MCC 40km at the UTMB

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I entered myself into the CCC ballot in December 2017, you need to be thinking ahead to get your ultra races planned, especially if you want to race in some of the more popular events. As expected, I was unsuccessful and received my bad luck email sometime in January. With me already being entered into Highland Fling and Lakeland 50, I wasn’t too concerned about not getting a place to run 100km only 4 weeks after running 50 miles. With that option out if the window we decided to still head out to Chamonix for a week in August, but we brought it forward a few days as Rosie was due back at work on the Friday of the UTMB. We booked for Wednesday to Wednesday, aiming to get a bit of the UTMB hype at the end of the week.

Roll on 6 weeks and I got a message saying that there was a new race in the UTMB week for volunteers and locals, but any places not taken up would be for those that missed out on the lottery. I don’t think there were many locals and volunteers running as there were heaps of foreigners running it too. Another money making race, marketed as giving something back. Let’s not complain though, as it got me a race whilst I was going to be there. It was to take place on the Monday, 26th August and run from Martigny in Switzerland back to Chamonix, France, covering 40km and 2000m of elevation gain/loss.

Pre Race

We were staying in an air BnB flat 10 minutes walk (up a big hill) from the town centre and started the week with a walk up to Chalet Floria, a potter around the town and a gentle run out along the river. I wanted to get some form of run in pre race so set off at 7am on day 2 heading up the vertical km and running through the clouds to Lac Cornu at 2200m. It was a bit of a struggling to make myself head back for breakfast, it’s always far too easy to go a bit further than you planned and run your race in the days leading up to a race.

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Lunch at Hotel Floria

Day 3 saw us getting out early and heading for Vallorcine on the train, I was planning to have a look at the race route from Col du Balme down to Le Tour but the weather was honking and all we managed to see was 10 metres in front of us. We walked up to Col du Balme, hearing and not seeing the cows grazing next to us and then headed for Refuge Albert 1er at 2700m above sea level. The weather worsened and all we managed to see on the way up was a decapitated Marmot, cloud and the arrival of snow flakes. A quick cuppa and a sarnie and we headed back down, with the cloud opening up to give us some worthwhile views.

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Descending from Refuge Albert 1er

The weekend saw a noticeable increase in race participants arriving in the town, there was a definite increase in tanned, shaven legged runners sporting gilets of the various races they’d finished. All of whom, me included, casting sneaky glances at people they pass, just to see what kit they’re sporting. Sad acts.

We had a quiet day on Sunday, not wanting to do too much. Registration was at the sports centre and we headed down for the time slot I’d selected. On the way in I asked about the supporter buses and was over heard by a fellow Brit, Robbie Britton, who lives and runs in the Chamonix region. He offered some advice on the course and described which bits were runnable, rocky and steep. All very useful and I failed to heed any of it, working too hard and overheating on a steep section before the runnable bit. Post registration it was time for pizza. And chips. And a Nutella crepe. Then back up the hill to the apartment for an early night.

Race Day – de Martigny-Combe À Chamonix (MCC) 44km

Monday was race day, I was fully prepped the night before and was ready to go with plenty of time to spare. I’ve got this much more finely tuned the more races I’ve done. All you want is a stress free pre race routine! Kit laid out next to a packed race vest with number already attached to tshirt. A 15 minute walk to the bus got the nerves jangling and the hour and a half bus journey didn’t improve things. I ate a banana and drank some water with electrolytes in on the way. We pulled up at the start in Martigny-Combe, a small Swiss town in the base of a steep sided valley, lined with vineyard’s. We hoped off the bus and I left my bag with Rosie to jump in the toilet queue, it wasn’t too bad. Business taken care of we headed for the start area. I’ve either packed my bag really well, or it’s much lighter than it should be…. FAAAARRRKK.

My dry bag, with all of my mandatory kit in, was missing. Panic. Stations. We ran back to where Rosie had waited for me, it wasn’t there. Rosie legged it to see if the bus had left already, I nashed into the school hall acting as race HQ and registration. It was there… Handed in as soon as it had been dropped pretty much. They’d already identified me by my driving licence stashed in my first aid kit and were planning an announcement on the start line. Talk about avoiding a walk of shame in front of 1000 people and a few town majors. Relaxed, kinda, I went for a quick jog to get my legs operating and then headed into the starting pen.

Martigne – Col de Forclaz

The race. Stood waiting for the start, listening to several Swiss and French mayors I was getting itchy feet. The weather was chilly, but there was clear blue skies and the forecast was set for 25°C and breezey high up. The usual UTMB fanfare and hollering and a overly long countdown before we set off. As I ran through the town, waving at Rosie, I passed a middle aged woman dressed as a playboy bunnie (picture Bridget Jones Diary). Who’d got herself positioned on the front row, set off at a sprint and looked knackered after 800m. We saw her at the prize giving, she won the fancy dress award so fair play. Got herself out there.

Based on the route description from Robbie Britton, the route was broken into a long first climb to Col de Forclaz, a flat 2 miles, a steep climb and a rocky technical section up to Col du Balme, runnable single-track and hard descent into Argentiere and a small section of woodland tracks before a fast flat 4 miles into Chamonix. And it was bang on.

Running along the road on the climb out of town I knocked the first mile out in 8 minutes, probably too quickly for the gradient. Once onto the trail, we climbed up grassy slopes on paths behind people’s houses and every few hundred metres we would pop out onto a road switchback and start the climb again. It was warm going, and I was already lamenting the decision not to use poles. It got much hotter than I anticipated that early and I was soaked through, I passed the chance to put my hat under a hosepipe which I’d regret within the hour. As I reached Col de Forclaz I guessed I was in and around the top 20. I was 15th. The number of people out supporting and the enthusiasm they show is a real positive and negative at the same time. 200 people shouting “allez allez allez!” “UP UP UP!” and “GO GO GO Michelle!” gets the juices flowing, I power hiked up the steep grassy bank not realising I could feel my pulse beating in my temple. As ever, Rosie was the first person to see me and the first person I heard! Cresting the hill I set off around a corner and within 20 seconds was on a flat forest track, on my own, and blowing out my arse.

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Warming up!

Col de Forclaz – Col du Balme

I ran the flat track steady away, and crossed a bridge to start the climb up to Col du Balme. I knew I was off as soon as I started climbing. How did I know? The people just in front of me hiked away from me like I was standing still and I was passed by 6 or 7 people within 15 minutes. Life was shit. It was emphasised when I passed a couple of hikers out for a walk and couldn’t pull away from them, my legs literally wouldn’t move quicker than a regular walk. Figuring out what had happened didn’t take long, I wasn’t sweating and my head was boiling hot. Accepting my fate, I dribbled some water down my neck and carried on hoping things would turn around. When the trail began to level out I started to move a little better, it became rocky and quite technical, which slowed me down, barely (and everyone else) which gave me the chance to cool down, not work too hard and enjoy the slight breeze that was blowing higher up. As I continued to pick my way along the bouldery path I started to feel a lot better, I rounded a corner and could see Col Du Balme up ahead. The vast majority of the climbing was done. I hiked the last climb into the CP and grabbed a drink of coke, filled my bottles and set off on the amazing singletrack that followed, it flowed and switch backed its was down the side of the Col Du Balme ski area, which in the summer months is a upland grazing meadow and big mountain biking area.

Col du Balme – Argentiere

The scenery was epic, and I didn’t even realise that I was on some of the same paths that we’d walked along a couple of days earlier. I really got into a nice rhythm on this section and caught a couple of people ahead of me, not wanting to overheat I decided not to work too hard to pass along the singletrak and as they were unwilling to move to the side (despite clearly moving quicker than them) I contented myself with sitting in behind for a little bit and see what the downhill entailed. As we started to descent to Le Tour that dropped 2000ft in 2 miles, all on hard packed dusty paths I was clearly moving quicker than the guys in front. I found a couple of chances to pass but they didn’t seem keen to oblige. I ended up running off path for a short section to get passed. This is something I’ve found with races in Europe, it’s very much every man/woman for themselves. As the descent wore on, I noticed that my feet were starting to feel a bit hot, I was having to apply the brakes too often on the sharp switchbacks and I felt like there was a pebble in my shoe. It quickly became apart that this wasn’t the case, as when do you have a pebble in each shoe sat in the exact same spot? The answer is you don’t. And you’ve got the beginnings of a blister. As the path started to level I stopped to retie my laces to prevent any further foot slipping. I had a quick look at one of my heels and I couldn’t see anything, but it was definitely there! The path had now dropped back into a woodland area and as I emerged from the trees Mike Jones was waiting for me, he jogged along side for a couple of minutes asking how I was and how it was going so far. His advice was just what I wanted to hear. “Most of the people ahead of you look like shit.” … yeah, but what do I look like? “Take your time in the CP, get some extra fluids in, cool down and get ready to bury yourself on the flat run to the finish” I then realised how hot I still was, my head was boiling and the day had started to really warm up, it was mid to late 20s at this stage. “You can definitely catch five people before the finish!” I can? I can! I left Mike and ran the bit of tarmac before the CP into Argentiere and as I ran in, I passed Rosie, she said afterwards that I looked terrible here. I knew Mike was lying to me! I couldn’t face any food, so just necked a cup of coke and kept going. I got a bucket of water poured over my head on the way out which did wonders. Waved to Rosie and set off towards Chamonix. Only 7 miles to go.

