Sunday, 29 July 2012

Lakeland 100 Result

Just a quick update for now as my mind and body are struggling to take in all the happenings of the weekend.

I nailed it! 10th place in 25:52 hours. All expectations surpassed.

It is a tale of sunshine, showers, wind and rain, slow starts and negative splits, poor choices of clothing, too many gels and not enough beef stew, checkpoint marquees with sofas and a race to break 26 hours.

I'll get my thoughts together at some point and do a full report but for now I need some sleep.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Pre race thoughts

This time in two days I will have been running for about an hour in the Lakeland 100 race. I thought I would be really nervous at this point but I generally feel quite calm and just want to get running.

The taper has not been easy and for the first week and a half I felt awful. In the last week it has been very different as I have been really bouncing along on my training runs, holding back the pace and enjoying the short sessions.

Last weekend, I made my regular pilgrimage to the Open Golf Championship at Lytham. What a fantastic weekend and what a dramatic finish. I could not do any training over the weekend but allowed for that in my plan, though anyone who has been to watch a major golf event will tell you that it is a long tiring couple of days.

This week I have just had a couple of steady 5 milers and have been most encouraged with the way my legs have felt - maybe the taper has worked after all?!

With regard to the race itself, I think I have got all my kit sorted, including my drop bag for Dalemain. I have added a note with a list of things I must do at Dalemain and a list of things I might want to do, that way I hope that I will not miss anything out or leave some important kit behind in the heat of battle.

I have a rough plan in place, though it is not as detailed as when I did the West Highland Way race in 2010. Due to the terrain, it is more difficult to keep to a schedule so I have decided to only have some rough targets for the first couple of legs (mainly to stop myself from going too fast) and then run/walk/crawl as I feel I can from there.

So the training is done and I'm ready to go. Good luck to everyone taking part and I hope the weekend brings you success in whatever form you measure that.

It is almost exactly a year since I had my operation and I can remember lying on my bed in the hospital thinking about this race. BRING IT ON!!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Life in mid-taper

The hard work has now been done and I am now in the middle of my taper for the Lakeland 100 race in 9 days time. On Sunday, I went and did my final longish run of a couple of hours and like all runs during my taper, I felt awful. It was sluggish, I had heavy legs, a bit of a head cold and a sore back. I just wanted to get the run done and start to rest up properly.

Towards the end of term, I always feel pretty knackered and everything feels hard work. I have convinced myself that having a full week off from work before the race will give me all the recovery time I need and I'm sure that come 5:30pm next Friday I will be like a caged tiger ready for the off.

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow at work, not just because it is the last day of term, but also as I organise some mile races as the final event of the year. We have a staff "devil-take-the-hindmost" race to whip the crowd up into a frenzy, followed by an elite race where the best runners from the various year groups have a serious race for trophies and the school year is rounded off with a fancy dress fun run. Fingers crossed that the weather stays OK!

I will squeeze in a couple of runs on Thursday and Friday, probably 1:30 hours and one hour, before heading off to Lytham, making my annual pilgrimage to watch The Open golf championship. Come on Westwood!!!

My mood seems to fluctuate between wanting a few more weeks to get past this heavy-legged feeling and wanting to get on with the race as I have thought about nothing else for a year. Aaahhh, the trials and tribulations of the taper!

If you haven't already seen it, check out John's Lakeland 100 trailer.

Friday, 13 July 2012

SLMM video

Although this week was supposed to be the first week of a three week taper, it has been more of a recovery week after the SLMM. My legs and, in particular, my back obviously took quite a pounding last weekend, meaning that I have limited myself to just three 3 mile jogs. I had a massage on Tuesday night but it is only by today that I have felt more comfortable when running. I am not having a panic over this, I have only really changed a couple of sessions from my original plan and I know that the hard work I did last weekend will reap rewards in a couple of weeks time.

As I write this, I look down at my watch and shudder as I realise two weeks from today I will have been running for 23 minutes of the Lakeland 100 with the whole adventure ahead of me. Bring it on!!

