Tuesday, 26 February 2013

A bit of training and a dodgy stomach!

Its been a quiet couple of weeks since my last blog after the Wokingham Half Marathon. Silverstone Half Marathon is this weekend, and a lot of fellow running friends have commented that the race is rather boring. But I love F1 racing, so i think the race is right up my street. How fun will it be running round for 13.1 miles making racing car noises? Plus a quick pitstop in the new "Wing" pit straight!

Back to the last few weeks and last weekend and on the 17th i was back on the Thames Towpath with my Ultra running friend Fi. We were off to do a recce on the towpath in preparation for the upcoming Thames Towpath 100 Ultra that Fi is racing and I'm sweeping the first 38 miles of. We set out to recce the route from Whitchurch to Wallingford. A part of the course which i should have raced during the Thames Trot 50 Ultra. It was a beautiful crisp winter morning. We parked up just before the Toll bridge south of the Thames and set off towards Whitchurch. The route doesn't follow the towpath at this point and deviates on to local roads. After pointing at the 67 mile aid station to Fi, I knew where it was after volunteering there last year, we then headed off road towards the Thames again. This point of the route is one of the few hills to be dealt with. The first part being like a big dipper. Eventually getting down the hill we followed the signs for the Thames Towpath. We soon had to negotiate a rather wet and muddy section. Once through this our path became totally blogged, not for the last time this day. So back we went, through the muddy wet section also. We then had to stick to the roads towards Goring train station and off into Streatley. Once there we again attempted to follow the towpath, which last all of 2 hundred yards, again coming across the river totally flooding the path.
A quick check of the towpath map, and we decided to go the road route to Moulsford where the towpath would again deviate from the river. All be it a boring road to follow, it was free of trains which allowed us a nice view of the road ahead bur also the beautiful rolling hills of the Oxfordshire countryside. Fi wasn't to happy to be running this route though, describing it as mental torture.
We made it into Moulsford and once again picked up the Towpath route, on the road through this village. Once through some roadworks we were directed through a new Linden Homes site back to the river. I nice surprise in front of us, the route was again impassable by the flooding of the river!!
At this point we realised that we weren't going to be going to Wallingford via the river Thames. So we opted on following the road to just south of Wallingford, then heading East towards the A4074. We followed this south for a couple of hundred yards until we picked up the B4009 back to Goring. This was the route I ran for the Thames Trot due to the flooding. It was also at this point I wish I had earplugs as Fi went on a 5 mile moan! Being the caring running buddy that I am, I laughed along to Fi's whinging and moaning. Soon followed by the apologises for the whinging and moaning. Not that she needed to apologise! Long distance running is about being happy the whole way. Be easier if it was, but it just doesn't happen like that. After a few "shut ups" and "stop whinging", Fi snapped out of it. Excellent! This did provide some good entertainment and made the 4-5 miles to Goring go pretty quickly. At one point Fi could see the road we had ran early and asked why we weren't just doing that again? To which i replied, "we've seen those trees already, not these ones. Cant miss them out,they would be hurt". In reality there was a handful of trees if that!
Once back at Goring station we picked up the route we had done earlier in the run and headed back to the car, minus the muddy wet detour. A good 20 mile run in 4 hours. Not good for recceing a course as we couldn't, but good as the weather was really good and so were the views!
As a reward, we headed into Pangbourne for coffee and cake! Hell, why not? Its not like we didn't need the calories!

Aside from doing the recce run with Fi, I've ran locally and been out helping my friend Alex who has been struggling a little recently, and felt like she wasn't progressing. There is a nice little loop round the polo fields in between Farnborough and Aldershot. I decided to take Alex there and get here to do some interval work. A good two laps covering 5.3 miles. We also went out last week round there and got Alex through a 10k in 65 minutes! Bloody good going at a training pace. Alex along with her husband Gareth are coming with myself up to Silverstone for the half marathon.

After last weeks run with Alex on the Tuesday, i started to feel a bit rough come Wednesday evening. Some how managing to pick up a bug which left me alternating my face and backside with the toilet seat. This put paid to my training for the week. It drained me physically as well as literally! Not sure if it was something I eat or picked up in the pool Tuesday morning during my 2km swim.
I got back out last night for a run with Beccie, only doing 2 of the 3 planned laps as i still didn't feel 100%. I shall be back out again tonight with Alex, for some more laps. Then out Thursday for a steady 10 miles in prep for Saturday's race, where i hope to get back into my 8 min/mile pace.

Oh, and since the last blog, I've booked another ultra! The Race To The Stones 100km Ultra for July!