Argentiere – Chamonix

The path from Argentiere to Chamonix is a rolling woodland trail with some short hills, a couple of runnable climbs and a section of tree roots before emerging by the river on the valley floor when it flattens out to the finish. I started well, knocked out a few 8 min miles and felt good. I passed a couple of runners only a mile or two outside the CP, but things started to slide after this. I hit a gradual incline in the woods that I was trying to run, but every 20m I would get a spasm of cramps up the inside of my right thigh, I changed my running style and tried to push through it. I’d only just passed my third victim since Argentiere and I wasn’t going to start walking straight after it. He must have been in a worse way as I didn’t see him again, despite my own ailments. The path dropped sharply through a patch of boulders and tree roots which in most circumstances would be fun to run through, having to stop because of bouts of cramp took away the joy factor. I resolved myself to run through as much cramp as possible and only stop for a stretch or leg loosen when it reduced me to a walk.

As I emerged onto a road heading in Les Praz on the outskirts of Chamonix I was really struggling. Both legs were cramping badly, all I could muster was a grimacing shuffle. I rounded a corner and arrived at a water trough with a runner filling his water bottles up. I ran up to it, put my entire head into the trough and left it there for 20 seconds. Emerged, filled up and drank a full bottle and set off after refilling my bottle again. If only there’d been a water trough sooner. I was a new man. Admittedly I knew there was only two miles to go. But I was now moving freely and quickly dispatched the chap who’d stopped for a drink. I now knew in my head how far was left as I’d run this section on yesterdays jog out. It was flat and horrible, but I could see a runner in the distance and was determined to catch him. As the town centre got closer and we passed over the final timing matt before the finish, I saw the runner ahead look behind. Bingo. Gave myself one last kick up the backside and moved ahead of him just before the town centre. I tried to turn right but was blocked off by a marshall, WTF? He pointed over my shoulder at the three tiered gantry that crossed over the road. You’ve got to be kidding me?! Cursing, I climbed up and hobbled down the other side and ran towards the finish. The town centre was packed, it was 2:30pm and it made for a noisey finish. I gave out a host of high 5s on my way through and the rush of elation you get when being cheered on by hundreds of people you don’t know is goose bump stuff. Rosie was in the same position as the last time I raced in UTMB week, The OCC, in 2016. I crossed the finish line with a massive grin on my face, delighted I was able to turn things around.

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Post Race

Post race I felt horrendous, I ate a mountain of water melon, took off my shoes and realised the size of my blisters. BIG. I chatted with Rosie and Mike for a while before Rosie headed off to get my flip flops, the shoes were NOT going back on my feet. I stood and cheered other runners under the arch, and started to feel faint. I was still in the sun. I sought out some shade. With flip flops on my feet I limped to the medical tent to enquire if my blisters could be tended to. I sat on the camp bed and the lady volunteering took a look, then drained both blisters with a syringe. The dye that was injected into them didn’t disappear for 8 weeks. We hobbled to a nearby smoothie cafe when Rosie returned. After an hour I felt able to walk up the two big hills back to the apartment for a shower before heading back out for some bait. I had a burger and frittes, with lashings of salt. I couldn’t get enough of the stuff.

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Blisters getting fettled (fella next door wasn’t too clever)

The next day I was in for a shock when I tried to walk down the hill for a baguette. Try spending the day walking only on your toes after a marathon the day before. Grim. We pottered around the town centre, did a few laps of the expo, Rosie got a signed copy of Emelie Forsbergs book and we went for a lounge in the sun and a dip at the swimming pool. We flew home on Wednesday morning, after another epic week in Chamonix and The Alps. If you’ve never been before, I would urge you to head out during the summer to see the scale of the mountains, the alpine flowers and just enjoy being outside. The area is so accessible. The whole area is serviced by chairlifts so even if you’re not a runner or walker you can get up high and enjoy the scenery.

Post Chamonix

Since getting home and getting this blog post written up (3 months… SHAME SHAME SHAME!) I’ve actually been back to Cham again, this time for a 3 day outing for Ian’s 40th. We had a couple of runs in the mountains, ate a heap and drank coffee like water. While out there, I got the news that I’d been selected to be a part of the Squirrels Nut Butter (SNB) and X Miles ambassador team. SNB isn’t, like Rosie thought, a range of peanut butter, it is in fact superbly effective anti chafe salve for your errr… nuts. Along with other body parts that may be on the receiving end of some chafage. It’s made of all natural products, is great on dry and cracked skin and their Happie Toes product has seen off some of my feet issues (miracles do happen).  If only I’d had some on my feet in August. X Miles is a specialist sports nutrition store that caters nutritional advice and plans for endurance athletes and stock all manner of running products along with a huge range of nutrition products. Check them out!

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Autumn in The Alps!
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Highland Fling 2018

Before the race report here’s what I’ve been doing so far this year. Just scroll down for the race report. Another long overdue blog update. The resolutions actually went quite well! Heres a recap:

  1. Cross train – I never actually used it as a way to increase mileage. I did however get on it once a week early in the year to increase training time and as a strength building exercise through the use of isolated leg cycling.
  2. Foam Roll/Stretch – Very much and big tick, made a conserted effort to roll more and also to self massage and I’m sure it helped keep the legs fresh. Used the tens machine as a self massage tool to loosen off quads and calves too.
  3. Make a plan – I made my own plan but ended up not using it as Mike Jones got back in touch and we started a training plan, this made a massive difference. He had me running terrain specific sessions working on my speed, endurance and technique. I’m planning a post on what things have changed in my training. Expect that in 2019!
  4. Be more consistent – We had a very busy start to the year in the workshop so some weeks I had to sacrifice a few sessions, however, with a plan to follow and having someone to alter my plan to suit what I could manage on a week by week basis meant I got what I could out of each week.
  5. Get more sleep – FAIL.

 

2018 so far

January – Inskip Half Marathon – Ran in driving sleet and snow, shielding my eyes with my hand during first 3 miles was grim and eyeballs felt frozen. Pretty happy with 1:19, wasn’t expecting much more.

February – Dalemain Trail 10km – First time I’d run this race around Dalemain Estate, Penrith. Total sufferfest, decided to attack the hills. Managed to get a lead on first long drag and ran scared from there to the finish. 1st place and won a rather nice running pack.

March – Edale Skyline Fell Race (English Champs Counter) – An addition by Mike to my plan and my first 20 miler of the year. The goal wasn’t to go eyeballs out, but a more steady/tempo effort. Felt bloody hard if you ask me, but was still running well at the finish. 100th place, more than happy.

 

Highland Fling 53 miles

This post is going to follow the same format as last year, purely because I copied and pasted it. If you want to have a look at that, you can read it here

Fling Eve

Exactly the same as last year, drove up Friday post work, registered in Milngavie, back to Glasgow and out for pizza in the same place again. A rather tasty veg pizza served up by a waiter with the tightest white shirt I’d ever seen. Then back to sort my kit, take a pre race pic of my kit, like a loser, and into bed for 10.30pm. Last year my alarm went off at 4.30am and we were in a bit of a rush. This year it was 3.50am, so I could get some food into me (porridge and banana) 2 hours before race start. I had another 15 minutes of lying in bed fully dressed before we headed to the start. Again, the same as last year, drop bags into the correct vehicles, I only had 2 this time (Rowardennan and Inversnaid) as Rosie was going to be at the other two check points. A loooong queue for the bog for my PMT and it was almost start time.

Milngavie – Drymen 

More nerves on the start line this year, probably due to my higher expectations. I was thinking I could manage around 8:10 if I had a good day and also hoped that I might be able to sneak into the top 10, this would depend on who else was running of course. The 5 minute count down disappeared insanely quickly and the hooter/siren/gun went off (not sure what noise it was).  I set off at a fairly steady pace, and running up the first hill out of the woods my legs felt fresh and strong, good signs.

Having discussed a race strategy with Mike of running a similar pace to last year to Drymen (1:35) and then with the extra work I’d done on running gradual hills and a bit more strength work we were then aiming to pic up the effort a little bit more along Loch Lomond to arrive at Beinglas in Mikes rather poetic term “95% fooked” with that in mind I kept telling myself to go easy and not to worry where in the field I was this early. I passed a runner from the larger quicker moving group in front who had stopped for a run off and he soon caught up, he wanted away from the fast pace and we started chatting for 30 mins, he was the guy who face planted a tree (Gary House), just for the crack I think. He was telling me about his running group, runSTRONG, and if you want a few entertaining videos, I would suggest giving him a follow on Instagram. Before I knew it we’d knocked in a 7:20 6:50 and 7:00 miles, taking my leave I also pulled over for a pit stop and resumed at a more leisurely pace along the road to Drymen.

I arrived in 1:31, 4 minutes up on last year and on the race plan. The pace didn’t feel difficult and I felt like I was holding back still to run 1:31, I also ran straight through as I had plenty of energy drink to get to Balmaha, this may have been an error. I should really have stopped for a bit of water and a salt tab.

