Saturday, 19 March 2016
The runner in red is Simon who I ended up running with for most of the day. It was good to have the additional motivation of someone nearby - I suspect I would have slacked off a bit more if it hadn't been for the company.
Wednesday, 15 July 2015
Apologies in advance to anyone reading this. The main aim of my blog is to keep a record of some of my thoughts and memories of racing - I appreciate that it isn't exactly a thrilling read!
- Thursday: hill reps (faster)
- Friday: 5M easy lunchtime run with a friend
The day of the race was fairly nippy day but I decided to stay true to my northern roots and run in a vest (and shorts, trainers, etc). It was a cold start but with a race as intense as a ten miler I tend to warm up a lot... or at least I am so busy feeling knackered that I forget about how cold my hands are. That start of the race was at my old school, and it felt a bit weird being back there after so many years. In true Cumbrian fashion, the road just in front of the start line was partly blocked by a lorry transporting sheep - maybe this was just a nice touch put on by the race organisers.
As many races do, the race started pretty quickly, exacerbated by the fact that the first two miles are mostly downhill. I ran about 5:41 and 5:44 for the first two miles, finally dipping back towards 5:58 in the third mile which had one of the few small rises in the race. I had the lovely surprise of being greeted by my wife (Shayda) along with my nephews at about the three mile point - a great little boost as things were starting to feel hard. My excitement got the better of me again and mile 4 was a 5:48. I started to feel the effort a bit and my pace began to decline - 5:55, 6:00, 6:06, 6:08 for miles five to eight. In the midst of mile eight I received an unexpected boost when a horse reared up at my causing me to 'sprint' - stagger slightly faster - in terror, and it gave me an adrenalin boost. A slight aside but I highly recommend having your life threatened by a large crazed beast as a means for boosting your race performance. I managed a 6:03 for the ninth mile despite another little hill, and then managed to grit my teeth for a 5:53 final mile... helped by a juicy downhill onto the bridge across he Eden. I finished feeling exhausted but elated, 42nd overall in 59:12. (Okay, those times don't quite add up - I took them from my GPS which was no doubt a little out).
The B2C was the Northern Athletics 10M Championships which I qualified for due to being born in Newcastle, and I finished 20th in that - sounds better than 42nd (which includes several rather rapid women who chicked me)! Running a decent chunk under the hour and shows that the previous week's race in Battersea hadn't been a complete fluke - albeit the course was net downhill. I was really starting to feel the addiction of this road racing shenanigans, enjoying the challenge of running hard and also the geeky joy of aiming for the next arbitrary numerical milestone. I decided that I'd aim to push down my half marathon time next...
Friday, 30 January 2015
So... I am back running regularly, getting in 5 or so runs per week consistently for a few months. I have started doing one interval session per week and my long term hip whinjury seems okay - it is still there, lurking in the background, but hasn't flared up significantly.
This weekend will be an entertaining test... Having barely run off road since the Transalpine race in 2013, I am heading up for a recce of some of the High Peak Marathon route with Adam, Duncan and, if he can get there through the snow, Andy. The MWIS forecast says there will be winds 40-65mph on the tops with a temperature of -17c with windchill.
Here we go...
Sunday, 29 September 2013
- Type 1: simple, instant gratification - what normal people call fun.
- Type 2: not pleasurable at the time but something that you enjoy looking back at - retrospective fun.
- Type 3: really just not fun at all - the only pleasurable thing is surviving.
In the evening after each stage there was a 'pasta party' which gave everyone a chance to recount stories of the day whilst refuelling prior to a briefing about the next day's stage. To someone who has experience of fell running in the UK it was amusing how strong the warnings were about 'dangerous conditions' on some of the stages. Admittedly there were a few sections with significant drops, but generally with fairly benign underfoot conditions, and the toughest sections were no worse than a Grade 1 scramble. The final part of the evening was a photo and video montage of the day; these really captured the atmosphere of the event and provided a chance to admire the wonderful views some of which were missed earlier on that day due to exhaustion or having to concentrate on the rocks whilst pelting rapidly downhill.
|Cheesy smiles before the start of Stage 1|
|Chilling out after the first stage|
|Grimace for the camera|
|A view of the Stage 3 descent from a cable car|
|Staying in hotels (as opposed to in places like the nuclear bunker [yes, really!]) was a nice luxury and had it's benefits|
|Cruising along in the sunshine on Stage 8|
|Some lovely singletrack during the mammoth 3km+ descent on Stage 8|
Monday, 2 September 2013
Thursday, 29 August 2013
Since Wednesday the 21st it may have appeared, to the casual uneducated observer, that I have been on a holiday based around two family weddings, but actually I have been executing a scientifically calculated taper phase for the Gore-Tex Transalpine run.