Happy days

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Alice Holt Parkrun & Wokingham Half Marathon

Well, it's been a weekend of running again.

Saturday I decided to do my bit again for Alice Holt Parkrun, and became a volunteer. My good friend Paula was Run Director for the day, so I was there for morale support and to enjoy the other side of the run. Last post I saw before setting of for the morning was stating that there would be a window around 9am without rain. True to form, it didn't rain, it snowed!!
My task for the morning was to be timekeeper. This appealed to my OCD side! A straight forward task. Press start on the stopwatch at the beginning of the race, press the lap button as each runner came over the finishing line. Simple!
Despite the very cold conditions, 98 hardy runners completed the 5k course. Then it was off to enjoy a warming cup of coffee or two. Oh and a big well done to Paula for hosting a great and successful run!!
If you haven't done a Parkrun, I really recommend them. Great fun for a Saturday morning and totally free! Also, please volunteer. Running events won't survive without the volunteers. Not just at Parkrun, but all runs and races.

Sunday and the Wokingham Half Marathon.

Pulling back the curtains first thing, I hoped to see clear skies and a cold but crisp morning. Unfortunately the weather gods had other ideas! Grey, cold and raining. Oh well, the run of good weather on race days had to come to an end. Today was that day!
After last weeks ultra, I had no intention of racing this race, instead dedicating the race to help my friend Beccie break the sub 2 hours. I was going to be her pacer!!
Things didn't start to well leaving the house though. Half a mile down the road on the way to pick up Beccie, I was annoyed with myself for not picking up an umbrella. Then the little latch in your head that holds back vital information like, "you've left the gas on" or "you forgot to put trousers on again" kicked in. I had forgotten my Garmin! Would be a bit bloody hard pacing without having any idea of pace! So back home I went. Watch gathered and an umbrella too! Now I think I have everything, best get Beccie.
Beccie picked up and no more incidents we got to Wokingham and made our way to the race start. Rain hadn't eased up and the race area was on a field, which was starting to resemble Glastonbury. It didn't take us long to find Lisa and Laura. In the massage tent having pre run massages. All quiet until other runners came in to use the area to get out the rain. Poor ladies trying to relax!
Eventually the time came to leave our dry safe home and get to the start line. The majority of the 3000 starters all wearing matching black bags!
Thankfully we didn't have to wait to long and we were off. Heading out the park and onto the local country roads. A good mix of support in the early first mile and we settled down nicely into our pace. I say our pace, I'm not sure Beccie knew what that was and I had her trust in my hands. I needed to gauge how she was feeling, but I was also concerned that we should be a little above our set pace. Bearing this in mind, I picked the pace up a little, which annoyingly was at the same time as our first hill. Well motorway bridge. Knowing Beccie I knew this wouldn't pose any problems so we dug a little deeper and cruised over. After four miles and another motorway bridge and hill, we had banked a good 75 secs ahead of our ideal pace of 8.55 min/miles. Time to settle in.
Beccie was brilliant and trusted me 100%. I suspect she may have muttered a few bad words occasionally under her breathe. But hey, I probably would have too!
We stayed settled at our pace until around mile 8 where Beccie started to feel "uncomfortable" as she put it. My reply "good". I'd be more worried if she wasn't uncomfortable! After having a few chats with other runners we had to start to dip deeper. Beccie had the time in hand, now was the time to use it. Occasionally I got a little carried away and had to slow down again, but eventually we were in the last mile and skirting the park where we could see and hear the finish area. As we turned into the park and the last couple of hundred metres I really encouraged Beccie to open the pace. She didn't quite have the legs but crossed the line unofficially in 1hr 57.05!! Nearly four minutes quicker than her PB!!
The rain didn't let up all morning so to break a pb plus a sub 2 hours in the conditions we had was just amazing!
Unfortunately we were so cold and need to get warm, we didn't get to see Lisa and Laura finish.
Although I have heard from Lisa, and believe unofficially she finished around 2 hours 45 with Laura quicker than that.
To sum up, a good race slightly spoiled by the weather conditions. I would definitely go back and do it again.
Also a thank you to Sara Lambourn cheering out on course and taking pics, shame I didn't see her brother in law, Chris who got a new pb of 1hr 46!!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Emotional run for Luca

I've just got back from a run, which was down in my training as a training run, which has now been changed to a memorial run for a toddler named Luca.
Luca had Tay Sachs, a progressive neurological genetic disorder. In a short a cell malfunction which causes it to die.
*more info can be found at www.cats-foundation.org

The disease eventually took its toll on poor Luca who was only two.