12 miles | 1hr 31m

Drymen – Balmaha 

This section again, went better than last year, 8 minutes better. I slurped a load of fluids into me and got some walking in as I made my way through the forestry and up onto Conic Hill. The descent off Conic was a bity dicey as I opted for road shoes this year, trying to avoid the greasy wet patches slowed me down a bit but I wasn’t too fussed as I was well up on where I had planned to be by this stage. I passed a couple of runners on this section and was feeling optimistic about the rest of the race. Spirits were high. I saved time on last year in the checkpoint too as I just did a swap of empty bottles for full ones and grabbed a few gels from Rosie.

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sticking to the dry stuff down Conic Hill

19.2 miles | 2hrs 36m

Balmaha – Rowardennan

Again, as last year I had bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond stuck in my head. Grrrr.

Nothing much to note in this section, was running pretty well, walking any hills I found and making good progress on the flats. Got into a group with a couple other runners who caught me just after Balmaha and we were moving well. Passed the leading lady at mile 22 and was rather enjoying myself at this point. Legs were still good, and no complaints from glutes, groins or quads. I ran into the checkpoint 3rd in a line of 4 and as the marshalls called out our numbers mine was read incorrectly, it was my own fault, I had my number slightly around the side of my shorts and my 342 got called as 842. I hollered my correct number out but as the marshalls were gathering the other drop bags I wasn’t heard. I got my water filled up, but had to wait for my drop bag. I tipped a sachet of energy powder into my bottle and set off after the other three, who had made a minute or so on me. I wouldn’t see 2 of them again. I learned a lesson from this too, don’t try and drink out of a bottle with powder sat at the top. A mouth full of sherbert, a blocked bottle nossle and a sticky hand after using a finger to mix the contents up. 7 minutes quicker than last year.

26.4 miles | 3hrs 41mins

Rowardennan – Inversnaid

Legs certainly started to feel like they’d run a fair distance already. My longest run of the year had been 26 miles and I began to feel the first signs of tiredness. I was still plugging away at a good pace, but I was aware that the climbs and descents weren’t as easy on my body anymore. As it began to warm up, my arm sleeves came off and I instantly felt better with some fresh air against my skin. Had a good spell along some single track into Inversnaid checkpoint, fully aware that it was going to get a whole lot harder from this point onwards. I was now 33 minutes ahead of last years splits and I felt like I had conserved plenty of energy to expend in the last 10 miles. All I had to do was maintain what I was doing, staying within myself and then work hard from Beinglas to the finish, hopefully picking off a few runners in the process.

 

33.7 miles | 4hrs 48m

Inversnaid – Beinglas

This tactic started well, I passed a couple of runners in the slow technical section after Inversnaid, I also passed a large number of cyclists pushing their bikes (fully weighed down with paniers and the works) along a path that it was hard enough to travel along with just your feet. Wouldn’t have fancied hauling them up and over the 8 foot high foot bridges. With the increasingly rough terrain, I was doing a lot more stepping over things, this seemed to kick start a few twinges of cramp that would soon escalate into full leg shakes. I was now taking S!Caps every 30 mins and trying to drink a bit more in a bid to stave off any issues later on. But I rather think it was down to the duration and level of effort that my legs weren’t accustomed to. Blissfully unaware that the worst was yet to come I was still having spells where I was moving well and as soon as I emerged from the lake shore, I thought I was home and hosed. Incorrect. 500m after that, in pretty much the same place as last years bad patch I got a big old dose of cramps up the inside of my left leg, I had to stop and give it a rub then walk for a minute or two. I was passed on the next climb a couple of miles from Beinglas and I was very much desperate for the checkpoint to appear, it did. Eventually. I fannied around too much here but I wanted to get some calories in and some water. I lost the gap I had made earlier on another couple of runners but I was in self preservation mode, certainly not looking to push hard for the next 12 miles. 5 mins quicker than last year (with massive room for improvement).

40.5 miles | 6hrs 16m

Beinglas – Tyndrum

The encouragement I received from everyone at the checkpoint and from Rosie made a massive difference, I was still struggling but I was determined to fight it as much as I could and to keep pushing hard when my legs allowed it. In my tired state I forgot to pick up any gels here and was left with a squeezable baby yoghurt and two gels to get me to the finish line, probably a gel or two short when I was needing to put more energy in all the time. I’d have preferred to get calories in every 20 mins at this stage but 30 would have to do. The rolling hills for the first 3 miles out of Beinglas are a real bitch IMO and I was suffering enough to put music on for the first time ever in a race. It certainly helped. Although I was passed by 2 runners in the 2 miles after Beinglas, I repassed them either side of crossing under the road.

Coming up to Cow Poo Alley, I could see it was a different ball game to last year, this time around it was deep and sloppy and with no routes around it, it was head down and bash on. Having worked on a farm for several years in my youth, cow poo doesn’t really bother me, kicking a stone lurking under the surface, like the iceberg that sank the Titanic, and crashing down on my side certainly did bother me. My right arm was submerged to my shoulder and my left to the wrist. To make things worse I got a spasm of cramps at the same time so I was thrashing around like a beached whale in 6 inches of skitter. Annoyed and stinking, I actually managed to pass the guy in front who was also getting a lot of cramps. I quickly pulled over, washed my arms and t shirt sleeve in a stream and pressed on to Crianlarich where Rosie was waiting, with her cheer squad April and Kellie, whom she met at last years Fling. Getting shouts and cheers from people you have met through the same race and from running other ultras is ace, and very much appreciated! Taking a drink here and quickly getting told to stop farting about and get moving as 14th place was about to catch you I set off into the hilly forest section looking over my shoulder.

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minutes after coo poo alley

I thought I was improving on the cramp front when another bout would bring me to a standstill in a 20m stretch. This continued all the way to the finish, but I actually ran the downhill pretty comfortably. As comfortably as you can with 49 miles in your legs. Crossing the main road without breaking stride I thought I might have put some time into the runner behind me. I hadn’t. After half a mile I had a glance back and the first female, Rachel Normand, was 50 yards behind me, I got to a gate, opened it and immediately cramped up. As a result I just held it open and cheered her through. I actually picked up running behind Rachel, I offered some words of encouragement as she was worried she would be caught. As we got into the last couple of miles she started to pull away but kept having a look back, I assured her there was nobody catching her (especially not me) and she went on to win in an impressive 8:22:23, I snuck into the finish line photo in the distance as I ran down the red carpet to finish in 8:22:47, well happy but also a little frustrated I was held back by cramps, but it’s part of it and getting my nutrition and legs in order is something I can try to improve on heading towards the Lakeland 50. 3 mins quicker than last year, and 42 minutes overall.

53 miles | 8hrs 23m| 14th place

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Happy

The usual first class treatment post finish line, a cup of tea, a catch up with Gary who was sporting a fat lip and a bloody shirt, a hot shower and a massage with a hot water bottle and blankets. Amazing. I was moving pretty well and my legs felt ok. We were staying in Glasgow on the Saturday night too, so we hung around to watch the other finishers come in and the prize ceremony. Several cups of tea and coffee and again, some of the best soup I’ve ever had, and I was starting to feel normal. We saw Rich finish, a fellow DH Runner, who had to battle with a sore leg and pretty much walked the entire last 20 miles to get home in 13:07.

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DH Runners! Rich, looking grey after sticking it out for 20 miles!

I’ve recovered from this race better than any other ultra I’ve run so far. I walked on Sunday and Monday, managed easy runs on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.  Not sure if its because I’ve a done a few now and so my body is adapting to it, or because my legs were better conditioned for the distance. Next up is The Lakeland 50, with a couple of smaller races in there as a build up. I’m feeling optimistic, as long as I can improve my down hill running and not get lost I hope I can have another similar result to this.

 

2018 running “resolutions” I more than likely won’t stick to.

Number one on this list should really read “update blog more often” but since the summer and after finishing the Lakeland 100 I rather lost a bit of edge for training and blogging and what not. There were a number of reasons, I’ll call them reasons as opposed to excuses.

1. We got married. Should really have written a blog post on that.

2. We travelled across California for 2 weeks. Taking in Las Vegas, Death Valley, Yosemite National Park, Big Sur Coast and San Francisco. Should definitely have written a blog post on that.

3. I barely did much in the way of running for a month or two, but was happy to let my body recover for a bit.

4. We had the usual busy autumn/winter in the workshop on the kitchen front.

5. I couldn’t find the motivation. Lots of things popped into my head for post ideas but I didn’t have the urge to get them written down. I will endeavour to do so, even if its just for my benefit.

OK, with the “reasons” out of the way lets set about 2018 like we mean business, with a hipster/blogster style “5 things” post.

