DNF

The three dreaded letters, DNF, did not finish, something that you go out of your way to avoid and something you never wish on anybody.

Well for me yesterday it finally happened and I got my first DNF. There were however, some positives to take from this, firstly it happened during a Park Run, so it was a free race  and secondly it meant I finally listened to my body after a few weeks of ignoring it.

I have had a problem for a few weeks, and this happened at the same time as I switched running shoe brands and models, I went back to a newer version of shoes I had used in the past. The problem I have is that I have done something to my a nerve or tendon that goes down from my lower back to my foot. The issue manifests itself firstly as back pain, then once I am moving it goes to my hip and then works its way down to stiffen up my calf and finally to tighten the achilles. These don’t all occur at once but one after the other!

Over the last couple of weeks, the pain when running has never really got beyond pain in the hip but yesterday it went straight from the hip  to tightening the achilles to the point I wasn’t sure if I carried I might snap it. I know that is an unlikely outcome but the stiffness was painful and a Park Run is not the place to risk it.

I have now found some exercises that seem to be making some difference and loosening things up, I am hopeful that this is not something serious and it is just something caught up or tweaked, I know I will be taking it a bit easy for a few days until I feel good again, and I have also ordered a pair of the shoes I have used recently to go back to the trusted ones incase the shoes did contribute.

Chiltern Challenge 50km Ultra Marathon

Well, after much build up it the day finally arrived when I would get see if all the preparation and training would pay off and I would become an ultra runner.

The day dawned sunny, and if I am honest a bit too warm for my liking, I was hoping for grey and overcast but as it is July you can’t always get what you want!

As we all know you should, I had packed my kit the night before and so in the morning all I had to do was get up, get dressed, eat breakfast and make it to the start line. Luckily for me the start line was only 10 minutes from home and my wife was taking so no need to worry about driving.

On arrival it was the usual check in process, and the only late change to my kit I made was to get rid of my number belt and pin my number to my shorts, as it turned out that was a good idea as it out of the way and you don’t even notice it, yet it is visible.

Then, it was time for the off, in my head I had a pacing plan, having never run the distance before or even run a marathon, it was just a guess.

Off we went and the course instantly went up a big hill, which you had to walk up, followed by some steps before you could really start running. I was soon into my running and whilst I set off a little faster than I wanted I soon reined myself in and felt ok.

The first checkpoint arrived after 10km and I arrived feeling in good spirits, a quick topping up off the bottles, some food and off I went. A lot of the first part of the course I was familiar with as I had run it during training, only in the other direction.

As the run continued I noticed that I wasn’t actually catching or passing anyone, but seemed to be on my own a lot, with the main pack somewhere in the distance, this started me thinking that perhaps I was out of my depth and shouldn’t be doing this. I quickly got rid of those thoughts on the basis that my steady progress would see me through in the end.

After the second check point I seemed to catch a few people and the conversation was free and easy, I am amazed at how many of the runners played down their own abilities. In particular two ladies who had been doing various ultras and were more than happy to pass on tips but also tell of their future plans, I felt very lazy next to them!

The journey to the third checkpoint did seem to drag a bit, but in the end it came into sight. A much needed drink, more food and a chat and we were off again. This time I caught a group of runner san ran with them for a while, including trough a section where someone had removed the marker tape, luckily we got through in the right direction.

During this period I noticed my IT band was beginning to stiffen up and whist not a show stopper didn’t feel great, this was at about 32km. Sometime later I started to notice my right ankle was becoming sore, in my simple mind I linked it to the IT band and carried on. Then, there was a pint where I had to run downhill and suddenly realised I couldn’t, I simply couldn’t load up my weight onto my right ankle as the combination of the pain from it and the tight band meant to go downhill I simply had to take fairy steps slowly.

Once back on the fact I was able to move again, but the damage was done and during the rest of the trip to the fourth and last checkpoint it just got worse. On arriving at the last checkpoint, again I filled up my bottles had some food and thought about talking to the medics about it, but I didn’t as I was worried they might try and make me stop, this I didn’t want as I was only about 8km from the end. So I pressed on.

The next section contained a lot more walking than I wanted to do, I simply couldn’t cope with any sort of gradient, either up or down, flat was ok. On a gradual gradient I would run for 300m to 400m, walk a bit then try and run again. It was basically the only way.

