Saturday, 6 December 2014

Playing in the hills

For a while, I have been planning to go out for a play in the hills, take the video camera and spend a bit of time setting up some nice shots so I could put together a video just showing off the trails around Keswick.

Last Sunday morning was the perfect day to do this, so I set off round Latrigg and the Glenderaterra Loop, just to see what I could come up with.

The process involves lots of setting up the camera, running back down the path, turning round, running past the camera and picking it up. As you can imagine, there is a lot of editing to be done.

My original intention was to just keep this video for myself as it is basically just me out training; there is no race going on for people to follow, there are no disasters, no happy marshals, no rain, no man-suit moments. I thought I'd play the video back when I'm lacking a bit of mojo in the depths of winter, just to remind me what it's all about. However, the few people who have seen it on YouTube have been very positive, so I thought I'd stick it on here too.

So, apologies to those of you not lucky enough to live in Keswick, but here is my back yard ;-)

Saturday, 29 November 2014

These are a few of my favorite things....

My name is Dave and I am a kit nerd! There, I've said it, it feels good to get that off my chest. A new item of kit is like knocking 5 minutes off your race time. This is still a relatively new sport to me and I keep discovering shiny bits of kit that I don't yet own - child, sweety shop, etc.

Thought I'd put together a run-down of some of the kit that has served me well, made me smile, ignited my mojo (or maybe even helped me to perform better).

Skechers Go Run Ultra shoes
For the couple of years after my operation, I was a Hoka man. I felt that I needed the comfort and protection that they provided. I have since been working on my running style, having at least one session per week devoted to style (a great way to make use of a run that could otherwise be just junk miles). What I wanted was a shoe that would still give me some of the cushioning of Hoka's but would be more flexible, softer and, dare I say, more like a normal trainer. Flash back to earlier this year when I stumbled on a blog from an American runner raving about the Skechers Go Run Ultra. 20 minutes later, I had found a pair on eBay and won the auction for £20. Result!

I don't want to turn this into a long winded review, but to give you some idea as to how much I love these shoes, when they arrived, I put them on, ran 4 miles along the old railway line, came back in the house and said to my wife "These are the shoes I've been looking for." Within two weeks I had brought a second pair (as I often change shoes during a 100 mile race) and I simply find them a pleasure to run in. In the Hardmoors 110 earlier in the year, I actually ran in the same pair for the whole race without any problem and then just a couple of months ago they lapped up the UTMB route which is about as good a reference as you can get.

Ultimate Direction Signature Series race vests
Being from a fell running background, I initially used a bumbag for my ultra races but when the race vest bandwagon came trundling round the corner, I was intrigued as to how it might impact on an ultra, particularly avoiding any tightness around the stomach and having all your bits and bobs up front for easy access.

Once again, eBay to the rescue. Now, depending on the day's adventure, I use either the SJ race vest (the mid range pack) or the PB race vest (the larger pack in the range). Snug, stable and accessible - everything I need. I've even rocked up at fell races with the SJ pack.

Berghaus Vapourlight Hyper Smock

I kid you not! This fully waterproof jacket weighs only 87g (including storage pouch). I think it is the world's lightest waterproof jacket, yet still has taped seams, an integral hood and a zipped pocket. It packs down to about the size of a tennis ball and is so minimal that I often just carry it in my hand when out on the fells.

It feels like it is just Pertex and I was sceptical as to how it would cope with some spicy weather 2500m up on some Alpine col, I even carried an extra waterproof just in case the Berghaus smock wasn't up to the deal. That turned out to be overkill; despite the weather during the first 6 hours of UTMB this year, I was snug-as-a-bug in this jacket. The material is soft enough to be comfortable when running yet still keeps the worst of the weather out. A comfy runner is a happy runner.

(NB - This product was a prototype of the jacket now available to buy which I was lucky enough to receive from Berghaus)

Berghaus Vapourlight Hyper Therm FZ insulated smock

Continuing the theme of super light yet practical usability, this insulated pull-over is well tricked. Weighing in at a svelte 160g (including pouch) and packing down to a ridiculous size, there is no excuse for being unprepared out on the mountain.

This top has a trick up it's sleeve (literally). It's reversible. Black side out absorbs any warmth from the sun and has a windproof outer layer, keeping you toasty, however, if you warm up you can reverse the jacket with the red side out and it allows more air to flow through. BOGOF!

(NB - This product was a prototype of the top now available to buy which I was lucky enough to receive from Berghaus)

Mountain King Trail Blaze poles
Quite simply, I'm not sure I would have finished UTMB without theses poles, or I would have been out on those cols for many more hours than I was. I always said that if I managed to get a place in the race I would invest in a pair of poles. I only use the poles on the long climbs so didn't want or need a more robust/heavier set, so went with the Mountain King Trail Blaze 4 piece poles which link together rather like a tent pole.

Light, quick to assemble and easy to store, all the boxes ticked without breaking the bank. A word of note though, if you intend to use the poles on descents, you might want to look for something a little more sturdy.

SJ1000 mini video camera
I wanted a video camera to capture the flavour of my races and training adventures and, yes, like most, I wanted a Go Pro but I just couldn't justify that kind of money. As ever, the 'tinterweb came up with an alternative; the SJ1000. It will capture in full 1080HD, though I work mainly in 720HD just to make the editing, formating and uploading that little bit quicker.

It only captures 30 frames per second, so slow-motion is a little blurred, but I can live with that. On the plus side, you get a ridiculous amount of accessories with the camera, including a waterproof case, all for about £50.

I have been using this camera since August 2013. You can get an idea of the quality by having a look back at some of my race videos on this blog, making sure you have the YouTube settings on HD.

Suunto Ambit2 R GPS watch
I've only had this watch for a couple of months but I love the amount of data that I can get from it. I have even stopped using my trusty spreadsheet for logging my training and just upload straight to my Suunto Movescount account. You can customise the watch from the website which makes things so quick and easy, even changing how often the watch takes a GPS reading, potentially taking the battery life up to the 24 hour region, though I had yet to try this out.

There are a ridiculous amount of screens you can have for any given activity, so I have mine set up to record data for trail running, core workouts, turbo trainer cycling and normal cycling. I can add extra activities as I start to use them. Usefully for me, I can also add training sessions to my account even if I wasn't wearing the watch. This is important for someone who does navigation races such as mountain marathons where GPS devices are not allowed.

Interestingly, you are also able to download apps for the watch to monitor various parameters - something I need to investigate further.

My only negative comment is that the smaller data fields on each screen (top and bottom) are not as easy to read on the run, especially in the dark with a head torch. I have my device set up so the important data is in the middle of the screen with the large figures. I can live with that.