I decided last year that in 2018 I might consider the use of an online coach to help me with my training, race advice and nutrition etc etc. Well, sadly it didn’t work out but its still all good. I made contact with Mike Jones, back to back winner of the Lakeland 100 and as it turns out, a bloody good bloke too. We set a date for December with regard to coaching, but due to work schedules on both sides and Mike being busy setting up his own ultra running races in Snowdon this May (Ultra Trail Snowdon 50/100), which by the way are fecking beasts. The 100 miler has 6000m MORE climbing than the Lakeland 100 **trembles**, things didn’t work out. But, being the guy he is, Mike has offered to give me some help with my training for The Highland Fling and has been in contact most weeks with ideas and advice. Many of which I hope to implement going forward. 

Hoping for improvement at The Highland Fling

Enough waffle, here’s the resolutions (not a fan of resolutions, lets say goals):
1. Cross train

Having never beem able to crank out a big load of mileage without getting injured, utilising cross training (specifically the road bike) will hopefully allow me to increase my training time without adding extra stress onto my chocolate legs. I plan to use the bike for recovery rides, intervals and for leg strength and turnover.

I can currently knock out 3 or 4 50 mile weeks back to back as a maximum, after this I generally know about it through niggles or tiredness. Maybe I need to toughen up a bit? Or do more of the things that will aid recovery, segway to resolution no.2…

2. Foam roll/stretch (all that good stuff)

It should really read “Foam roll/stretch more“, but for that to be the case I’d have to actually do some in the first place. Bet this sucker is in 90% of all blogs and resolutions on running. I’m gonna include following some hip mobility or yoga videos for 30 mins on YouTube too on rest days. This will most likely be the hardest thing for me to achieve, I’m very much a sit down stay down kind of guy of an evening.

3. Make a plan and stick to it!

My usual approach to training is to get long runs in when I can, add in a regular 8 miles with DH Runners and then a couple more runs with the dog, usually easy but sometimes a bit of speedwork. I don’t really ever run hills during the week unless its on a Tuesday with the running club. This year I want to specify hill reps/speed sessions. If I run them on a Tuesday I wont run them on another run. I’m also going to start using strides at the end of easy runs (another Mike Jones tip). Basically it’s to help me get faster without running fast as often.

Strides (stolen directly from a google search) – short bursts (20-30 seconds) of quick running that are typically completed in the middle or at the end of a run, or as part of a warm-up to a speed workout.

This year I’m going to be following a training plan, hopefully much more religiously than before, in the hope that being more consistent will see some extra improvements in my running. Below is a plan that I have drawn up myself, based on what works for me and also fitting around my schedule. It’s an ideal scenario and often the days within the week will be swapped around in order to fit in with what is happening in the rest of my life.

fling1

fling2

If you have any ideas or thoughts on how I’ve set up my plan, please let me know. Always keen to hear advice or suggestions.

4. Be more consistent

1, 2 & 3 rolled into 4. It’s a bit of a mix of everything. Stick to a plan where possible, maintain a good level of training, make sure I do the little things like foam rolling and cross training on a regular basis and be less willing to take the easy option by having a day off or cutting a run short when I can’t be bothered or don’t feel good. I am probably in a position to slightly increase my weekly training load after running 40/50 mile weeks for a few years and reducing down time between races along with adding in road cycling will help with this.

5. Get more sleep

This one is easy. Aim to get 7.5 to 8 hours sleep a day. Obviously not always going to happen, but if I’m able to get more shut eye I’m sure I’ll feel better, be ill less often and be able to recover better. As an added bonus I’m going to charge my phone downstairs to prevent me using it before sleep. Hopefully I’ll waste less time looking a shite on the internet and spend more time reading and/or sleeping.

2018 Races entered so far

January – Inskip Half Marathon

February – Dalemain Trail 10km

April – Highland Fling 53 miles

May – Old County Tops Fell Race 37 miles with Craig (still to enter)

July – Lakeland 50

August – UTMB – CCC 110km (waiting on ballot result)

2017 Final Stats

Distance – 1585mi | Elevation – 205000ft | Time on Feet – 242hrs

Lakeland 100

I was up and awake at 6am, too excited to sleep! I say excited, I’m not really sure what the feeling was… apprehension maybe? It was the not knowing that caused the nerves, rather than the actual event. Would I be able to run through the night? How would my legs react after 70-80 miles having only done 53 previously?

We got the van loaded with my kit, drop bag, sleeping bags and the tent and we set off for Coniston, its only 1 hour 30 minutes from Carlisle. We arrived at John Ruskin School (race HQ) around 1.30pm, set the tent up and headed for registration. It was a slick operation, as was every aspect of the weekend, I was checked in, tagged, weighed and ushered through the metal barriers like a lamb to slaughter in double time (help me??!).

Race briefing wasn’t until 4pm so we filled the time by getting stuck into the pasta and salad available in the marquee. £5 for multiple helpings (I sampled every type) followed up by a coffee and I was set. The briefing started at 4.30, it was ideal for relaxing the runners. “Look the person next to you in the eyes….” “One of you won’t be finishing. Decide now between you who it will be…” You. You bastard!

Post briefing I mingled with some of the DH Runners down for the 50 registration and Curly (Michael Irving), also a DH Runner, running his second Lakeland 100. Mum and Dad (Maz & DH) arrived at the same time as Rosie’s parents John & Jo (nearly related Jo!) It was a a quiet sort of atmosphere, lots of people were chatting with old friends, but with minds on what was to come in an hours time. I found this bit quite frustrating, I just wanted to get going and was full of nervous energy. We were shepherded into the start area where we had to dib in, I bumped into Jacob Snowchowski, who I’ve seen at nearly every race I’ve done this year, and Marcis Gubats. Both were running their first 100 milers too. Although they would have much higher expectations than me. Marcis finished 2nd!

Standing in the start area we listened to a fantastically sung Nessun Dorma, which got the juices flowing. I made sure I told myself to set out at MY pace, if people wanted to pass I’d step aside. If I wanted to pass I’d wait and be happy to go at an easy pace. I had zero expectations on a time or position. My only goal was to finish. I knew that if I had a good race and my nutrition, legs and everything else held up I’d be able to sneak under 26 hours.

Start Coniston to CP1 Seathwaite

We got a count down from the crowd.. 10….9….8…. skip a few 3….2….1….off you pop! We ran out of the school entrance and up the road, I couldn’t believe how many people were out watching! Probably a testament to the popularity of the event amongst runners, supporters and the locals too. As we climbed it seemed like a nice evening. Marc Laithwaite had promised light showers and nice weather during the briefing so everything was going to plan… we turned a corner and so did the weather. Out of nowhere it was jackets on and hosing it down. This set in place some issues for later in the race. Some sensitive issues. Where the legs join the body. Its a nice track to run on the whole way on this section with a bit of tarmac into the CP, grabbed a couple of custard creams and refilled a water bottle and I was on my way.

Feeling – apprehensive

7 miles | time 1:20:14 | distance covered 7 mileselapsed 1:20:14

 

A wet start!

CP1 Seathwaite to CP2 Boot

As I entered the CP Curly was leaving, he slowed down and waited for me. We ran together for this whole section. Chatting away and getting gates for each other. It was great to run with someone early on, it helped to pass the time and we ran nice and easy along the farm track and into the plantation, the midges started to rear their ugly heeds and the going got much wetter, from now until 4pm tomorow I’d have wet feet… get your head around that. Descending towards Boot we ran down a grassy slope that was soaking wet, Curly skidded onto his arse and came up with a broken pole. Not ideal after 10 miles of 105! He carried on and tried to assess the damage as he went. In the end he was able to jam one piece of pole into the other to make a slightly shorter one than the other, but it still worked. We got into the CP, manned by a bunch of Flingers in their finest tartan. Water refill and a handful of custard creams to go.

Feeling – happy

7 miles | time 1:25:24 | distance covered 14 mileselapsed 2:45:38

 

CP2 Boot to CP3 Wasdale Head

This section seemed much shorter than during the recce. Maybe as I was feeling like death then, but I got a good march uphill going on, passing a few runners without really breathing hard. I lost touch with Curly for half an hour or so but he caught me up at Burnmoor Tarn and we ended up running as a biggish group into Wasdale just as the light was starting to go. By the time we were running into the CP it was pretty much dark. This was one of the livelier CPs, The Stroller Disco was in full swing and I was greeted by Rosie and Agnes (the hula girl) as well as an inflatable shark and dolphin. Got myself a cup of tea and had a couple of ham and cheese sandwiches here. I was starting to feel hungry through the leg and wanted to keep plenty going in. Especially with Black Sail coming up next. We donned our head torches and as we were about to leave Curly shouted me back for a photo (see below), we were the first to use it, so that makes it a DH Runners one two on the photo stand thingy.

Feeling – fresh

5.4 miles | time 1:09:50 | distance covered 19.4 mileselapsed 3:55:28

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Curly and Myself, looking fit.