This has involved:
- being press-ganged into my first attempts at Iranian dancing [gentle, if embarrassing, cardiovascular exercise]
- flying across the Atlantic twice [altitude training];
- sightseeing in and around Washington DC [heat and humidity training];
- not a great deal of sleep [fatigue training];
- eating my own bodyweight in tasty Persian food [carbo loading].
In the midst of the sightseeing, the weddings and the many 'mehmooni'* I squeezed in a few runs. It was hopefully enough to keep things ticking over and to loosen my legs off, and at least I shouldn't be over-trained when the race starts! It was great to meet more of my extended family and to experience a bit more of the Persian culture. I really should re-start learning Farsi...
So, I am writing this on the flight back to Blighty for an overnight stopover at the airport before flying out to Germany. Things have been so busy recently that I haven't had much time to think about the upcoming race but now the excitement and anticipation is building.
*Iranian parties at which I met approximately three thousand** of my mother-in-law's family.
**This may be a slight Iranian-style exaggeration.
Thursday, 15 August 2013
- C goal: Get round.
- B goal: Get round without anything falling off or breaking.
- A goal: Mysteriously get round without re-awakening my whinjury from remission and have a respectable run.
Panic. Jog slightly faster. Re-check watch - a few minutes left. Phew. But actually that doesn't help me if the coaches all p1ss off without me. Jog a bit faster still. Round the corner into the school and... several coaches were still waiting, along with my mate Frank waiting for me and looking amused.
The long and winding coach journey to the start passed uneventfully and it didn't feel long until we all disembarked at Dalemain to loiter around in the sunshine feeling nervous and waiting for the off. I found Phil, a fellow Herne Hill Harrier and veteran of various ultras including Comrades this year. It was good to have a natter, and then we stumbled upon the topic of how long I thought I would take to get round. I answered honestly that I didn't really have a clue, using the age old technique of getting my excuses in early and mentioning my whinjury, but said I hoped to be back before it was dark, maybe 10 - 11 hours. I hadn't actually looked at the results from previous years, but since the recce from Pooley Bridge to Troutbeck with Mike had taken over 5 hours, and I had felt fine at the end but hadn't felt like we were dawdling at any time, that seemed vaguely realistic. I had an inkling that I might be able to go faster provided my hip didn't play up, but I didn't feel like I should get my hopes up too much.
The Johns pulled away as we headed towards Pooley Bridge so I settled back into my own pace and thoughts, but was determined to keep up a respectable jog up the long ascent up towards The Cockpit on the fellside above Ullswater.
The trail along from The Cockpit to Howtown is lovely and I felt like I made reasonable time, running smoothly and enjoying the day out. At that point being in a race added some excitement but I wasn't yet knackered and regretting - I expected that to come a bit later. I arrived at Howtown checkpoint and fairly quickly refilled my bottles, quickly guzzled down some squash, grabbed some gels and a flapjack and set off. As I was jogging the road section up the start of Fusedale I got talking to another runner, Jonathan (or maybe I was already hallucinating and calling everyone John?) who said that a friend of his ran the event last year in 09:30 and had reached Howtown in about 90 mins, so we were roughly on track for that.
The slog up Fusedale and up on to Wether Hill was tough in the heat and humidity but it was less hot that my recce two weeks before and the presence of other runners nearby, mostly called Jo(h)n, helped keep me from being too lazy.
The running along the ridge then down to Haweswater is lovely and grassy, and it was a nice mental 'tick' to know we'd completed the largest climb of the day. The undulating path above the reservoir to Mardale Head felt like hard work but, again, less so than the recce, and although Jonathan and another runner pulled away, I gained a little on the Twitter Johns.
At the Mardale Head checkpoint I tried another quick turnaround, this time downing a couple of cups of Coke as well as my "bottles and gels" ritual. I grabbed a couple of biscuits and a jam sandwich and started the grind up to Gatescarth Pass. The checkpoint staff were all really helpful, and it was great to be able to trot up to them and be waited on hand and foot - albeit sweaty-hand and smelly-foot.
Given my lack of serious hill training, it didn't surprise me that the climb up Gatescarth was fairly slow, but I just stuck my head down and kept going, trying to munch down the sandwich and biscuits. I struggled a bit to get the food down - in fact that was pretty much the last solid food I got on board during the race - and I started to feel quite sick not long afterwards. I figured this might have been partly due to guzzling Coke, something I haven't tried during a run before, and I vowed not to be so greedy in future.