Just had a thought - with Christmas just around the corner, Troman's Top Kit List might need updating in a short while. Watch this space ;-)

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

UTMB nutrition report

The chaps at Mountain Fuel have been supporting me over the last few months with regard to my nutrition in both training and racing. Their advice has been a mix of reassurance that I'm doing some things right, suggestions as to how I could improve the package and outright disgust at the errors I have been making.

I wrote a brief report for them after UTMB, detailing my preparation and race nutrition, again, giving them the opportunity to look for areas for improvement. I know I still have a lot to adjust with regard to my race nutrition, but I really feel that I am now moving in the right direction and, more importantly, feel more confident about what I'm doing. I thought it would be nice to share that report with readers of this blog.

Nutritionally, the preparation for this epic was a mix of “out of my control” and “spot on.”

We spent a week travelling through France, doing our own WW1 battlefields tour, staying in hotels along the way, inevitably eating out for every meal and having cooked breakfasts every morning. My best laid plans of a perfect nutritional build-up were out of the window, but I knew I would arrive in Chamonix four days before the race and, being self-catered, I should have time to get things back on track.

As soon as we were in Chamonix, it was straight to the supermarket to get some basics: lean chicken, couscous, potatoes, rice, you know the kind of stuff. I had brought my breakfast essentials with us so I could start each day with my normal portion of jumbo oats, flax seed, dried fruit, mixed seeds and maple syrup.

Lunch each day was some kind of cold meat/cheese combination along with the obligatory baguette. I was only doing some light training during the week and made a real effort to modify my food intake accordingly, though, once the nerves started to kick in, my appetite dropped off a little anyway.

I made sure I drank a bottle made up with Mountain Fuel Xtreme Energy Fuel on each of the three pre race days along with plenty of water, trying to make re-hydration a long steady process rather than a last minute drinking-fest.

Race day, I tried to keep things familiar, but nerves really started to kick in big time, and taking in food did seem more of a chore than a pleasure. Breakfast and lunch were as normal, I also had a bottle of Xtreme Energy Fuel in the early afternoon. With a 5:30pm start time, thinks were a little more difficult to plan after lunch. In the end, I went with a small bowl of porridge oats at about 1pm and then a portion of Mountain Fuel Morning Fuel mixed with soya milk at about 3:30pm. I love the taste of the Morning Fuel and the small portion is easy to get in and quick to digest.

In hindsight, I probably needed a little something to eat in the final few minutes before the start as we had to stand around for 45 minutes or so before the off. I did not drink any more during this time, mainly due to the lack of opportunity to take a pee!

The most important part of my preparation for this race was getting my head around the fact that I could get most of my race energy from the Xtreme Energy Fuel. Prior to this, I felt that I needed to throw in gels to get me round my ultra races. I had a particularly bad experience earlier in the year and can trace the problems back to too much gel use. This time I was confident in my nutrition and happy that the Mountain Fuel products would get me round in good shape.

Between each of the feed stations, usually 2 – 3 hours apart, I carried 500ml of Xtreme Energy and 500ml of water which comfortably saw me through each section. In addition, I nibbled on Chia Charge bars, which again I just love the taste of, but probably only ate 3 bars during the whole race.
At each checkpoint, the organisers provide an array of cold meats, bread, biscuits and cakes, along with a salty noodle broth, and various drinks. My life-saver was the salty noodle broth. I avoided the cold meats as this would have been a break from the norm and I did not want to get the sugar rush associated with the cakes and biscuits, so at every station, I would have some broth, and as the race went on, I would manage to eat this when nothing else appealed.

Drinks-wise, I found that I wanted something sharp, in contrast to the Xtreme Energy Fuel and plain water I was drinking out on the course. What seemed to hit the spot was varying cups of carbonated water and Coke – this became my routine in each checkpoint; refill bottles ready for next leg, collect a bowl of broth, drink 2 or 3 cups of carbonated water/Coke. A couple of times I mixed up a mug of Morning Fuel with cold water, just for some variety, but I think I much prefer either warm water or milk for this mix and just didn’t really have the time/inclination to sort this out.

Most interestingly, I probably only took 6 or 7 gels during the whole 33 hours of the race and these were more likely to be a psychological crutch rather than a requirement.

The times where I felt nauseous seemed to be associated with altitude (2500m) and I felt slightly better once back down at the feed stations. Energy levels were generally good for the duration, certainly better than I was expecting and must have been a contributing factor to the positive attitude I held for the whole race.

As I was nearing the finish, I was planning my recovery, so I must have been in fairly good condition to be thinking about this! The plan was to get at least 2 servings of the Mountain Fuel Night Fuel in to me before I went to sleep, hoping to catch the optimum recovery window, unfortunately, this didn’t happen. Initially, I was caught up in the emotion and euphoria around the finish area and then, once back at the apartment, sleep was the only thing on my mind.

The following morning, it was back on porridge and all the trimmings, but I didn’t have the same desire to just throw in any old junk food as I would normally have after an ultra. The HUGE mixed grill I treated myself to that evening actually defeated me – not a phrase I utter very often!

This whole event and the positive experience I have gained from it, has really increased my confidence with regard to my nutrition and I cannot thank Darren Foote enough for his advice on all matters nutritional; my first two hour conversation with him was a real eye-opener and a key moment in my development. In addition, having Rupert Bonnington as a sounding board, right here in Keswick has been a great help. When we first spoke in July, the guys talked about marginal gains; these improvements I have made to my training and racing nutrition feel a lot more than marginal gains.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc race video

It has been an epic marathon of editing, but the final director's cut is available at last!

Go and get some popcorn :-)

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc report

Why the hell has someone left sausages all over the track?

I was making the final descent of the most epic race I've ever run, heading back to Chamonix. It was about 2am on a late August Sunday morning, I'd been running for the best part of 33 hours and I actually told myself to stop being so stupid, there were obviously no sausages on the ground - I was hallucinating. I weaved around a bit more, and still the sausages were there, glinting in the torch light. I stopped and took a closer look - Slugs!

As I made the final few turns through the streets of Chamonix, I thought back to the January morning in the PE Department office as I logged on to the UTMB race website and had to ask a colleague to double check that I had read the information correctly - I was in! I hardly slept that night so you can imagine how I was feeling in the final couple of days before the race actually started.

The finish line

Prior to our week in Chamonix, Team Troman (Mom and Dad, Tracey and I) spent a lovely week in northern France, conducting our own tour of the First World War battlefields, cemeteries and museums. My outlook on the holiday changed once we hit Chamonix on the Monday afternoon - this was ultra trail running Nirvana, I was going to love this!

View from outside the apartment

I live in the Lake District, which is pretty dam beautiful, but Chamonix simply takes everything to a new level and for this week of the year, it embraces the world of mountain trail running. I found it really difficult to hold back and remember that I was close to the end of a taper, all I wanted to do was run around the hills for a few hours every day.