I was made aware of this disease, when I was asked to take up the CATS 10K Challenge. Basically a challenge to run 10k on my own or an organised race. The charity ask for a small donation and for you to pick a day on there calendar to run. Hoping then that somebody runs every day for a year. My run was originally back in November. But after the passing of poor Luca, we were asked to run again today in his honour. Why today? Today was the day that Lucas mum ran her 10k. This was also the day one year ago that Luca was diagnosed with Tay Sachs. So we were honouring Luca and supporting his mum in this sad time.
If you are reading this and want to help out, please see the website above.

So I donned my Cats 10k vest and headed out!

A chilly night, but I ran 7.8miles which I shall dedicate to Luca!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

The Thames Trot 50 - The Boat Race

Well unfortunately this race wasn't the 50 miles it normally is due to heavy flooding on the Thames.
But, none the less what a great first ultra for me!

We decided to stay in Oxford on Friday night so we wouldn't have to get up so early Saturday morning to get to the start. We woke at 6am and set about finalising our kit. Mine, my bag of food and mandatory kit, Fay, sorting my spare kit and where the check points were to meet me at. We then headed to the Golden Arches for some much important breakfast. Undecided on what was best I had a bit of porridge and pancakes. Washed down with the standard pre race latte! Once full it was off to the race HQ. the Prince of Wales pub in Iffley. It's one of those ironies I'm starting to see in ultra running. 300 odd people descending on a pub at 7.30 am like some kind of harden drinkers who need there hit. But this hit is of the running nature and naturally produced endorphins. So rather than indulging in beer and wine, it's the place to pick up your race number, map and shirt. Fortunately I got the rather easy number 456!
Once I had my number pinned to my shorts ( no point doing top, as I knew I would be taking layers off or putting them ) I went in search of my running buddy for the day, Michael Sartorius.
I meet Michael back last August when we were both sweeping the North Downs Way 50/100 ultra. In fact it was Michael who recommended this race.
We had a quick scan of the route, which due to the flooding had changed a fair amount.
We were ready for the off. After a quick brief from the race organiser we were off!

Start to CP1 Cullham Lock

We headed straight out of Iffley to the river Thames. Immediately seeing the flooding that has forced the change of the route. We crossed the river so we were on the west side of the river and heading south. We followed the river for a little while and came across what would be the first of many flooded paths. Less then a mile and wet feet! We soon came off the tow path and picked up the road to Radley. Once through Radley we skirted around the housing estates of Abingdon, past the football club, and into Abingdon town centre. There we picked up the A415 heading south. During this time Michael and I were running with Michaels friend Jim. Averaging just under 9 minute miles. A pace which proved to be a little to quick for me. As we came out of Abingdon, we were being cheered only the local Parkrunners. No doubt thinking we were completely mental! And who could argue that? We eventually made a right turn towards Cullham Lock, CP1. 7.5 miles in 1hour 10.

CP1 Cullham Lock to CP2 Benson

After a quick dumping off my jacket and a quick change for Michael and Jim, we were off again. Heading south we picked up the B4016 heading east. We were on this road for a while, eventually coming into a village. Here we came across a large group of people running towards us, they had obviously taken the wrong route. Which helped us make the right choice. After following a track for a while we entered a field and where the first days fun in the mud began! I was starting to lag behind Michael and Jim. Michael letting me know that I should just inform him if the pace was to quick. Being stubborn and wanting to do well I didn't. But it became obvious that I couldn't keep up and Michael and Jim kept stopping and waiting for me. After a pretty miserable slog up a muddy track up a hill I really started to suffer. This was where I had my worst part of the day. My legs felt heavy and I started to question my own ability. Just at a half marathon point and I wondered if I could even achieve the marathon distance let alone full race distance. After coming out onto a half decent track Michael was again waiting for me and Jim had continued on his own race. I was thankful of his early support but I knew he needed to run his own race. With a bit of walking and running Michael and I picked up the A4074 and headed south to Benson and CP2. 16.3 miles in 2hours 45