One other factor which I think may have contributed to the feelings of nausea was the heat. Fortunately there was some cloud cover so I wasn't always in direct sunshine, but it was hot and humid all day. I drank quite a bit but maybe the volume of fluid was hard for my body to process.
I had been steadily passing 100 runners all day, but I caught up with a 50 runner just after I crested the pass. He was having issues with his shoes and I quickly pulled away from him on the descent. All in all it is a very runnable descent but a few sections did make me think that I could have gone faster in slightly more cushioned shoes... or if I was less of a clumsy footed oaf.
As the track turned into a road and flattened out, I gradually caught up with Adam, a fellow 50 runner who had apparently set off a bit too fast for his current fitness, trying to keep up with a friend. We had a chat and he perked up enough to maintain my pace. As we ran over towards Kentmere it seemed that our different strengths complemented each other: Adam was stronger (or less weak willed!) on the hills but I was a bit faster on the descents, as Adam was being cautious due to an ankle issue. We didn't actively decide to run together but I was determined not to lose him on the ups and he seemed similarly intent on catching me after the downs. Since there was still quite a long way to go, it was good to have someone to talk to, even if only the occasional grunt - it helped keep my mind off fatigue as it set in.
At Kentmere I was feeling really thirst and therefore thoroughly ignored my intention not to drink so much Coke so fast, and I downed another two cups. Bottles filled and this time an SIS bar pocketed - no gels at this checkpoint - and I set off again. Adam and I continued together until becoming slightly separated as I pulled away on the descent into Ambleside. I would have pulled away quite a bit more, as I was still feeling strong on the descents, had I been more confident of the route down through the woods. Adam was following a GPS trace so didn't need to think much about the route. My spirits were buoyed by the cheers and applause from onlookers as I ran through the town, and I bounded up the steps to the checkpoint two at a time - probably overly energetic for over 30 miles into a 50 miler!
Adam caught up at the checkpoint and we left together once I had made a call of nature. I was feeling mentally pretty good, as I knew that we had got over the worst of the race - there were only a few proper climbs to come, and a decent chunk of fairly flat running. The section following the up-and-over to Skelwith Bridge is probably the first point in the race that I slightly regret not having pushed harder. Adam was walking some fairly flat sections and, although now quite tired, I felt I could have gone faster, but for whatever reason I decided not to push on properly. I nudged the pace a bit, which dragged him along, but once I get more used to running and racing these kinds of distances then I think I need to learn when I can push. Having said that, who knows whether I'd have blown up later if I had pushed on.
The climb out of Langdale was pretty sharp but felt like it was over quickly, and as we ran towards the unmanned checkpoint at the road the sky was looking really threatening. It had been uncomfortably warm all day, so I was actually looking forward to being rained on. The downpour skirted our route, so it just increased the already high humidity. I was getting to the stage that I was glad it would all be over soon. We passed yet more 100 runners on the way towards the Tilberthwaite checkpoint and they were eager to know how close behind the next runner was. They would have been on the go for over 24 hours at that point but at least they weren't far from the finish and could finish without entering a second night.
I felt slightly awkward when passing many of the 100 runners - mostly walking when I saw them. I would say what I hoped were encouraging words - "Well done!", "Stick in there!","You are doing well!", etc - and occasionally strike up a brief conversation, but I couldn't help but feel that they were mostly in quite a lot of discomfort and didn't enjoy seeing a relatively perky 50 runner cheerfully jogging past. Maybe that is just my projection of how I think I might feel so far into such an epic undertaking.
After Tilberthwaite we had one last climb before the descent down into Coniston and the finish. Adam seemed to be flagging a little but seeing a pair behind us when we were part way up the climb spurred us on. It felt like I could have run faster towards the end on my own but I had probably gained time overall by the motivation of having company, and we dibbed together at the finish. Well, we tried to, but malcoordination meant our times were a second apart. So, those people who have read this far will no doubt be eager to hear which goal I achieved. I finished joint 11th in 09:17:51, so I'd definitely class that as my A goal. Not that I really had one, of course. I was really pleased as I performed better than I had expected, and had mostly enjoyed the experience. Most importantly, I hadn't suffered any significant problems from my whinjury, although I wasn't sure how it would react afterwards.
I would recommend the Lakeland 50 to anyone who fancied a hilly 50 miler. The route is interesting, the surroundings are beautiful, it is well organised, and the atmosphere is great. Entries for next year open whilst I am abroad running the Gore-Tex Transalpine, but I just may need to find a Wi-Fi hotspot...