I managed to take some video clips during the SLMM weekend and have put together a short film to give some idea of how the race unfolded for me. Enjoy.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon report

I had been really looking forward to the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon this year for a number of reasons. Primarily, I just love the challenge of a mountain marathon, testing your ability to not only run over the terrain but also to navigate and look after yourself, being self sufficient for the two days. This would be my first such race since the operation and therefore by far the biggest test of my tendon. Finally, this would also mark the end of my training for the Lakeland 100 which is less than three weeks away, giving just enough time for a nice taper.

I left home after eating on Friday night and drove the van round to Wasdale; the usual journey of nearly one and a half hours to finish up only about 15 miles from home. With the early start time on Saturday morning, it was great to have the use of the camper to sleep in at the race on Friday night, so I registered and settled down for a good night’s sleep.

The Klets class (Elite) had an experimental format this year aimed at spreading out the field. At the start at 8:00am, we were given the grid references of all the controls we would need to visit over the two days but we could plan which controls we would do on each day in whatever order we wanted, with the proviso that there was a 10 hour time limit on day 1 and 7 hours on day 2. The organisers had provided tables and chairs for us, though the start of this race did resemble an exam room (or was it a bingo hall?)

It took about 10 minutes to plot all the controls and have a think about my plan. I thought it would be a good idea to collect all the controls to the east and south of Wasdale which covered the more difficult and rougher terrain. It does nothing for your confidence as you turn off the track and watch all the other runners in your class take a different route, perhaps this was the moment I should have re-evaluated my plan but instead I stuck to my guns. I made the long climb up from Wasdale to Beck Head, checking over the map and started to realise that I had probably made the wrong strategy choice. A better option would have been to split the rough terrain over the two days, particularly as my route would bring me back close to the start which just felt like a waste. By this time I was committed to the route so just decided to get on with it.

The weather was amazing, particularly when compared to the conditions we have had recently. I climbed round Green Gable and dropped down to Styhead Tarn as most of the rest of the field came up the other way. I remember thinking that they could all be wrong in their strategy and I might be right! Over the next couple of hours, as I made my way over the hills to the south of Wasdale, heading towards the west end of the lake where I would cross the valley, I tried to up the pace to make up some of the time I would lose with the poor route choice. Big mistake!! As I finally dropped down in Wasdale again I felt pretty goosed. With all my training this year being aimed at the Lakeland 100, I have not spent any time running off-piste and therefore found the rocky and tussocky terrain a real handful. I went through a really bad patch after about 4:30 hours and just slowed right down, walking on even the most gentle of inclines. My original plan was to do a loop of 5 controls on the Seatallan slopes, above Greendale, however, I made the decision that it would be better for my overall race plan if I left those controls for the Sunday and made my way to the overnight camp over towards Ponsonby Fell. This would at least mean I could regroup at the camp, there was no point in wasting time whilst I was struggling. I did start to get things back together again by the finish but felt that it was a prudent move.

I had been running for about 6:30 hours, covering 20 miles and about 7200 feet of climb through much of the rougher terrain and had ticked the most important box; don’t get injured!!

The campsite was about half full at this point. I had a wander about until I found a familiar face and set up camp next to Dan who runs for Ambleside. We got chatting about the routes we had taken and I could immediately see that I was well out of the running for this race. Dan had split the tougher controls over the two days and still collected a good section of the others, all in less than 5 hours. It was interesting talking to other Klets competitors and seeing what strategies they had employed, with some going for a monster first day of over 9 hours, leaving a very easy second day. Nobody could really say for sure who was in the box seat; I just knew it wasn’t me.

The overnight camp was a great experience, the sun was beating down most of the time, you could even dry out your socks (unheard of in a mountain marathon), great banter with everyone and a view of the remaining competitors as they came across the final hillside. If you are reading this after making this SLMM your first race, let me tell you, it is not always this idyllic!

I got through the long process of refuelling the body; Cup-a-soup, freeze dried lasagne pasta meal, custard, chocolate, energy bar, then three hours later, start again but with Bolognese this time. I do find that by the end of this process you are simply eating for the sake of it and not getting any pleasure from it!

As I settled down to sleep, I tried to calculate how long it would take me to collect all the remaining controls the following day and would I have enough time within the 7 hour limit. Working back from the finish, I gave myself a 5 hour target to reach the checkpoint on Scoat Tarn which would allow me to finish off the full course in time. This target setting was useful as it gave me a real focus for the following day, rather than just head off and see what happens.

