice things we did today will help me stay strong when things get tough over the jogle fortnight.
It’s been another very long day and it’s not over yet, I’m writing this blog post at 2:30am. Earlier on today we had a large box of goodies delivered from my sponsors Buff UK, they did a fantastic job getting the parcel delivered to my hotel room in Scotland and a day early. They sent me some shorts, t-shirt, loads of great Buff head wear, socks, tattoo’s, stickers etc. The new designs are really nice, I love the new peak Buff’s which are a lot more comfortable than a cap & pack very small. I’ll do a review on all this gear once it’s had a thorough test over 870 miles in all weathers. I’ll also be testing some gear I got from Brooks. Some of the clothing you see getting good reviews falls to bits during ultra runs, it’s a great test bed for gear as it gets the kind of wear most runners would take weeks or even months to do in a day or two. I recently tested a North Face base layer which almost wore out on a single 90 mile run, yet a well known running magazine gave this top 5 out of 5 in a review. Sometimes I think they must just run round the block in the gear they get to test & if it feels OK give it a good review!
We’ll be meeting Rory later today to join the other runners on the bus to head up to John O’Groats for the start of the race on Friday 30th at 6am.
That’s all for now my next post will be from the bus tomorrow night.

Happy running!

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Only 2 days before JOGLE 2010

by on Apr.28, 2010, under Blog

Well it’s been a busy old day today. We went to visit sponsors Soreen this morning for a factory tour, we had a really good time. The kids loved it seeing how their favourite snack was made. The process which they use has been more or less the same for 50 years! Like most parents these days we try not to feed the children any junk food & it was good to see Soreen using proper wholesome ingredients to make the famous loaves. They really are a passionate bunch & really believe in the product.
We left the factory around dinner time with the car loaded with boxes of Soreen, boxes of the new Go bars, t-shirts for us all, running vests for me, cups etc to drive up to Premier inn at Elgin, Scotland. It was fine when we set off but the further north we drove the wetter it got. The mountains look stunning with the snow still covering the majority of the higher peaks.
We’ll stay at the hotel for two nights before meeting Rory on the bus to drive the rest of the way up to John’O Groats for the 870 mile run down to Lands End.
It’s been a bit touch n go for me over the past three weeks after damaging my knee. I went to visit Amjad Butt who used to be the physio for the Indian cricket team. He’s been kind enough to sponsor me and he told me I had patella femoral syndrome which basically means my knee cap is rubbing on my femur bone, a common over use injury in runners. He said with 6 weeks complete rest I’d make a full recovery. I said I have 2 weeks then a 870 mile race. To cut a long story slightly shorter he made the knee much better in the very short time available by using ultrasound, manipulation, taping & TENS plus an intensive exercise plan for me at home which took 4 hours a day to do. I can honestly say without Amjad’s help I probably would have to pull out of the race. Maybe it was asking too much of my body to run months of 180pw. The good news was I have zero wear in the knee joint itself which considering the miles run since Christmas is remarkable.
The problem now is I’ve not run at all for 3 weeks so I don’t know if I can run at all until Saturday when the race starts. I’m either going to be out on the first day which is a run of 63 miles or I may be ok. I’m hoping not to have lost too much fitness over the last three weeks, gym work on my upper body & loads of core exercise has kept me reasonably fit. I’m hoping to get some training effect kicking in for the first couple of days before my body starts to break down, this should spur me on a bit.
I’ll try to keep this blog up to date for as long as I can but it’s difficult writing the updates on my iPhone & it has a limited spell checker so some of the spelling will be a bit random!

Happy running!

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9Bar Energy Bars

by on Mar.25, 2010, under Nutrition

I’ve been getting a bit jaded with gels & bananas on my long runs & races & started looking for something new. It had to be tasty, nutritious & natural as I don’t like anything synthetic tasting or full of E numbers. I tried 9Bar for the first time a few months back on the 85 mile Ridgeway ultra challenge when a friend was using them & gave me some to try, I was hooked! They taste great & are full of carbohydrates & natural seeds plus 20 amino acids including the 9 essentials. They are also dairy free, which is great if you have any stomach problems with dairy. They also contain pure cane sugar and honey which can stop blood sugars from getting too low. If you get tired of the original flavour they also come in organic, flax, pumpkin & nutty. I always keep a couple in my kit bag for between gym sessions just to keep me going & use them on all my ultra runs.

http://www.9-bar.co.uk/index.asp

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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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