CP3 Wasdale Head to CP4 Buttermere

Head torches on it was out the CP and along the valley bottom, slowly climbing to the base of Black Sail Pass. My etiquette seemed to be terrible with a head torch on. I was using a battery pack powered Silva one of Craigs, and it was pretty powerful. This meant that when I was running behind someone too closely I would cast a shadow of them where they wanted to put their feet. I did this crossing a raging stream and the lady in front was stood on a rock in the middle not knowing what was in front of her. Whoops. Ever wanted to work out who is from the countryside and who is from the city? Just have them walk up Black Sail Pass in the dark and have a couple of cows stand on the path you’re going up. Folk were scrambling through the bracken to get away… I gave it a pat and said “hello cow”. Now at the front of the group the next cow sniffed my head before I knew it was there. I didn’t say hello this time. Just nearly caked myself.  The descent from Black Sail Pass was wet, rocky and slow but I was happy with that. I just accepted that it was going to be slow and that it was better to walk downhill than hit the deck like a few around us. It was then up and over Scarth Gap, halfway up I looked back and the head torches descending Black Sail Pass was awesome to see! Once over the top it was the rocky descent to the shore of Buttermere, I felt good here and picked my way down nicely. Spotted a mouse! I moved ahead of Curly by a couple of minutes as he’d bumped into someone out spectating (at 11.30pm. In the drizzle. And the dark.) but only by a couple of minutes. I arrived at Buttermere ready for something to eat, it was supplied in the form of hotdogs (multiple) and coffee.

Feeling – easy

6.9 miles | time 2:04:31 | distance covered 26.3 mileselapsed 5:59:59

 

CP4 Buttermere to CP5 Braithwaite

Out the door and through the woods before heading up the valley towards Sail Pass. During the briefing this was highlighted as a place where you could easily go wrong in a couple of places. “Theres a small cairn of white stones put there for you, turn left here.” Nope. Didn’t see them. Should have been a large cairn of white stones. It took a little while to notice I was too low as I could see a few headlights ahead and much higher. A group of runners had followed me but assured me there was a left ahead and that not much time was lost. They were correct and I was soon back on track. Having made one mistake I was determined to get the next split in path right. It was easier to miss the next one but I didn’t have to worry. Shaun and Craig had walked out from Newlands Valley with Molly to see me, I stopped for a chat and a photo with the dog. I was happy to let a few folk repass me, I quite enjoyed the rest! It really made a big defference to my morale/state of mind to know people were out on the course in crap weather, in the middle of the night to cheer me on. It made me smile as I reached the top when I could hear Shaun’s booming voice from 200m below as they made their way back to the car.

Repetitive thoughts of random crap always seem to get in my head during ultras. This time it was slugs. The sheer number of them. Fecking thousands. I ended up wondering how many would be killed over the course of the Lakeland 100/50 weekend. HEADLINE: Slug population decimated by heavy footed ultra runners. I jogged the gentle descent to Braithwaite, with thoughts on my slugs, a few runners cruised passed me and I followed them into the CP. The spread was unbelievable but I only had eyes for the rice pudding and jam, it was AMAZING. The best thing I ate at any of the checkpoints. I went back for a 2nd. This was the first time that I noticed people were struggling, some were lying across chairs or sitting to the side not eating. There was a big number of drops at Braithwaite. I was feeling ok but the lateness of the evening started to make me feel drowsy. I had a couple of caffeine tablets with my tea before setting off again.

Feeling – sluggish (chortle)

6.5 miles | time 1:41:41 | distance covered 32.8 mileselapsed 7:41:40

 

CP5 Braithwaite to CP6 Blencathra Centre

This section was one that I was worried about. On the recce I got a couple of blisters here from the quicker running on road and stone tracks, I had decided to wear my Inov-8 Roclite 290, a lower, less cushioned shoe but with a bit better grip than my other (many pairs of) trail runners. I was wishing I could have changed my shoes at Braithwaite rather than Dalemain. My toes were getting a bit beat up and were feeling tired and aching (I guess 33 miles and 8 hours of running will do that). But, I still had 17 miles to go. I was keen to look after my feet. Along the A66 (lots of slugs, dead and alive) and then the old railway line. I was excited to see Rosie at the base of Latrigg, Craig and Shaun were there too so I stopped again for a chat and took the chance to clean out some grit from my shoes and give my feet a rub. Another team photo and I was off up Latrigg. It’s always good to have Craig out following me when I’m running. I know I’m fairly cautious but he is even more so, this is a very good thing as I was feeling good and wanted to push on. “Don’t race anyone!” were his words when I enquired what place I was in. He didn’t tell me. I agreed and said I’d walk all the way up Latrigg, even the flat bits. Once up I pootled round Glendeterra and to the unmanned dibber to stop corner cutting. I had my first collision on the path to Blencathra Centre, with a mouse. I’d seen 3 already, scurrying around the path edges, but this one ran out in front of my right foot. I kicked it, it rolled up my foot, hit the path and I nearly stood on it. Thankfully it bolted from under my foot. Shaken from my near fatal accident I was glad to arrive at the next CP. I was fully aware of what was in store here. Little Dave’s Mum’s chocolate cake. A thing of legend amongst Lakeland 100 runners passed and present. If I’m being critical, now don’t kill me or troll me fro this but… I thought it was a bit more of a tray bake, with the texture more like a tiffen. Delicious all the same. Hopefully that comment won’t see me barred from future events!

Feeling – content

8.5 miles | time 1:55:50 | distance covered 41.3 mileselapsed 9:37:30

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Agnes removing some salt

CP6 Blencathra Centre to CP7 Dockray

Good, bad and fantastic. My feet were now very tender, I was looking forward to Dalemain too much and that was annoying me. I was telling myself to concentrate on whats happening now and on what I can control. Sore feet wasn’t one of them. Moving forward and keeping nutrition and pacing right would see me to Dalemain in due course. Don’t jump the gun. I started to feel a little sick (too much tiffen-cake) soon after the A66 unmanned dibber, just as I was dreading the wet slog up to The Old Coach Road (OCR) a bat flew straight at my light and swung away about a foot from my face. I’d say I didn’t shit myself, but that would be a lie. As I shouted out my headtorch ran out of battery. Highly confused, stumbling in the dark and my heart rate through the roof, I had to rummage through my pack for my smaller Alpkit light, which next time I’d start out with as it was more than adequate and much lighter. I slugged up climb feeling terrible, it started to rain, and I had to get my wet jacket back out. As soon as I hit OCR I felt great, the sky was lightening and I turned off my torch, 15 minutes later I saw a glimpse of pink sky on the horizon! I immediately started running and shouting, delighted to have made it through the night. I cruised along to Dockray, leapt the ditch into the CP and had a couple of plain cheese sarnies, a cup of coffee and I was off towards Ullswater. Making a dent into the distance now.

Feeling – elated

7.7 miles | time 1:43:15 | distance covered 49 mileselapsed 11:20:45

 

CP7 Dockray to CP8 Dalemain

Running out of the CP along the road to Dockray I came along side a runner limping along looking in some pain. I stopped to walk alongside him for a spell and offered him some paracetamol. They’d gone soggy and were useless. His name was Bryn Jones and he’d taken a nasty fall. He had a tennis ball lump on his knee and a golf ball lump on his forearm and elbow. “I’m alright, I’ll just walk it in.” Just walk it in. 56 miles of walking it in with a busted leg. He finished in 34 hours, walking through a second night. As I hit the path around Ullswater there was a touch of mist on the lake, the sun was making the clouds slightly orange and at the same time lighting up the little bit of rain in the air. It was one of the nicest images I’ve seen in the Lakes. I stood still and enjoyed the view for a minute before carrying on. 50 miles came and went, almost at halfway.

My watch was beeping at me about lack of battery so I turned off the GPS, I wanted battery to be able to tell the time for the rest of the day. I took my only fall here, kicking a tree root coming straight up out the path, both hands went down but I didn’t land hard. Told myself off for not concentrating. I was starting to get over the number of slugs and started thinking about another Harry Potter reference. I kept saying “The Adventures of Martin Miggs The Mad Muggle”… don’t even ask. I was still saying it in my head 8 hours later! The couple miles of road section into Dalemain seemed shorter after the recce run, I spent it drying my jacket in the breeze while running along. I came into Dalemain to see Mum and Dad, Rosie and Agnes waiting for me. Agnes sprinted over to say hello. What a dog. In the CP I was able to get into my drop bag. I changed my clothes, towelled down a bit and changed my shoes and socks, applying liberal amounts of talk to my feet and glide to my chafage. I had a couple bowls of veggie broth and a muller rice, washed it down with yet another tea and got ready to leave. It started raining. FFS.

Feeling – confident

10.1 miles | time 2:07:58 | distance covered 59.1 mileselapsed 13:28:43

 

CP8 Dalemain to CP9 Howtown

Leaving in the rain really pissed me off, my feet were nice and dry! I’d gotten a bit cold after stopping so went to put my gloves on… not there! I’d had them in the CP. I turned around and trudged back to the tent. Having explained what I’d done, ratched through my drop bag and in the tent I gave it up as a bad job. Curly was in and he kindly lent me a spare pair he had. What a guy! This cost me about 20 minutes. After the couple of fields theres a left along the road and a right through a kissing gate. Hold on. That chap seems to think you go straight aross the road and diagonally across a field… the same guy I heard saying he’d done it a couple of times before. YOU’RE ONLY CHEATING YOURSELF! Seriously… why bother? You’ve saved yourself 250 metres out of 105 MILES! Anyways seems a few people had done it through a different gate as there were footprints in the wet grass across the corner. My back was well and truely up! “I’m taking down that guy” were my first words to Rosie in Pooley Bridge. I didn’t. Running along Ullswaters east shore was ace, I felt good, passed corner cutter and dropped into Howtown. I’d taken the wrong route though, I ended up entering the CP from the road after wasting more time checking if I was right or wrong. Had a couple of packets of crisps and a Chia Charge bar who were running the CP and more tea or coffee, can’t remember which. One lady pointed at me and said “You look brilliant!” Boom. The perfect words. Thanks you!