We were able to watch lots of other runners finishing their races (5 races as part of the UTMB week long festival), including the winner of the TDS, Xavier Thevenard, who won UTMB last year. It all gets very emotional as you can see what finishing means to all these runners.

Xavier Thevenard, winner of TDS

My pre race thoughts were focused on just three things; I had my fingers crossed that we would be able to race round the full, iconic UTMB route (this has not always been the case due to the weather), I promised myself that I would strive to enjoy myself as much as I could and DNF was not an option. I knew that it was very likely that this would be my only shot at this race and I, therefore, had to get round to claim one of the coveted finishers gillets, but equally, I did not fancy making a 15 hour death march and hate every minute of it. I genuinely had no idea what time I was aiming for - it would be a successful race if I finished and enjoyed it.

Packed and ready to go

At least in the final day and a half before the start I was able to occupy myself  with sorting race pack, running kit, nutrition, drop bag and bossing the registration process. To cut a long story short, I found myself sitting on a curb 50 yards behind the start banner, 45 minutes before the 5:30pm start, managing to stay fairly calm, soaking up the atmosphere; a mix of excitement, trepidation and, for some, outright fear (at least that's how it smelt!). All I was waiting for was the first few bars of THAT music; I just wanted to remember what it was like as I stood there with Conquest of Paradise rising to a crescendo before we were finally set on our way - it was AWESOME :-)

Just before the start

Through the streets of Chamonix

What I have found difficult since getting back is recalling the specific details of the race. I think this is because I didn't have to navigate as the course is fully marked and you can just follow the pack, I didn't even carry a map, subsequently, I have struggled to put the memories in the right order, but I'll have a go.

Running through the streets of Chamonix was amazing; the music, the crowds, the cheering, the high fives. It took me about 8 minutes until I was properly running, but once out of the town I settled into the long line, making our way along the flat valley to Les Houches, the start of the first climb. You've gotta love this; the town of Les Houches is basically just a water refill point for the race yet had a live band playing on a stage opposite the feed station and supporters covering every available space along the road. I was starting to worry that my hands would suffer with all the high fives, but this was a premeditated strategy as part of my "enjoy it" race plan.

On the first climb from Les Houches

I was soon into my power hike with my poles, those endless trips up Skiddaw were going to pay dividends today, passing folk all the way but staying very much within myself. We crested out at around 1800m above sea level and started the ridiculously muddy descent down to the first major support station in the town of Saint Gervais. I think of myself as a fairly good descender, but there are some bloomin nutters out there. You could easily have finished your race there and then, so I just made my own merry way down and breathed a sigh of relief once I reached the tarmac road on the outskirts of the town.

Saint Gervais

If you've run this race (or seen the videos on YouTube) you'll know what I mean when I say - how much fun is that, running through Saint Gervais? I was through just after 8pm and it was bonkers; in a good way! I felt like such a hero and I'd only run for 2:40 hours. I had to think hard to get all my sorting out done, what did I fancy eating, put on rain jacket (as it was starting to rain quite heavily now), remember to put on the head torch, refill water bottles, etc, etc. Although I did not know my positions at all throughout the race, the results showed that I was in 576 place in Saint Gervais.

During the night sections, the contrast from the sensory overload of the checkpoints to the quiet solitude of the night time trails is significant and takes a while to get used to. I know this sounds strange, bit this is, at time a lonely race. You might always be surrounded by other runners but, largely due to the language barrier, I had relatively few conversations. As I left Saint Gervais, I took out the course profile I was carrying and did some quick maths. OK, get your head around this one; for the next 23kms you are basically going uphill! The tracks and fields to Les Contamines (31kms into the race) were a bit of a memory blanc, very muddy I do remember, but in the dark with just a head torch beam to guide the way, hood up, it was just a case of getting through. I do remember overtaking quite a lot of runners which always perks you up, finally arriving in Les Contamines in 4:11 hours (501st place).

What I was now looking forward to was the Notre Dame de la Gorge supporters area which marks the start of the climb to the Croix du Bonhomme (2439m). I've seen the video clips and photos from this place and it looks mad. It did not disappoint - it was like being on a Tour de France climb, with spectators shouting, cow bells ringing, all in the dark with bonfires and fairy lights. Insane!

Notre Dame de la Gorge - Bonkers!

I felt pretty good for the most part of the monster climb, just grinding out a rhythm. The views back down the climb were incredible, with a long line of head torches trailing back down the mountain; quite spectacular. I didn't pass many on the trail, but as soon as we came to any sort of water/food stop (like La Balme), I made a quick stop and turn round while others seemed to stay for longer. Somehow, in the 18kms from Les Contamines, over the Croix du Bonhomme and down to Les Chapieux, I overtook 85 runners, moving up into 416th place. I did suffer on the top half of the climb, possibly with the altitude, but started to feel better at I made the, initially quite technical, descent to Les Chapieux. At the checkpoint, we had to show a couple of items from your race pack - if I remember correctly it was phone and waterproof jacket. I took quite a few extra minutes (12 minutes in total) in the feed station just to collect myself a little which was a wise move as I felt better as I ventured back out into the night.

Les Chapieux, I think?

As I had suffered a bit on the previous climb, I decided that I would just try to hold position over the Col de la Seigne (2507m) and treat it as a re-grouping exercise whilst still ticking off some miles and crossing over the border into Italy. This seemed to take a bit of pressure off me and, though I still struggled at the very top of the climb, the plan seemed to work. I lost a few places on the way up and proceeded to catch them all back up again on the descent, arriving in Lac Combal in 417th place.

I had a quicker turn round here, so I guess I must have been feeling a bit better. I was coming out of a dark patch in both the metaphorical and actual meaning of the words. The sky was slowly starting to brighten and I was feeling a little more chipper, thinking about the run into Courmayeur where it would be daylight and I could grab my drop bag and a good sort out. The climb up and over the Arete du Mont Favre (2409m) went a little better, I could feel myself getting back in the groove and suddenly I could sense my game face starting to make an appearance. The long descent down to Courmayeur was a joy and as I ran down the technical zig zags in the woods above the town I was finally able to switch off the head torch. I'd picked up 25 places, but more importantly, I was in a good place mentally and really looking forward to a day of running through the Alps. 77kms done in 13:20 hours.