With a 7am start on Sunday, I was up and out of the tent at 5:30am to give enough time to have breakfast, break camp and pack everything into the rucksack. It was all so quite after the hustle and bustle of the previous evening, with the sun peeking over the hills. I now felt fired up and ready to finish this event with a flourish; the course was not going to beat me! I decided to run a more conservative race and just maintain a steady push, rather than go hard and blow up and I was pleased when a number of runners shot past me at the start and I felt confident enough to let them go.

I settled into a nice pace and met up with Toby, also from Keswick, who was taking slightly different lines to me but we both kept meeting up at the controls. It was amazing that we could not see each other for 20 minutes and then reappear together having taken different routes. This time my route took me up to Kinniside Common, a long slog up the lower slopes of Caw Fell before the lung busting climb of Seatallan. During this long climb, I had another good look at the map and decided to change my planned route round the next group of 4 controls, with the aim of reducing the overall climb. This worked a treat and I started to feel like I was back in the groove and making good progress, being much stronger than the previous day.

After passing Scoat Tarn nearly an hour quicker than my rough plan, I had the bit between my teeth and pushed on hard up Scoat Fell, Pillar and along to Black Sail Pass. My mind briefly drifted to three weeks time, when I would once again be running through this pass, hopefully feeling strong. It was all downhill back into Wasdale and the finish. 5:20 hours, 17.7 miles and 6350 feet of climb. A grand day out, Gromit!

After 37.7 miles and over 13,000 feet of climb, I had achieved most of my aims for the weekend; enjoyment, no injuries, mega hills, etc, etc. I was pleased with my strength on the second day and delighted with the way my tendon has held up after a bashing like that so, despite a mid-table finish in the results, I feel confident about my preparation for the Lakeland 100 and am ready to start a proper taper.

A great event, as always, and a huge thank you to all the organising team who once again made this race one of the highlights of the year for me. Congratulations to Dan, who went on to win the race with a superb plan and some serious mountain running.

I am in the process of putting together a video of the weekend, which I hope will give some insight into the goings on at a mountain marathon for the uninitiated.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Ready for the Saunders

I have had a real lazy week of training, mainy as we went out to watch a couple of performances at school as part of our iPerform week; a series of drama and music events. Tracey and I went to the comedy night on Tuesday (with Alun Cochrane, yes, THE Alun Cochrane) and the band night on Wednesday. With the various fixtures taking place, I just did not have enough time to fit in some training so have just accepted this week as a bit of recovery before the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon this weekend.

Despite the horrid weather forecast, I am really looking forward to the event, which runs from Wasdale this year. The organisers have come up with a different slant for the Elite class which will add another element to the strategy of the race. I'll talk about this in my race report.

I have not done a full two day mountain marathon since the OMM in 2010. I missed all the races last year due to my injury and recovery so it will be great to get my compass out again and use it in anger. I am definitely out of practice with regard to the packing for the race. It usually takes about an hour to get everything together but today I have spent about 2:30 hours packing the rucksack.

In this 20 litre rucksack is everything I'll need for upto 36 hours of self-sufficiency; leggings, thermal top, fleece, waterproof top and bottoms, hat, gloves, torch, foil blanket, sleeping bag, sleeping mat (bit of a luxury but it's only flooring underlay!), water bottle, tent, poles, pegs, 1st aid kit, stove, gas, lighter, pan, mug, spoon, food for 2 days of running and food for the camp. About 4.5kg all-in.

I am going to make sure I do not go full bore during the race and will try to keep some of my competitive juices under control as I am using this race as my final big weekend before the Lakeland 100 which starts 3 weeks tomorrow. We are now into the business end of the season!!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Two Saints Way

I thought I had better get round to updating the old blog with my most recent adventures.

I have had a good block of training over the last few weeks. Total weekly miles of 45, 51, 42, 49 and 47 during the last month has been my best block this year and I'm pleased with the way I have coped. I know those are not big totals by a lot of runners standards but I am not a big milage trainer; 50 miles in a week is a lot for me and you need to keep in mind the terrain that I generally train in (nothing on the road and a reasonable amount of climbing).