Feeling – frustrated

7.1 miles | time 1:55:27 | distance covered 66.2 mileselapsed 15:24:10

 

CP9 Howtown to CP10 Mardale Head

Horrendous. That’s about all I need to say. Pouring down, cold hands and boggy. I climbed strongly and by the time I got near to the top of the climb I had caught up to 4/5 others including Steve Edwards and Janson Heath. They were running together and Janson seemed to be battling. Steve navigated us nicely across the bog to Haweswater. As we dropped to the lakeshore we had our first and only sunshine since the start of the race. Janson “it’ll probably only last 20 minutes..” it lasted 15. It’s a long section and after the slow climb then over and down High Street its a slow rocky path to Mardale Head. “Michael Holliday?!” What? Who said that? Ahh Lindsay Cowen, stood on the top of a rocky outcrop, turns out Dave and Lindsay had come to watch me run by and do a spot of fishing at the same time. They’d gotten their timings wrong and had been waiting for over 2 hours in the rain. Sorry, should have run faster. Not sure how much fishing got done. We arrived at a battered CP being run by Dellamere Spartans, 2 marshalls were having to literally holding things together. The roof had blown off the tent in the morning. Had some tea and soup then hit the climb up Gatesgarth.

Feeling – wet

9.4 miles | time 2:35:22 | distance covered 75.6 mileselapsed 17:59:32

 

CP10 Mardale Head to CP11 Kentmere

We set of up the climb spread out, I again, climbed quite well, passed a couple of guys who took less time in the CP, ran over the top and set off on the rocky downhill. As soon as I began descending I got pain in the centre of my shin, like I’d been whacked with a sharp stone. Which I hadn’t been. I was caught by Steve who checked to see if I was OK and we jogged down together, Steve informed me Janson was struggling with his stomach and had barely eaten anything since Dalemain. We stopped briefly to chat with Mum and Dad who’d made another big detour to see me again. We started the next climb, we stopped to take off jackets and Janson caught up. He looked terrible. We decided to wait for him and see if he improved or dropped at Kentmere. As we ran along the road into the CP a sheep came up the road and asked us if we’d like any pasta? Yes. A sheep, but only a member of the Mountain Fuel aid station. It got my friendliest aid station award. Emma Hardwick introduced herself, she’d met Rosie during The Highland Fling and I said hello to fellow Instagrammers and awesome ultra runners Cat Simpson and Jen Scotney too, it was so good to see friendly faces. We had a bottle of Mountain Fuel to go and pulled ourselves out the door.

Feeling – weary

6.5 miles | time 1:51:45 | distance covered 82.1 mileselapsed 19:51:17

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Running w/ Steve Edwards on our way to Kentmere

CP11 Kentmere to CP12 Ambleside

The beginning of the end. Even though there was still 23 miles to go, I knew it was in the bag. We started a to and fro with other runners. As a trio moving quicker than those around us, but spending longer in aid stations. Some were in and out chugging away, we got more food in but was harder to get moving after every stop. Janson looked like he might drop at Ambleside, he was a ghost. But, he got out the CP first and set off walking, we would catch up and we’d start a shuffle/walk strategy to next CP. We caught Janson climbing Garburn pass, he had improved with some coke and Mountain Fuel. We reached the summit and turned the corner and as we began a run there was an almighty clatter up, Janson had stood on one of his Salomon quicklaces (that should live in their pocket) and army rolled over rocks and through a 6 inch deep puddle… I was certain he’d jack it in now. How wrong I was. It’s like he decided to stick two fingers up at his situation. I was looking forward to Ambleside as the rents, Rosie and a fair tribe of DH Runners would be there, turns out Dan, Steve and Jess had come down to watch too. So good to get a big cheer when limping into the CP.

Feeling – grim

7.3 miles | time 2:00:57 | distance covered 89.4 mileselapsed 21:52:14

 

CP12 Ambleside to CP13 Chapel Stile

This was a tester! With 15 miles to go, the end was in sight but I was also aware that at current pace it would be 4 hours more of shuffle/walk/feel like crap/repeat. I didn’t know this section at all so it was great to run with people who did. All I had to do was follow. As we left Ambleside and entered a section along a river/camp sites the words that escaped Janson were “I fucking hate this section.” turns out I do too! Flat concrete paths that you have to run. The long and painful winding road.

Feeling – shit.

5.6 miles | time 1:20:42 | distance covered 95 mileselapsed 23:12:56

 

CP13 Chapel Stile to CP14 Tilberthwaite

This was just a couple hours of misery. Shin now prevented me running at all downhill and the back of my opposite knee was now rigid. Don’t really know where this  part of the course went. Head down and get to Tilberthwaite. The mandatory self dib CP seemed miles away though.

Feeling – broken

6.5 miles | time 1:51:50 | distance covered 101.5 mileselapsed 25:04:46

 

CP14 Tilberthwaite to Finish Coniston

Hallelujah. With the finish just a parkrun away, a 1 hour and 15 minute parkrun (not a PB), it was all good. We’d done it. Apart from climbing that greet, steep set of fecking steps, stumble over that wet boggy path and descend down the rocky, loose, treacherous trod down to the miners road. I was far slower than the others descending now and they waited for me as we hit the road into Coniston. We jogged side by side, passed the packed pubs to massive cheers. One dude, dressed as Scooby Do’s mate (the blonde one who wears a cricket jumper and a cravat) offered me his pint! A wave at Steve and Jess sat on the bridge, passed the petrol station and left into the school. I heard Rosie before I saw her. She ran along the road just behind us with Agnes. We turned in and finished together, having a mini group huddle (I won’t call it a 3 way man hug) at the finish line. A quick hug for Maz (mum) who was in tears and a handshake from DH. We got a quick photo and walked into the marquee together and to more cheers, so much love!

Feeling – proud.

3.5 miles | time 1:10:15 | distance covered 105 mileselapsed 26:15:01

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Finished. A team effort!

What a feeling. So so good! I would honestly recommend having a go at the Lakeland 50 or 100 to anyone, as long as you put in a bit (read; a lot) of training and it will be one of the most rewarding things you could possibly do. I stood leaning on the barrier in the Marquee and Marcis came over to say well done, no mention of what he’d achieved! He let me know that Jacob had unfortunately had to pull out due to a hip injury. Yet again I think it’s more the people that I met over the course of the weekend that really shaped my experience. Ultra running and it’s community really is amazing.

Rosie kindly went for my clothes while I sat next to Janson in the Marquee not speaking and staring at the table leg. I had the worlds longest shower as I could barely take off my socks. Assessed the chafing damage… could have been worse. No blood. Got some Chilli con carne and a lemonade into me and limped towards the tent. Flat out by 10.30pm. I had a solid 8 hours, 8 more than many of the heroes still out on the course in the pouring rain! The next morning I left Rosie to sleep and went in search of a sausage buttie. Sitting watching runners coming in after 35, 36, 37 hours on their feet was unreal. Such respect. I caught up with some of the DH Runners and shared our experiences before heading back to bed for another hours kip. We waited for the presentation of prizes, some of the stories Marc Laithwaite mentioned were amazing, from a runner going off course to inform a farmer his dog was having pups to the lady who had to stop at the CPs to breast feed her baby during the 50. Outrageously good.

Then we went home. Via Greggs, of course.

Distance – 105 miles | Elevation Gain – 6300 metres | Time on Feet 26 hours 15 minutes

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Too much for me and the dog.

 

Training for my first 100 miler 

For the last 9 months I have been training / building up towards my first 100 mile race, The Lakeland 100. I have decided to give an overview of what I have done and found of use to me in my training, rather than a recap of my training runs. I’ve listed 5 points that may be of use to you if you too are planning a long distance, off road run. These points are the first 5 things that came to the top of my head, I’m no expert and some (read most) of what I say is probably nonsense. If you think it is, call me out! I also reckon much of this can be applied to any type of race distance. So, here we go…

1. THE TRAINING IS THE BEST BIT

I see it as a reason to spend time in amazing places. Going out for 3 or 4 hours on a Sunday morning with the dog was my favourite part of my training. I would go out early and be back to achieve something with rest of the day or not, depending what Rosie had in store for me! Often I got back to a hot bath waiting for me. Someone should marry that girl.

Get out in all weather, don’t let a bit of rain or snow put you off, buy a waterproof jacket and don your hat and gloves! If its wet stay closer to home or lower down in the valleys. Start out doing routes you feel comfortable with and build up to more challenging ones, go with someone more experienced if you feel unsure of a route or uncomfortable with a certain section. Recently I ran legs 3 and 4 of the Bob Graham Round as a training and recce run with Kath Pigden, shes running the Bob Graham Round in September and I’m supporting her over these legs. Neither of us knew the route, we practiced our navigation and got to spend a full day in the fells. Some sections (climbing up Lords Rake) neither us were hugely confident on but having someone there to give/receive encouragement from certainly helps.