Drop bags at Courmateur

I had a laminated sheet in my drop bag listing all the things I MUST do (change socks, shoes and top, replenish some food supplies, etc) and what I MIGHT do (cap, sunglasses, shorts, etc). It was obviously going to be a cracking day, so I went with cap, sunglasses and a splash of sunblock. I took my time, spending about 17 minutes in the checkpoint, but left feeling like a new man (cue joke ...) and really looking forward to the next section, climbing to the Bertone Refuge, sighting Mont Blanc for the first time and running the terraced path to the Bonatti Refuge. I took a look round the checkpoint as I left, and you could already see that folk were starting to suffer big style, sleeping, being sick, head in hands, cramp, etc, etc. These sights would only get more serious as the journey went on. Big smile - off we go!

The field had suddenly thinned out and I knew it would take more effort to catch and pass other runners, but all I could think about was how much I was now enjoying this journey, if I caught others, that would be a bonus - lets get to the Bertone Hut and see Mont Blanc. The view did not disappoint - what a vista. Everyone stopped to take out cameras - how much fun was this?!

Through the Bertone Hut (1979m, 336th place) and along the terrace to the Bonatti Hut (2015m) I found my mojo, settling in with a small group that was running along nicely, overtaking a few but without going into the red zone; exactly what I wanted. Before the race, I had a good look at last year's results and it appeared that, for those runners who had a good steady race (came through the field), the Bonatti Hut was about half way time-wise.

I arrived in 16:14 hours so set myself a tentative target of 32:30 hours for the finish. I had settled on a bit of a routine for the feed stations; sort out water bottles (one water, one Mountain Fuel), a couple of beakers of either carbonated water or Pepsi and a bowl of noodle soup with a lot more noodles than soup. This seemed to work a treat and meant that I was able to just drink from the bottles whilst out on the mountains, making life much easier.

Bertone Hut

It's amazing how you can tick off the miles without too much pain when you simply take in the views and by the time I had been through the Bonatti Hut and dropped down the Arnuva, I had somehow picked off 80 runners since leaving Courmayeur, now in 312th place. It was definitely the long, steep, technical descents where I was making up most ground on others; thank you Skiddaw!

Bonatti Hut

The next climb was significant as it would take us to the high point of the course, Grand col Ferret (2527m) and take us into our third country of the day, Switzerland. I remember saying to myself that I was just going to grind the climb out, hoping to make these good vibes I was having last as long as possible and I was well prepared for the "feeling rough in the top sections" game I seemed to be playing all day long, but, to be honest, I don't remember much about the climb apart from the final gentle path to the col which I had seen so many times before on the TV/YouTube footage. It was a grind, it was hard, I suffered, end of story. The wind was well spicy at the col; if I had stopped like some, I would have had to put a jacket on, instead, I just wanted to get to a lower altitude and tick off some of the distance of the 18km descent, through La Fouly and on to Champex Lac.

Grand col Ferret

Grand col Ferret

I was still picking off runners, but at a much slower pace now as the field really thinned out. On the trail, generally, everyone was moving at a similar pace on the up-hills, my well conditioned quads were allowing me to make good time on the descents, but it was in the checkpoints that I was really making up places. These stations were now starting to resemble casualty wards; the sick, ailing, crying and down right beaten-up were littered around the tables, those looking happy were in a minority. La Fouly (282nd position, 108kms, 19:55 hours) was a typical example, and by Champex Lac (255th) it was getting to the point where I would try not to look at those in trouble, I didn't want any negativity at this stage of the race, but through the gloom I saw a familiar face looking distinctly better than most; my friend Mike Raffan, who has had a magnificent season this year, was just starting to leave the checkpoint and we spoke briefly. I think we came to the conclusion that, between us, we had a good runner; he was great on the climbs and I could cope with the descents. I made the sensible decision to not race after Mike as I wanted to continue my routine in the aid stations.

Champex Lac

Champex Lac is a gorgeous place and I was excited about the climb up La Giete on the infamous Bovine Path seen in so many YouTube clips. Well, what followed was 2:30 hours of hell! Initially, everything was fine, climbing gently on some forest roads, then we hit what looked like a new loose rock and gravel path which didn't take any sort of zig-zag line up the hill, instead it just carved a straight line up into the distance. I found this so tough; I could not got any kind of rhythm, I was taking smaller and smaller steps and, most discouragingly, those around me were powering off into the distance. This was the key moment of the race - I just knew I had to get over this and I was annoyed with myself that I wasn't able to enjoy this stretch - one of the iconic climbs of the race. I knew that there was a chance that a colleague from work (Clare Morley), might be in Trient, the next checkpoint. Clare is also a mountain guide and was taking a party of walkers round the Tour de Mont Blanc route, which, by pure coincidence, would allow her to meet me during the race. She had texted me to say the entire party was really excited to be able to cheer me on and I knew this was just the sort of help I needed at this point.

Eventually, I got over the climb (how many hours did that take?!) and immediately felt better as I started to go downhill again. I was soon passing runners again, but all I could think of was meeting Clare, just to see a friendly, smiley, happy face.

After another 45 minutes of running downhill, I rounded the corner by the pink church in Trient and there she was, charging up the street, screaming and shouting, accompanied by rent-a-crowd.

Clare rushing to greet me :-)


By the time she reached me, I was in tears, it was magical and exactly what I needed. Hugs from Clare and high-fives from the group; I was unable to thank them enough, it meant so much to me and was, yet another, turning point of the race.

With Clare in Trient

The marshals very kindly let Clare into the checkpoint with me even though she didn't have a pass and we just sat and had a chat about the race, I asked her to text my Dad to let the family know I was going well and looking better than most of those around me. To make the situation even better, Mike came into the checkpoint with his wife, and we had a good regroup together. I had passed Mike just before the checkpoint and it was nice to sit down and have a chat, the comment that there was only two climbs left kept coming up as we both started to think about the finish.

More noodles!

Having a good re-group with Mike

I had arrived in 222nd place (26:51 hours) but, after the horrific time I had over Bovine, I was more than happy to take my time in the checkpoint and, in fact, spent 21 minutes there. However, as I left, I was a new man - the positive vibes from Clare and rent-a-crowd worked miracles on me and instead of continuing to struggle on the next climb, I absolutely flew up. 80 minutes after leaving the checkpoint, I was topping out on Catogne (2009m) and feeling right back in the game, re-entering France. I made the mistake of letting my mind think this game was over - short drop to Vallorcine and one more climb, nearly there. It then took me an hour of downhill, now back in the dark with head torch on, to get to Vallorcine and I started to realise this race was not nailed yet. I was still positive, but this was just a kick up the backside to remind me there was still a lot of work to do.