Eventually, the final section of the run came into view, and I decided I was running the last part no matter how much it hurt, I wasn’t walking over the line. Luckily it was a short road section. As I approached the entrance to the school where we started, people were applauding and offering encouraging words and congratulations, and this carried on till to the finish line, it was a great touch.

On finishing I received my medal, certificate for completing my first ultra and vest!

As I am writing this the following day, my right ankle looks a mess, it is very swollen nd has a lot of bruising, and as if in sympathy the left one is swollen as well, my legs ache for the finishing touch.

That said, it was a brilliant event, a fantastic course, with the checkpoints staffed by brilliant, kind and encouraging people who simply couldn’t do enough for you. The organisation was first class, I know that the company XRNG normally do multi day events and this is their only one day event, but to me it looks like they bring their experience of multi day events to this single day one to ensure that everyone has the best day they can.

So, was it all worth it? Well, my training was spot on “Iron” Mike Shaw has got me in good condition, my nutrition plan worked as I hoped and so if it wasn’t for the injury I reckon I would have been considerably faster than my 7 hours 23 minutes, I think I would easily have broken 7 hours.

Would I do another ultra? I honestly don’t know, the main reason being to train for these long runs means I don’t get to ride my bike and I really miss that, I won’t rule it out.

As with all these personal projects to complete events there are always more people involved than just me, and certainly without them it wouldn’t be possible. Firstly to Mike Shaw of Tri Performance, whose coaching was brilliant as ever and combined with his advice has certainly got me believing you can achieve anything. But, most importantly, the biggest thanks goes to my wife, Suzanne, she supports me in a completely unquestioning way when I do these things, she is always encouraging, comes and supports me and never moans about me going training for hours. I know these are very selfish pursuits and having her understanding and support makes them much easier.

In conclusion, if you are interested in doing an ultra then don’t be put off by the distance or if you haven’t run a marathon it doesn’t matter if you put the time and effort into training you can do it, I did and enjoyed the whole experience.

Go on try it, you might just like it!

Here We Go!

There is a quote often heard, and I have no idea who it is actually attributed to, but it goes “this shit just got real”

For me there is now no truer statement, next Saturday I have to put all my training into practice to run the 50km in the Chiltern Challenge Ultra Marathon.

For the last few months it has just been something I have said, trying to explain to people why I want to run such a distance and hoping they stop looking at me like I am an idiot, although I find people often look at me like I’m an idiot so perhaps its not the running! It has been a thought, something that was always a long way off, a bit like your exams when you are at school.

I know I have put the work in, I have done my training, hit the numbers and physically I am probably as god as I can be for it, yes I have the nagging thought should I have done more, but, I trust Mike’s training plan and so I have no excuses on that front.

My brain is another story, when I sometimes thing about it I have serious self-doubt, I have heard this is common when you are in the taper period of training, but it doesn’t help. I can’t help thinking I haven’t got the experience to do this, but then I offset that with, well if you don’t do it how will you gain the experience, idiot (it seems I look at myself like I’m an idiot as well!) I have accepted that there will be hard times, mentally there will be hard times, but I am hoping the good times will out weigh them so much that they will be short lived.

I know what kit I am going to use, I know what nutrition I am going to use and I know I just need to trust in the process and I will be ok.

That is it really, put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward and we will finish.

Racing – A View From The Other Side

Today I had the opportunity to go to a race not as the racer but as the supporter, something I haven’t done for a number of years.

My wife has recently returned to running and had decided to enter a 5K race at Dorney Lake, part of the Hot Chocolate running series, and so this meant I got to play cheerleader, bag carrier and general consumer of junk food whilst she was racing.

I have to admit to start with I found it a little strange, I found myself wanting to go off and do a warm up prior to the race briefing! Instead I settled for a coffee and sausage sandwich.

After offering some final words of encouragement, think of an inspirational Churchill speech and you will get the idea, I was off to find myself a place to watch the start and enjoy the unfolding event.

The runners went past at a variety of paces from the leaders who appeared flat at sprinting to those further back who were more circumspect. As this was an event with a few different distances the course was a loop and the drink station was approx 250m from the start, and even on the first lap I saw several people taking a drink or a gel, which seemed a little odd to me, but each to their own I guess.