Climbing Lords Rake on Scafell

Also. Think of all the social media likes/kudos/thumbs up you’ll receive! (Don’t go for a run purely to prove anything, I’m only joking… its purely a nice little bonus) but I do enjoy taking pics of a variety of things, a lot of you will say I like taking pics of me, and/or the dog, running in The Lakes! What can I say, I’m shameless. Summit selfie anyone?

One of my better selfies

2. TRAIN ON THE COURSE

The best way to learn the route is running on the route (if possible) I know lots of people can’t get to where their races are going to be, but replicating it means you are running and improving on the terrain you will be racing over. Entering the Lakeland 100 has meant I have been in parts of the Lake District I haven’t been too before, that’s been one of the best things about the whole process.

Running new routes (another selfie)

I have only run 218 road miles this year out of a total of 968, for those of you who don’t have a GCSE in maths, that’s… hold on *uses calculator* …that’s 750 miles off road, with less impact and at a slower pace. Running off road where possible will improve your strength and agility. From my house I can turn left and be at the river in 2 minutes, it’s completely flat but even running over uneven grass is better for my training than road miles.
3. RUN WITH COMPANY

Being part of a group that you run with regularly is a brilliant way to get more consistent. It makes you get out at the same time each week and designates that evening as your club runs. We run with DH Runners every Tuesday, its a guaranteed 8 miles in the bank, like clockwork. It also makes running more fun, I either start slowly and have a chat with people then do some quicker stuff in the middle and slow down at the end, or, if I’m tired I’ll just gas for the whole hour.

Running with Rosie is always awesome, it makes me run easier and we just natter about all sorts, probably more so than if we were both in the house (she’s hooked on Love Island) I have to watch it too, which I do, even though I swear it’s the biggest pile of Sh**e I’ve ever witnessed. Or, I trawl though youtube, my fav channels being Sage Canaday (a total beast) and Run Steep Get High (awesome vids). I also think I get Rosie out running when sometimes she might not be too fussed. You never regret going for a run.

Team outing!

Agnes is a reason to go out everyday or close to it. A running alarm clock at 6pm on the money. If you don’t take her, she sulks all evening. Its probably a reason I’ve not been nearly as injured this year, I do the vast majority of runs off road with the dog and often just pottering along letting her sniff about or try and chase rabbits. Running long runs with the dog makes time pass too, concentrating on what she’s doing makes me switch off from the distance to go. She loves it as I always share my food with her!
4. EAT WELL/BETTER

My diet in general is mixed. I should have shares in Greggs Bakery. But I have found that since I’ve started training and racing ultras that my diet has improved a lot. I eat more crap than I should but my meals are generally pretty healthy at either end of the day.

Most days look like this:

Morning: smoothie – (milk, orange juice, banana, blueberries/raspberries/strawbs, grated ginger, handful of spinach, greek yoghurt, linseed and pumpkin mix (aldi), ground tumeric and honey) or Brown toast with peanut butter and jam and a cup of tea – but only if Rosie makes me one!

10am: coffee plus a biscuit if I don’t resist.

Lunch: Depends where we are. At the workshop it is anything from sarnies, poached egg on toast or cheese on toast (nearly always bread based) plus fruit and yoghurt. If we are fitting a kitchen we’ll call in at Greggs on the way and get a baguette and pasty (sausage and bean melt is my kryptonite).

Afternoon: lately I’ve been having nothing, often its a biscuit or piece of fruit.

Evening: If I’m running I’ll have a bit of toast or a cereal bar and a banana before hand to stave off hunger. Afterwards its usually BBQ meat (it is summer) and then a big plate of salad with a variety of stuff lobbed in. We’ve also been using the Lean in 15 books for a while now, easy recipes and don’t take long. Plus it gives a bit of variety.  Doesn’t mean we don’t have meals that aren’t so healthy, pizza and salad is a favourite, as is the occasional fish and chips (Fontanas) or chinese (China Express). In general though, I have what I want. Especially after a hard or long run. It’s often not what I eat that’s the problem, it’s the quantity.

5. LISTEN TO YOUR LEGS

Can nobody else’s legs speak? Just me? Oh…

Having a training plan is an excellent way to structure your training, but its important to listen to how you feel. I’m generally, made of chocolate. I can get a couple of back to back 50 mile weeks in and afterwards I need to back of a bit. That’s just me, some people can manage much higher mileage. I probably have a lot more days rest compared to other people I finish around in races, but its all personal. If you’re tired, take a day off and run another day.

These legs can talk…

Run EASY for the majority of the time, this lets your legs recover and enables you to push harder during quicker training runs. The long runs are the runs that count. Speed is all well and good but if you want to cover a long distance, you need to be putting in long runs, they should be prioritised, in my opinion.
6. BONUS POINT

You are capable of much more than you give yourself credit for. Start small and build up, but if you do as I do then sign up for an event and you have no choice but to train, or suffer during it for not putting in the training. I learnt this the hard way in 2012. I entered Scafell Pike Trail Marathon, my first marathon and longest run by 14 miles. I only did one “long run” a 14 miler 2 weeks before hand and that was bad enough. It ended badly, but you learn more from your mistakes than successes! I’m saying that a lot it seems. I have found that being more consistent has been the reason I have started to improve more in the last couple of years (consistency can be 5, 10 or 50 miles a week) start out slowly and gradually build up mileage. Doing things you doubt that you can complete is a real mental test and seriously rewarding!

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With Hannah & Rosie after our first ultra – Kielder 50km, 2015

Six points that you may disagree with completely… let me know what you think, leave a comment or send me a message. I don’t know a great deal in terms of training and nutrition and any pointers would be great, I’m forever pestering people on social media asking about a variety of stuff. It’s how to learn, as well as having a crack yourself.

6 days to go… gulp.

KMF 50km Ultra Recce/Preview

Keswick Mountain Festival 50km is only a week away (11th June) and I as I have been lax on the blog posts recently, here’s a couple rolled into one. This one will be an update on my training and also a preview of next weekends 50km.

Post Fling

Following the Highland Fling I had a couple of niggles, mainly due to tight legs. I was in pretty good shape apart from my left quad, which had tightened up a lot and was causing me pain in my knee. I had a couple of easy weeks after to let me legs ease back into training and then I started to try and get out in The Lakes again with the intention of getting some runs with more climbing included. I’ve managed to get out 7 times clocking up 77 hilly miles with a total ascent of 20700 feet.

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Running on Skiddaw (poles ninja style) photo: Kath Pigden

My legs are feeling good and I just need to keep clocking up a few longer runs to get as much time spent with my race vest on with all the kit that I will need to carry as possible. Most hilly runs from now will be wearing race vest with full water bottles and kit packed in. I noticed that my upper body was beginning to feel tired at the end of last weeks long run when I recce’d the KMF 50km route.

I have also turned 31 since my last blog post, and acquired a pair of running poles, courtesy of Rosie (it’s like she knew exactly what I was after…) so I’ve been trying to get as much practice in with them as possible. They are made by Black Diamond, they collapse into a third of their length and weigh bugger all. The only issue I’ve had is how I store them whilst running when I don’t want them out. The two ways I can stick them in my bag haven’t worked so far. The first, down the back of my running pack (like a ninja), looks cool, but the ends poke my spine. Manageable for 15 miles, but certainly not 100. The other is to store them cross ways in the mesh of my bag, again, this rubs my back and stops me getting anything else out. I’m open to suggestions if you have any techniques? Please let me know. I don’t really want to have to buy a new pack to carry my poles, maybe a bit of bag modification would work. Bungee cord and a sewing machine could be my solution… I’ll keep you posted. I know you’re desperate for the answer!

Carlisle City Urban Trail Run 10km

I picked up my second podium ever! I came 3rd at the Carlisle Urban Trail Race put on by Sport in Action, its a nice course around the centre of Carlisle on trails and park paths, it always seems to be sunny, has an abundance of flies and has really grown in its 3 years. . I was hoping to run sub 36 minutes, I ran 36:02. I can’t complain as there were bridges, kissing gates and cow poos to negotiate. It helped that James Buis, a sub 2:30 marathoner was running ahead of me, just loosening up before he ran Stirling Marathon on the Sunday (4th in 2:36), I was happy to sit in behind him and hang on as he told me not to get dropped in the last mile! I got my first prize too, a £20 Chivers Sports voucher. Excellent. One of the best running shoe shops in the north and where I get my road shoes.

L to R: James Buis 2nd, Paul Graves 1st, Me 3rd photo: Brian Allen

KMF 50km Ultra Recce

Not really sure how to approach this one, on one hand I want to race, on the other I want to be efficient so I can keep on training. I ran the whole course on Bank Holiday Monday as a long run, I totalled 33 miles in 6hrs 45mins. I felt good at the end of it which was a positive. Still managed to get lost, even though I had the route uploaded to my Suunto, so easy to do and great for planning training runs and using on race day, but doesn’t help if the wearer is a dope. I often create a route on Strava and then export that to my watch, it’s the reason I’m useless at practicing with a map and compass.