As I left Vallorcine, now in 209th place, I had now idea I still had over 4 hours to go, I genuinely thought it would be maybe 3 hours at the most. The view of head torches snaking down through the trees towards Chamonix further down the valley only added to the illusion that this was done and dusted. This final climb to La Tete Aux Vents (2116m) was a killer! I had two issues with the climb, firstly, it was much rougher than I anticipated, with rock steps all the way, including some sections where I was just about scrambling and this continued on the top with sections of bare rock where it was hard to make out the path in the dark. Secondly, I had totally the wrong picture in my head of the topography of the climb/mountain. For the race, I carried a profile of the route, not a map. I had the basic shape of the course in my head and things had turned out pretty much as expected, but not on this one. In my head, I had "steep climb, checkpoint, sing and dance down to Chamonix" whereas in fact it was "long steep, rough climb, then 40 minutes of staggering in the dark across bare rock to a checkpoint that would just not arrive, rough track to final checkpoint at La Flegere and then another 8kms steep down to Chamonix". Needless to say, this was one almighty sting in the tail. On the plus side, I still managed to pick off a few more places and was lucky enough to run a short while with my friend, Lee Knight, ultra legend who won the Hardmoors 160 miler earlier in the year.

I stood at La Flegere (198th place), took a breath, smiled and set off on the final drop to the finish - I was going to make it and in pretty good shape too. Emotions were starting to well up, especially once I had got past all the sausages and recognised the track from some of my runs earlier in the week. I guessed there would be a few spectators around at the finish (it was 2:30am on a Sunday morning after all) but knew it would not be the masses you find during daylight hours, but as I ran the final kilometre through the streets of Chamonix, I was thrilled to see how many hardy souls were out there cheering the runners on - what an event! Tracey was first to greet me - Oh, the emotions were now doing a little more than just welling up, Paul was there taking some photos.

Nearly there!

They were able to cut through to the finish as I ran a little loop and then I was confronted by that iconic finish gantry, a small bank of photographers, incredibly appreciative supporters, Mom was there, just before the finish line, even a pupil from school who, by pure coincidence was on holiday with his family and he'd come out to see me finish at 2:30am (cheers Cameron, though I did think it might be another hallucination until I shook his hand).

I crossed the line in 198th place after 32:56 hours of running, hiking, crawling, crying, stumbling, smiling, swearing and any other form of movement and emotion that would get me over that finish line.

I think some thoughts on the aftermath and what I have learnt from this experience can be saved for another blog post, but I was absolutely fine after the race; no sickness, no blood pressure drop (the game I usually play), no cramp, just one happy bunny. I think back now to my targets before the race which were to not DNF and to enjoy the experience - both of those can be ticked of emphatically and to then add a top 200 placing is just icing on the cake. I might have been able to run a faster time but, after seeing what happened to others who tried, there was a high probability that I would have crashed and burned and failed to get from the race what I really wanted.

Looking very tried!

Thanks to all of you that followed the race either online or via social media, it does help, knowing that you are all out there watching me - I thought about this every time I crossed a timing mat and heard the beep. Thanks to Clare for appearing at just the right moment, you will never know how much that meant to me and what a difference it made to my race. Finally, thanks to my family, Tracey, Mom and Dad, it may not feel like it to you, but I couldn't have done it without your support and I'll never forget those moments at the finish.

2434 runners started the race, 1581 finished in the 46 hour time limit (65%).

Did this event live up to the hype and my expectations? HELL, YES!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Adidas Thunder Run video

I think this video gives a nice flavour of the Thunder Run from last weekend.

It was a strange combination; running really fast but still doing an event that last for 24 hours - a combination that I really enjoyed. For an ultra runner, it slots into that busy time of year, with too many races to choose from, but I will return at some point.

If you are umming and ahhing about whether to do the event, just get a team together and go for it :-) 

Friday, 1 August 2014

Adidas Thunder Run

One email was all it took. How did I fancy joining the Men’s Running Magazine team for the Thunder Run in two weeks’ time? I was in!

I’ve done a huge variety of running events over the decades but this one was like a breath of fresh air for me; a 24 hour relay over a 10km technical trail course – how much fun was this going to be?

The team assembled through Friday evening and Saturday morning, ready for the noon start, using the transfer window to bring in Ronnie from the Women’s Running Magazine team and passing Jon across to make two mixed teams, though in reality the two teams acted as one big happy family for the duration of the event.

The final couple of hours before the start were basically spent trying to stay cool and avoid getting sunburnt as we formulated a battle plan. Stuart, our whippet, was elected to run first leg with the hope of getting us off to a good start, using his 2:40 hour marathon pace – he didn’t let us down, recording a sub 40 minute lap time and, more importantly, being in a position to give a detailed account of the course to the rest of us.
What a course it was. It incorporated every element you could wish for in just 10km; fast flats, steep climbs, sharp corners, technical rough sections, I could go on…

Paul took over the baton next and coming off the back of 18 marathons since February, stamina was never going to be a problem. By now, the heat was getting serious and the finish area was strewn with sweaty, red faced runners trying not to contemplate the fact that they would have to do it all again in a few hours.

Within the hour, Ronnie was off onto her first lap, buying into the spirit of a team full of male bravado, hitting the first few kilometres hard and using her Parkrun speed to great effect. At around this time I realised I had probably made a bit of a mistake in that I was psychologically up and ready for a noon start and wouldn’t actually be running until about 3:30pm – schoolboy error! It was time to get race head on again.

Martin was next up to the plate, again from a marathon background, the technical trails would bring a smile to his face and his previous experiences in events similar to this would stand him in good stead. I liked his long term goal to complete 30 marathons by the age of 30, especially as he only has two years to complete the task – fighting talk!

My turn. Thoughts of making my first lap a steady one went out of the window as soon as the baton was on my wrist. By 3km I was just having a mild panic, thinking I had gone way too fast but just at that moment I hit the first of the technical sections which were a joy to run and got me back in the groove. This seemed to be the pattern for me on every lap; struggled on the fast sections, happy bunny through the technical, wooded bits. I could feel the lactic acid coming out of my ears over the last 2 kms but finally got in just over the 40 minutes barrier and passed on the El Capitano, Euan.

Euan has great experience, not only as a runner in just about every discipline possible, including these 24 hour relays, but also as a coach and this would show through during the weekend as he mixed the “hand on shoulder” approach subtly with the “zip up you man-suit and get on with it” attack (or was that just with me?)

Now this is where things got interesting as we were a team of 6 in a category for teams of 8, meaning that we would each run more laps than our competition and have less recovery time between each lap. Initially, I didn’t think this would be too much of a disadvantage but as the hours went by it proved to be.

We were now settled into our routine with the only major mishap being a fall by Stuart, leaving him with some “road rash” of which a cyclist would be proud. Each runner had about 5 hours between laps to rest and recover, though it did feel strange to catch an hour’s sleep in the middle of a race. Times inevitably slowed during the night, more due to the technical nature of the course rather than fatigue, but sunrise was, as ever in events like this, welcome and a great rejuvenator.