CP2 Benson to CP3 Goring

After a quick drink and a hello to the wife we were off again. We decided that now was a good time to get some food in, so set off walking. Immediately we got confused with the course direction along with another group. Maybe the same group from earlier? After heading down a track for a 100 yards the guys I front of us told us to turn back. 2 minutes wasted and no nearer the finish! Oh the joys of ultras! At least I had my food and Michael for company. We headed off now in the right direction. Heading south on a road parallel with the A4074. My first food pack I made myself consisted of, Funsize mars bars x 2, some cocktail sausages, packet of cheese Doritos and an Egg and Bacon sandwich. Was we had finished with our runners picnic we got back into the swing of things. We eventually came off the path we were following onto the A4074 at the roundabout with the A4130. We followed the A4074 south a little further, until we picked up the B4009, our route into Goring. This was one of the most enjoyable stretches of the route, all be it on a road. It was very picturesque. We followed this all the way to Goring Train station, CP3. 23.76 miles in 4hours 30

CP3 Goring to CP4 Mapledurham

Immediately after leaving this checkpoint we had to pick up the towpath again. After coming into a cluster of houses and stables we got a little confused to where the path was and again wasted a few minutes trying to find the right route. No dramas. Eventually we found the route which was pretty hilly and muddy. But the views over the Thames made up for the difficulty under foot. Time for some sweets! We knew there was going to be some up hill work though here so we decided as we were walking, we may as well eat. Michael deciding on mini eggs! Why didn't I think of that? We eventually made our way through the woods and onto the B471 at Whitchurch on Thames. We followed this south towards Pangbourne and over the toll bridge. Free to us pedestrians! Again we saw how flooded the Thames was and that the route that would normally have been taken only possible by kayak! So we followed the road into Pangbourne. We eventually picked up the A329 and headed east towards Mapledurham. We followed this for a fair while chatting with a few other trotters. We eventually came to our next turning onto New Hill and CP4. 29.65 miles in 5hours 52

CP4 Mapledurham to CP5 Sonning

After picking up more food and putting my hi viz on we set out back upto the A329. Michael assured me all was good now. He knew this area well! We followed the road for a short time until we came to an old pub and our route back onto the Thames path. This wastage only stretch of the race that hadn't changed. I was feeling stronger and had managed to have more food while talking to some other trotters. Michael and I liked the pace up and started to make good progress towards Sonning. We soon came across more flooding on the path. I knew running The Grimm and Brutal 10s would pay off! Nothing we could do but go through it. As I joked to Michael, my feet were getting to hot anyway! We continued along the path towards Sonning. Arriving in Reading and I was feeling good and strong. All though conscious that it could all change round the next bend. The going was good here and eventually we meet up with Michaels wife and two young boys. A nice stop and time that was well worth wasting! I've had my wife meeting me at every cp, and I'm sure Michael was slowly getting sick of my chatter and sight. ( I forgot to do my hair that morning). We eventually said goodbye but would see them again at Henley. Less then a mile away and we were at the final cp. CP5. 37.03 miles in 7hours 36

CP5 Sonning to Finish Henley on Thames

After a quick kiss from the wife we were off again. I was still feeling strong so we made some good progress heading along the B478. The sun was starting to go down and the road had no path so we ran the whole way until we picked up the Dunsden Way road. Being a hill we decided to walk and conserve some energy. Well mine to be more precise! Once it flattened we got going again and had to find a bridal way across some fields. We found this with ease, helped by the two female trotters in front of us. We really started to shift now, helped by some downhills. But while the going was good, we went wrong again. Again a group of us continued down a track instead of heading left. We eventually came out onto the Henley road to far south. Bugger. We found ourselves on a road with our paths and I decided to run on the grass verge. Harder work but beats being run down. We eventually came into Henley. All we had to do now was follow the signs to the station. Michael started to open his legs and I struggled to keep up, not that I minded as we were there. I rounded the corner to seethe lights of the finish. A good crowd cheering and I felt myself starting to blub. I'd been sniffing all day, so managed one more sniff then gave it all I had left. I first saw the wife for high fives as I then crossed the finish line with my arms in the air! I'd managed to do something I never even knew about two years ago, I completed and ultra marathon!! 43.66 miles in 8hours 58

The feeling of that finish was amazing. I had some tough times, but I had far more good times. I was amazed how strong I felt at the end and I know I still had the legs if I had needed to run 7 more miles. All the hard hours spent training in some pretty awful conditions paid off!
I can now look forward to my next ultra race, the North Downs Way 50. But before the I have a fair few races and another 38 mile sweep back on the Thames Towpath.

I'd like to thank Michael for sticking with me during the race. He committed his race to help me through my first ultra! What a top man! Hopefully I'll be able to repay him one day!
I also want to thank my wife for being my crew on the day, having to navigate herself to each checkpoint bringing me clothes and food! No doubt a long day for her.
And finally I want to thank Go Beyond Ultra for a great race and all the volunteers that helped out on course!

Thank you all