The route is a really good mix of flatter running and climbs that you can get your teeth into. There is 2000m of ascent, which replicates the ratio of climbing to miles in the Lakeland 100. I parked at the bottom of Latrigg, as its free parking, and set off with Rosie and Agnes up Walla Crag and along to Ashness Bridge, they were going to head back to Keswick from here via the lake shore. They knocked out 8 miles. From there I travelled to Watendlath and down to Rosthwaite, this was one of the sections I didn’t know and was also where I took a turning too soon and added 1/2 a mile onto my day on a loop of road. The climb up Honister wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and I was soon in the cafe scranning a ham salad roll and a bottle of coke.

Climbing towards Honister Quarry

This will be check point 2 during the race. The only negative about this pit stop was the £4.95 in shrapnel that the waitress gave me in change. Despite my best efforts to keep it separated, as soon as I ran downhill I had a bunch of 50p, 20p and 5p coins clinking away for the next 3 hours… Chinese water torture must have been invented based on this.

From Honister theres a bit more of a climb up and over into the bottom end of Buttermere, from here it’s a flat section around Buttermere and Crummock, same route as Buttemere 10 as far as Rannerdale. It was strange running around here as I was recounting my blog post in my head on that race and was getting same emotions of being chased as during the race. It won’t be like that come next weekend, thats for sure!

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Looking down Buttermere & Crummock

Happy to turn off and climb out of Rannerdale, this was a bit of a suprise to me. I didn’t expect this to be as long a climb as it was. Will have to make sure I’ve got plenty in the tank for this climb. The next section is a few miles of off camber single track, which I found difficult to get a rhythm going on. A steep descent and a bit more rocky path and I emerged onto the Newlands Hause road, a few miles of feeling fresh on tarmac brought me to Catbells and from here it was the familiar path to Portinscale Marina and then back to Keswick, and in particular The Keswickian chippy. I’d conjured this plan whilst running along the boggy far shore of Crummock Water, I was trying to decide what £4.95 would get me. I’d settled on a small battered sausage and chips, maybe a tin of pop. What I didn’t plan for was a size of the queue. Out the door. I nearly fell to my knees and cried. As it was already 7.30pm I instead walked back to the car, dejected and hungry. I called Rosie to tell her the bad news. She got to cooking straight away and I walked into the house to a plate of cheesey haddocky bake, roasted veg and new potatoes. That’s why I’m marrying her. I also ate a burrito that was left over from the night before. And some Green & Blacks birthday chocolate (I say some, I mean a bar).

I imagine that I will tell myself to run a steady race and not to trash my legs all week and then I’ll get white line fever on race day and chuck all my best made plans out the window. For this very reason I’ve decided not to enter Carlisle Tri Club 10km on Wednesday evening. I would end up battering myself for 6 miles on the road and be sore for 2 days afterwards. I’ve only ran on the road twice in the last month.

I’m also announcing a blanket ban on biscuits and cake unless I’ve run for more than 10 miles, and that doesn’t mean a full packet. Need to stop falling into the “I’m training hard so I can eat anything trap”. Have an apple FFS.

Other races in the pipeline are High Terrain Events Scafell Trail Marathon, that’s 2 weeks before the 100 and will be a run out with finalised race kit and nutrition.

I’ll try and get a race report up a bit quicker next week. Thanks for reading!

Since Highland Fling

Distance – 130.4 miles | Elevation Gain – 22619 feet | Time on Feet – 24hrs 23mins

Highland Fling Countdown

With a week to go until the Highland Fling I thought I’d give an update on what I have been up to in the last couple of weeks and my goals for next weekend.

Running

I finished off my long runs with another loop around Ullswater, this time parking at Dacre, so I was able run a bit more along the Lakeland 100 route. The weather was glorious again, I’ve got a feeling it’s gonna cost me on race day. Being openly and increasingly geeky about all things running I decided to combine two elements I’d read about that week, an irunfar article on runnable long runs and an interview on talkultra with Hayden Hawks about practicing running with little fuel to replicate finishing a race as a shuffling/spluttering mess (and being able to get through it). It went to plan. Kinda. I started to flag a bit earlier than intended, probably due to the heat, so, having travelled clockwise around Ullswater I was feeling the affects when Glenridding arrived after 16 miles. Deciding to top up on sugar I entered the shop/post office/ice cream meca and purchased a can of IrnBru… and a bounty ice cream (don’t judge me). Having put them away I set off for the last 10 miles. Running into Dacre in the last mile the lack of water and food were starting to have an effect. I’ve had it a few times now, when your vision starts to narrow and go blurry at the edges. I only had a mile to get done so all good, got a decent distance in on not much fuel and didn’t collapse. Inhaled a chocolate milk and drove home. Via a well known fried chicken outlet.

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Ullswater Way

Did a couple of hard 5km efforts rather than intervals including the DH Runners 5km time trial. A looped course with a nasty great hill in the middle. I turned up to the club run rather looking forward to a nice sociable 8 miles. Should have checked the run plan before leaving the house. If I had, there’s a good chance I’d have bottled it and taken the dog along the river instead. Mile 1 there was a horrid head wind, mile 2 was Cummersdale Hill and mile 3 was with a tailwind (but I was desperate for the finish). Fair to say I suffered, this pic was taken by Lakesman, DH Runners chief and parkrun bigwig Andy Graham moments after finishing… landed a 5km PB though, 17:19. Good signs I hope.

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**insert expletive**

Easter. The killer of all tapers. I’m running less and eating more! We drove down to visit Matt, Laura and Grace on Easter Sunday then drove to North Wales to see my elder brother Andy, his wife Charlotte and Harri as they’d just had another bambino, Hanna. We were out the house for 30 hours. In that time I had 5 coffees, 6 cups of tea, brownies, cakes, a roast dinner, bacon and egg buttie, pom bears (very nice), a beef sarnie, lemon meringue pie, numerous small eggs from the easter egg hunt, an apple and a banana (being healthy).

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Hanna Holliday & Uncle Mick!

 

Race Aims

I dislike making predictions for what time I will run, mainly because I don’t really use any science behind the times I’d like. Browsing the Fling FAQs, it suggests that a rough guide would be 3 x your marathon time. 3 x 3:04 = 9:12. So, on that evidence I’ll be very happy with a sub 9 hour run. I’m discounting the 4 minutes as I was walking/staggering towards the finish line for those very painful 4 minutes *shudder*. I don’t like to think about it. However, I’ve definitely improved in the last year so on a good day, who knows. A more important goal for me is to be able to run well during the last 10 miles, as this is going to benefit me more for Lakeland 100 than having to walk it in. Hopefully, I can make up some places too.

Race Kit

Having now run a number of ultras I’m starting to get a list of things that work for me. Nutrition wise, I try to eat as much real food as possible to start with, then when I start feeling like death warmed up I’ll use gels. Nuts, cereal bars, bananas and satsumas are all on the list, as well as my luxury item… a bag of Salt & Vinegar Hula Hoops. As the Fling operates a drop bag system I’ll be able to have a few different things at each check point and grab whatever takes my fancy. On top of scran, I’ll be taking a S!Cap tablet every 30 mins, they’re a sodium tablet that prevent cramp getting you. I really like them. Far more than using electrolyte tablets dropped in water bottles. I find those weak flavoured and I much prefer water when my mouth turns dry.

I reeeally hope its going to be dry. The reason for this? Nobody likes the rain. Plus, my waterproof jacket is out of action, as its turned distinctly none waterproof in the 6 months I’ve had it (Inov-8 Stormshell) due to the inside delaminating from the outer fabric. I’ve been meaning to send it back for about 6 weeks, I bought a sealable bag to send it off 2 weeks ago. Really need to be more organised. I have a bulkier more waterproof alternative (Montane Minimus Mountain Jkt), so don’t worry.

T-shirt and arm warmers on the top, much more versatile than just a long sleeve top. You can take off sleeves without having to take off your pack. Patagonia shorts below, my favourite piece of running kit. Bar none. Good fit, lots of pockets, don’t chafe. Big tick. Having asked a number of people what to wear on my feet I have arrived at trail shoes, rather than road shoes. My only worry is whether my feet will be shot after 53 miles, most likely, but I’d rather have a bit more grip if they will be battered regardless of what I wear. Anyways, I’m going with my Inov-8 Roclites, they are swinging 1 from 1 in races entered so far so they’re in good form, I expect that’ll drop to a 0.500 average soon however!

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Other items I will take include phone and foil blanket (race requirement), Suunto watch, vaseline, kinesio tape, cap and gloves if its cold. And of course, my DH Runners buff. I’d like to wear my club vest too but it chafes me something chronic. Not much of a compulsory kit list for this race, but I’ll still be taking my race vest. I’d rather take slightly more stuff than run out of calories or water between check points.

Race Plan

Start slow. Try not to slowdown. That’s all I’ve got.

Wish me luck!