In the latter stages of the race, we decided to swop the order round a little to make sure that our faster runners would all run five laps. This seemed a good idea until Euan and I had make do with only 1:30 hours recovery time on our last lap – this was not pretty and I had to dig deep on this last lap. My only consolation was that Euan was suffering just as bad as me and it was his idea.

Martin had the honour of the anchor leg, bringing us home in 19th place out of 228 teams. What a spectacular atmosphere at the finish, music, commentary, cheering, shouting and lots of mutual appreciation particularly for those solo runners who had ploughed a lonely furrow for 24 hours.

I would like to thank my team mates who made this such an enjoyable experience; the highs were high and the lows weren’t really that low. Thank you to Men’s Running for inviting me to join the team and to Adidas for supporting such a fantastic event.

I'm trying to make some improvements to my general nutrition and specifically my racing nutrition. Supporting me in this endeavour are Mountain Fuel Nutrition who have a very holistic approach to this - after my first two hour conversation with the team, I had a much better understanding of what I require and, with their support, I'm trying a number of new strategies which will, hopefully, make a difference to both my training and race performances.

To help me keep track of my progress, I'm going to put some details down of my nutrition and we can see what happens over the next year (this is very much a long term project - there is no quick fix!).

During the Thunder Run, it was important to take advantage of the 20 minute window, straight after finishing a lap, to get some kind of a recovery drink into the system. I went for a gentle jog for 10 minutes, sipping 250ml of soya milk and Mountain Fuel Recovery. The mantra I was advised to follow was "sip - swill - swallow". As it was so hot, I continued to sip either water or Mountain Fuel Extreme Energy drink, but taking my time (an hour to finish a bottle). After about an hour, I got some "food" in me; trying out a thick broth soup and some bread, porridge and Mountain Fuel Morning Fuel at different times, all easily digestible. I had to work hard to avoid stuffing in the things I wanted like chocolate, crisps and Coke. What I was trying to avoid was a sugar spike followed by a crash before I went our running again. As I was told; "feed your body, not your brain" - give your body what it needs to preform best, not what your brain wants simply to activate it's pleasure centres! I also nibbled on some home-made flapjack consisting of just about every nut and seed you could think of and without any processed sugars.

Apart from my last lap, after the very short recovery time, my times were pretty consistent and I certainly felt good energy-wise. What was noticeable, was that I thought far more about what I was putting into my body and felt positive that I was doing the right thing (feed your body, not your brain) which may very well have had a psychological impact on my performance during the event. Now, this was the perfect event to start this project with as I had time to think about what I was doing - it will be interesting to see how "we" tackle a full-on ultra race where I don't have the luxury of 4 hour pit stops!

Friday, 25 July 2014

Osmotherley Phoenix 33 mile trail race

Well, that was an interesting race! It has taken me nearly two weeks to get myself in a state where I'm ready to relive the 5 hours plus of this race.

I have spent quite a bit of time on the North York moors this year in preparation for the Hardmoors 110 and I'm starting to get a feel for the terrain. This race jumped out of the calendar as a nice springboard, to get me going again after the 110 in preparation for UTMB at the end of August.

The small village of Osmotherley closes off the roads and holds a summer games each year, with the Phoenix races forming part of that event. You have the choice of a 17 mile, 26 mile or 33 mile route, all sharing some sections in common and splitting off at other times.

The day of the race was HOT! It was certainly a bit of a shock to the system and played on my mind, both before and during the race. I decided that as this would be a relatively short race (I was aiming for about 5 hours) I wouldn't worry about trying to take any solid food and would concentrate on gels and, in the latter stages, energy drinks.

Over the very familiar ground along the Cleveland Way for the first couple of hours, I settled in to a good pace, certainly faster than I would normally race at, but still feeling comfortable, running along with Mark Collinson who I met at the 110 (Mark came 3rd in the 110). We were a little off the pace at the front, with a line of runners heading out across the moors but it was difficult to know our positions in the 33 mile race as all courses used this initial section.

By the time we had reached Lordstones after 1:07 hours, I was in 6th place and well settled into my running, getting in gels and water just fine. You have an option at this point; the official Cleveland Way takes in the three small climbs of Cringle Moor, Cold Moor and The Wainstones, however, in the race you can skirt round to the north of these, avoiding the climbs. In race mode, this seems like a no-brainer, avoid the climb and get a faster time. It surprised me that so many runners took on the first climb, some then joining the lower level route, others continuing over all three. When I reached Clay Bank, I had pulled away from Mark a little and was informed that I was in 2nd place, obviously making up a number of places by avoiding the climbs.

It was now decision time; do I continue to keep a solid pace and hope the leader slows or do I turn on the burners and push the pace to catch him? After the Hardmoors 110 where I relied on the leader slowing (which he didn't!), I felt I had to be more pro-active and make the catch myself.

I pushed on through Chop Gate, up the steep climb out of Raisdale and across Snilesworth Moor. I could see the leader ahead as I slowly made ground and finally caught Jon (Hedger) just before 3:00 hours on Snilesworth Moor. He was still grinding out a good pace and I took heart from the fact that I must be running well to catch him. After a little chat, I discovered that he has done the race a number of times before and would obviously know the route well, giving me another dilemma; do I push on alone or do I run with Jon thorough the next section with the trickiest navigation? I was carrying some 1:25000 maps of this next section as I knew the route would be difficult to follow and decided to back my navigation and go for it!

I had just switched from gels to Mountain Fuel energy drink and was feeling really good, with lots of energy in my legs. I navigated well through this section, but was pleased I had the 1:25000 maps rather than 1:50000, I don't think I would have been able to run at race pace and pick out the route on the less detailed maps.

I had pulled out 5 minutes from Jon by Hawnby and, stupidly, let the thought enter my head that I could win this race. My energy levels were good but, even at this point with 1:15 hours still to go, I could feel the first slight twinges of cramp in my hamstrings. In hindsight, I think that if I had been back in 4th or 5th place, I would have eased off and looked after myself over the last sections, but if you are in the lead you kind of have to go for it don't you?!

The pace definitely dropped but I tried to keep things going, constantly looking back and taking heart from the fact that I couldn't see anyone. I made it to Square Corner, just above Osmotherley, with the final drop to come, still with no one in sight behind me and, again, thought I might just be able to hang on. The downhill to the ponds was fine and I did manage to relax a bit here but as soon as I hit the flat, I got the first proper shock of cramp in both hamstrings. I stopped, stretched and was able to get going again quite quickly, but only at a slow jog now as I tried to hold off the next wave of cramp for one more mile to the finish. As the track went up again, it hit really hard and I was again halted, this time in some severe pain. Just at this point, Jayson Cavil came past on his way to support Kim in the latter stages of her race (a win!), giving me lots of encouragement and some more water to try and get me through this last mile.