Last weekend I took on a supporting role as my stepfather, Paul, attempted to cycle and run The Two Saints Way which is a footpath route between the cathedral cities of Chester and Lichfield. The route is about 90 miles, consisting of footpaths, bridleways, canal towpaths and a bit of road.

Paul had worked out a plan which would allow him to use his mountain bike when legal to do so and cover the rest (mainly public footpaths) by running. I had no intention of doing the cycling with him as I cannot keep up with him on the bike; he is an animal on that machine as I found out to my cost a while back, so the system involved me, Mom, Paul, a bike and a car.

Having travelled down to my parents house on the Friday night through the storms, it was early to bed as we had to get going early on the Saturday morning. As we left the house to drive to Chester, the weather did not look too bad and over the weekend, I think you could say, we got away with it, with regard to the weather, especially as I was following the West Highland Way race reports/tweets telling of the horrid conditions up in Scotland.

We dodged the traffic wardens outside Chester Cathedral as Paul got himself ready for the first section which would take him about 3 hours on the bike.

This gave me time to head back to the house, have a coffee and collect Mom before leaving to get to the first pit stop where I would join Paul for a long cross-country run of about 16 miles. Paul arrived at the changeover about 10 minutes up on schedule, looking good and really buzzing. It was only after we had started running that he revealed that he had not run longer than a half marathon in recent years and I realised that todays adventure would be a big ask. The first notion I had to get across was to be prepared to walk the rough bits. Anyone who is more used to road or good trail running has to change their perceptions for these long days out; the walks are an important part of the game.

The first couple of hours went well but Paul was starting to suffer a little and the walks became a bit longer each time. I was able to reassure him that there is no problem with this, we took our time and just tried to make steady progress. I think he started to listen to my advice and took on a bit more food which helped, especially as we approached one of the churches on route as we knew Mom would be waiting to replenish our supplies. Half a mile before the church, I said to Paul that he must to put on a happy, confident face, even though he generally looked bad at this point, as Mom might very well call veto and pull the plug on the rest of the challenge. Paul, bless him, rounded the corner into the car park, bounced up to the car and spent 10 minutes telling Mom how much he was enjoying the run. We left for the remaining 5 miles of this run section with Mom none the wiser.

We finally finished the long running section just to the west of Stoke-on-Trent and met Mom for a changeover onto the bike. This is where Paul was put back into his comfort zone; as soon as he climbed onto the bike he looked so much fresher and zoomed off into the distance. Mom and I only just had enough time to sort the car out and drive to  Stoke Minster (via home) before Paul arrived having motored the section.

We met again half an hour later with me ready to take over running duties again for the last 4 miles back to the house and the half way point, ready for a good nights sleep. With a good rest only just around the corner and on the back of a few hours fast cycling, Paul was really positive over these last few miles and we had a small welcoming committee at St Luke's, the local church, for the days finish.

It is amazing what a good nights sleep can do for the human body. On the Sunday, Paul was so much stronger on the running sections all day. We walked round to the church first thing in the morning and started a small running section of 3 miles to get the day going before he once again got back on the bike for an hours blast to the start of the first longer run, approaching Stafford.

The running sections on Sunday where much more enjoyable for me personally as the undergrowth was less of an issue. On Saturday, we battled with nettles and brambles all day, to the extent that my legs were still stinging days later, however, Sunday saw us running on well used paths which made the going much easier. We were soon finishing our first 9 miles section and meeting up with Mom again. No worries today about putting on a brave face, Paul knew he was going to make it even by this early stage of the day, making my job easier.

The running sections were broken by short cycles across Cannock Chase but by this time Paul had the bit between his teeth and was hammering the bike sections, only just giving us time to sort the car and move onto the next meeting point.

The final run of about 7 miles down into Lichfield went really well and we were both getting the buzz as we approached the finish. Once you know the end is in sight, you can always find a little extra, no matter how tired you are. The whole adventure finished at St Chad's church, just behind the cathedral, where we met a very relieved Mom who stated categorically "never again".

We had covered about 37 miles of running over the weekend in about 10 hours. When you add on all the cycling as well, you have to think "not bad for an old man!"

For me personally, it was great to repay Paul for his time supporting me on the West Highland Way Race in 2010, to be involved in the first Two Saints Way pilgrimage over just two days and to help Paul raise nearly £2000 for the local church.