It was now a case of jog/walk 20 metres, stop with cramp, stretch, repeat. Could this get me to the finish before I was caught? No! With about 2/3rds of a mile to go, Richard Heath (who I raced against in last year's Ring O Fire race) came flying past me and proceeded to blast up the final small climb to claim victory. Could I hold on to second? No! Inside the last 300yds, as I was once again enveloped with cramp, Jon came past me and this time I started to really worry that I might not make the finish line - I was simply stuck on the track, unable to move. A few minutes later I got myself together enough to move a few steps at a time and finally crossed the line in what should have been a sprint finish for the final podium place with Jason Ellis, but was in fact Jason jogging merrily ahead of me as I walked across the line to take 4th place.

This position for 2 hours!

The next two hours are a bit of a blur. Mostly consisting of me lying in the shade, almost in tears at times with the pain that the cramp was causing me, Tracey trying to relieve the cramp by stretching my muscles this way and that, a number of visits from the ambulance crew, checking vitals (temperature, pulse, blood sugar levels - all inside acceptable levels). I do vividly remember the paramedics suggesting they could take me to hospital where I could get an intravenous muscle relaxant whilst Mark was standing behind them shaking his head vigorously - I knew this would not be a good choice as I could be there for hours.

After a couple of hours, I managed to get myself up onto a chair and then finally make the walk back to campsite. Once in the van, I dozed a little and then started to make a fairly quick recovery and, in fact, if you take away the damage caused by the cramp, my legs recovered fairly quickly after the event.

Anyhoo...... some lessons to be learnt here - and I have really analysed what happened, talking things over with some folk who know more about the inner working of the body than I do. I think this could be a very useful experience and I have made some important progress over the last couple of weeks (more of that in another post).

It just goes to show that as soon as you think you might have this game bossed ...... it come back to bite you on the ass!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Tour de France

Just thought I'd pop a few clips together from the Tour de France yesterday. Tracey and I drove down to the course via Kirkby Stephen and watched the race from just below Buttertubs Pass, near the small village of Thwaites.

Quite simply - awesome!

I'm so glad we were a part of this amazing experience.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Hardmoors 110 race report

Firstly, let me start by putting on record that I really hated my taper for this race. I don't mean that it was a bit frustrating (they always are), I mean I really hated it. I felt drained, lethargic and apathetic. I think this stems from my last big training weekend, three weeks before the race. On the Saturday I ran from Scarborough to Filey and back in hot conditions with only a couple of water bottles, which was not enough. I ran at a good pace and finished very dehydrated. The following day, I ran from Scarborough to beyond Ravenscar and back, just to compound the trashing. All this meant that my first week of tapering down, which would normally be a normal steady week, had to be almost nothing to allow me to get over my over exuberance. Psychologically, this seemed to knock me.

It was only really in the last few days before the race that I started to get some mojo back, but once I got my head around the fact that the race was finally here, I felt I was ready and it was time to get my game face on.

As previously, my support crew was made up of my wife, Tracey, and my father, Paul, both well aware of the role they would have to play in a successful race - Team Troman rides again!

Some carefully planned logistics left us with our camper van in the car park of the school in Filey for the finish, a chippy tea eaten in Filey, Team Troman ensconced in the YHA in Helmsley, registered and chatting the evening away with  John and Katrina.

John, Katrina and Tracey in the YHA

This is not going to be a step by step account of the whole race (I'll put together a video that should give a better account in that respect) but instead, I'd like to give a flavour of the day along with some thoughts on my approach to the run. Regular readers will know that I generally like to start conservatively and run a strong second half to my 100 milers - this seems to play into my hands psychologically as I try to feel good when most others are starting to suffer. I have, however, been keen to try and put myself "in the mix" from the start of a 100 mile race to see how I would cope, both physically and mentally, and to see what the race outcome might be. As you can imagine, it is difficult to try out a new strategy in a race when you only do one or two super long ultras in a year - it is a lot of eggs in a basket, especially when there is a chance that you might drop the basket! The Hardmoors 110 was originally going to be my "A race" for the year, however, that changed slightly once I was fortunate enough to get a place in the UTMB later in the year, so the thought occurred that this could be the chance to try a different tactic.

During my training recces, I measured the time taken to run between the checkpoints, as I normally would, but this time these splits were only a guide as to how much water I would need to carry, rather than a series of time intervals that I was racing against. During the race I did not take splits at any point. What I did notice was that I probably felt a bit more relaxed over the first 10 hours or so, particularly when approaching the checkpoints. Normally, I would have been looking at my watch, wondering if I was roughly on time, but here I was always chirpy and looking forward to some food and drink - my stomach definitely enjoyed the more relaxed approach without the time pressures.

Right from the start of the race, I settled into the second pack, deciding not to run with the leaders as, again, I wanted to keep the pressure off. I knew the pace was good but I was really enjoying the run, concentrating on being smooth and efficient.

One hour into the race

Within a couple of hours, the field had spread out and I was sitting in 4th place, very happy with my start and still running quickly without overcooking it. What was different, was that I was more interested in what others around me were doing, whereas normally, at this early stage, I would just concentrate on my own race - I guess this was just a knock-on effect of a different strategy. Whenever I came into a checkpoint, I always asked Paul how far ahead the next runner was, was I gaining, how did he look? Yet, I was still nicely relaxed and eating well.

Above Osmotherley

Sometime after Osmotherly (22 miles) the weather started to take a turn for the worse, with the wind picking up, rain starting and the clouds covering the hills. The roller-coaster section over Carlton Bank, Cringle Moor, Cold Moor and The Wainstones were a bit grim, but sections that I quite like and I knew I was making good time. I stopped at Clay Bank (33 miles) and put on my OMM jacket and changed gloves, feeling that I needed to "run warm" for a while, especially over the long slog past Bloworth Crossing to Kildale. My sole aim in these conditions is to not tense up. As the temperature goes down, as the rain increases, as the wind increases, you have a tendency to hunch your shoulders and increase the tension in your neck which, in turn, transmits to the rest of your body. I figured if I could keep relaxed I'd be using less energy and cover the ground more quickly.

Clay Bank

Just before Bloworth Crossing (37 miles) I finally caught up with 3rd place runner, Mark Collinson - with the weather conditions and visibility of only around 20 yards, I think we were both as pleased as each other to have some company and we ran together over Ingleby Moor to the Kildale checkpoint (43 miles).


Kildale felt like a significant point as this is where John K and I started our two day recce at Easter and I felt that I was on a familiar route where I had had such positive feeling last time I was there. I had some coke and rice pudding, taking my time and left feeling ready for the next part of the adventure out to Saltburn on the coast. I was now in 3rd and my mind was starting to focus on 2nd place, currently held by Gareth Wilson, who I raced against in the Hardmoors 55 earlier in the year. The out and back section to Roseberry Topping might give me an idea of how far behind I was.

As I write this, I find it interesting that I have made no comments about the length of time I have been running, the splits between checkpoints or the relationship of my race time to a schedule - non of these thoughts were in my head during the race or now, which stresses the different approach to this race.

As it turned out, I was about 19 minutes behind Gareth on the out and back section; far enough for me to take stock of my own running and, for the first time in the race, spend a few hours just ticking off some miles.

On the approach to Saltburn (58 miles), I felt that I was flagging a little and in need of a boost - boy did I get one! Firstly, I got a quick hug from Katrina in the checkpoint and then when I dropped down to the support car with Paul and Tracey, I was greeted by what I dubbed the "Happy Crew" - five friends who had driven over from Yarm to cheer me on (thanks Jeremy, Bev, Imogen, Alison and Louis, I can't begin to tell you how much that visit meant to me). I ate and drank some more as the whole crew walked along the prom before I set off up the hill.

The Happy Crew

I had a good section along the cliff tops towards the small car park just before Staithes, but again, I was not really thinking about the other runners - that changed once I met Tracey and Paul again. Here I was informed that the leader was starting to struggle a little and that I had closed a couple of minutes on Gareth. Suddenly, I was pulled back into race mode.

By Runswick Bay (70 miles) I had pulled up into 2nd place with Gareth some 23 minutes ahead. It was time to get kitted up for the night. Yes, obviously I had a large print list of the stuff I had to carry for the night sections so it only took a minute or so to get sorted. By this time my stomach had started to stop playing ball so I had pretty much switched to a liquid diet using Mountain Fuel energy drinks which were doing a great job of keeping me going when most other options were now a non-starter.

I started to struggle over the next section to Sandsend, particularly on some of the short steep downhills, but I was still running everthing I thought I should be, which at this stage of the race is a big positive. The steps down into the checkpoint at Sandsend (75 miles) were a bit of a trauma and I'm glad there was a strong handrail. I had now been running in the dark for about 15 minutes and had got my head around the darkness of the next 6 hours. My new head torch (a Lenser SEO7) was working great, even on only the lower setting and I had the advantage of both Sandsend and Whitby to run through where I wouldn't need the light at all.

I was braced to tackle the drunken hoards in Whitby but, in fact, it was relatively quiet. Like most people, I tried to count the 199 steps up to the Abbey but came up with 200. It was over this next section to Robin Hood's Bay that I mentally settled for 2nd place, even to the point that I said to myself "if they gave me 2nd now, would I take it?" - to which I replied an emphatic "yes". Gareth was obviously running well and pulling away from me and I had to be more concerned about getting caught from behind. Every time I looked back, I convinced myself that head torches were approaching and I began to wonder what I had left.

After Robin Hood's Bay, it was a relatively short section to Ravenscar (90 miles) and I asked Tracey and Paul to take some kit into the village hall for when I arrived as I thought I needs a short sit down (for the first time in the race) as I dealt with my pit stop. This was a good move as I left feeling slightly more chipper, knowing I only had another couple of hours at the most in the dark and Paul assured me that there was no one immediately behind. One further positive was that I had now swapped to my last map for the race, covering the route from Ravenscar to the finish.

I used the long, gentle downhill road section from the village hall to get my rhythm back, but had a slight panic when I couldn't find the path that cuts across the fields back to the coastal route. It took some convincing that I hadn't gone far enough and then I caught sight of the road sign just after the turning and let out a relieved sigh.

It was around here that I passed Lee Knight, the leader in the Hardmoors 160 mile race - it seemed strange all weekend to think that my 110 mile race was not even the toughest event going on (as some described it, "the fun run"). We had a short chat before I pushed on, shaking my head, absolute legends, the lot of them!

Good morning

I must admit, I spent a lot of time looking back along this section, worried that I might lose 2nd place after all this work and I was feeling pretty jiggered. I had decided that I would try to preserve something for the final push from Scarborough to Filey and I started to question myself "if had had started steadily, would I be here now and running stronger?"

Like everyone, no matter where they were along the coastal route, I was brought back to reality with an amazing sunrise over the sea, which gave me the perfect lift just at the moment I most needed it. I knew I needed to get myself out of this low point and get back to ticking off some miles, so I allowed the sunrise to soak into me and just enjoyed being in this position at this time (bit zen, I know).


I felt a little better as I made the long trudge round the promenade from North Bay to South Bay in Scarborough and shuffled my way to the checkpoint (101 miles). It was especially nice to see Tracey and Paul this time and it felt like we were on our way home from here. The three of us walked out along the prom together on the start of the final leg as I drank some coke, I said my good-byes and struck off for home.

I had taken care to talk to Race Director, Jon Steele, before the start with regard to the route just after Scarborough as it was slightly different to the route I had recced and this focussed my mind for a while. I was relieved that everything fell into place exactly as Jon described and I was soon back on the track I knew. Although I was walking all the hills, I was pleased that it was done at a good strong stride rather than a crawl and I was making time at about the pace I would expect at this point of the race.

About a mile or so before Filey Brigg, Paul came running out to meet me and it was great to have some company for these last couple of miles having ran on my own for so long. I think we had a conversation, or at least Paul spoke and I occasionally grunted and we were soon onto Filey sea front and the final checkpoint before the couple of miles up to the finish.

Nearly done

At last I could relax, there was no one in sight behind, I had secured 2nd place and would be well under 24 hours for the race. I managed to keep some kind of a "run" right through to the finish and simply let the wave of applause wash over me as I went into the hall and the finish if the race.


With no dramatics, all I wanted to do was lie down and close my eyes. I found it difficult as there was a small part of my brain saying "talk to people, tell the tales, at least show some appreciation to your crew" but that part was out voted. I did, finally take my socks and shoes off, having worn the same ones for the duration of the event, something I have never done before, but I just didn't feel I needed to. Thanks Skechers.

The next couple of hours consisted of sleep, pain, mud, sleep, shuffling (just), sleep, shower, massage, Twiglets and sleep, though I may have got the order wrong!

I finally caught up with John who had had a really strong run to take 11th place. If you haven't lost the will to live after this report, you can read his account here.

As every runner will tell you, this is a team effort and I have to say thank you so much to my dream team of Tracey and Paul, I couldn't have done it without you. To Jon and Shirley, you have an amazing event(s) that is organised with the runner in mind, thank you for giving us the opportunity to test ourselves. To the marshals along the way, you were so motivating and helpful, it made our job that little bit easier. A final well done to all the competitors, I hope to see you again at one of these events so we can test ourselves once more :-)