After the majority of runners had gone out to the back of the course I headed off to find my net vantage point, I settled upon a place in-between the two lakes and I noticed there was nobody else near me, I don’t think I smell but I will re-check on that later!

I found myself applauding each and every runner as they came past me, I guess I looked a bit odd a lone figure stood there clapping and offering words of encouragement, many runners said “thank you” others just acknowledged. Now I know that a little bit of support can help during a race and especially if it is at a place on the course where there are no people.

Overall I really enjoyed watching the race this morning, it is interesting to watch people race as you know everyone is going through their own battles and when you are in a race you don’t generally take any notice of anyone else, at least I don’t, so seeing them pushing on is good.

Credit to my wife who smashed her own pb for 5k but about 2 minutes but also now seems to have rediscovered her enjoyment for running so perhaps I might become a more regular spectator in the future.

Shrug, and Move On

Well, sometimes you just have to give a shrug and move on, and for me, now is one of those times.

Today I was supposed to be racing an trail race in the Chiltern Hills, an event I was really looking forward to, however, due to my inability to get rid of my cold I simply wasn’t in a condition to race, well that is what my wife told me!

I thought I was taking a sensible approach this week to ensure I could race, I didn’t train on Monday or Tuesday, then did an easy run Wednesday night and all seemed ok. The numbers from the run were ok and I really thought I was winning.

But, on Thursday I woke up feeling shattered, and that feeling only got worse as the day went on, I picked up a sore throat to go with it and then starting coughing up all sorts of horrible coloured stuff! Despite this I was still optimistic of being able to race.

Friday, the situation didn’t really change and so I was forced to admit that I could not race, my wife chipped in with her opinion that if I did race I would probably not do myself any good and that would or could impact the rest of the year. So the decision was made, well not finally!

Saturday morning, I hoped when I woke up I would feel brilliant, no sore throat etc and then I could go race, however,that was not the case so I was forced to finally admit defeat.

I am now hopeful of returning to normal training next week as I have another race in a couple of weeks and as it stands I am thinking I might not be in much of a condition to do that but we will see.

I know this year is all about a single goal, and these early season events are just to break up the training but I do enjoy a race there is something about the atmosphere that I like, the chance to be with like minded people and to generally have fun.

So, no race for me today, hopefully normal service will resume shortly.

The Bigger Picture

Training for me this year has so far consisted of low heart rate running, turbo sessions and swimming. On paper not perhaps the most exciting looking of sessions, but and this is the key thing they are working, and it seems working well.

I have been running pretty much 6 days a week and as the intensity has been kept down I have been able to achieve two things, firstly and most importantly get my knee rehabilitated and used to running again and then build a solid endurance base, one from which I can build on as I get closer to the aim for the year.

One thing that is important and that is to have a race to do every so often, mainly as it breaks up the training and even if you don’t do any specific work for it, you can still give it a decent go.

Ans so it was this last weekend that I did my first race of the year, a 10k run. From the above you can see that I have done no speed work and so this race would be based around the endurance I had built. I was told not to worry about the time and to take it easy as I had been running a lot of days and still had more to come in this block.

Well, the gun went and suddenly all thoughts of taking it easy disappeared I just couldn’t help myself! Yes, I ran harder than I possibly should have but I was feeling pretty good and really enjoyed stretching my legs. I finished in 49 minutes 26 seconds, which placed me 25th overall and 3rd in my age group, and the time was officially a pb. So not to shabby for a very early season race.

The best thing of all was I thought I could have actually run faster, there was a head wind for about 2.5km of each of the 2 laps and  think this slowed me down. Typical racer always got an excuse!

The point I am trying to make is that my training is aimed at a specific target but it doesn’t mean I can’t have some fun doing races along the way and in doing so I am able to see how I am feeling, it doesn’t have to be based on numbers but how much I am actually enjoying the running and the racing.

It is onwards and upwards then, and for anyone who is wondering, yes I know my pb for 10k is not that impressive but I am actually getting faster as I get older!

2015 Events

It is that time of the year again when you have to decide what events you want to do in the following year, what takes your fancy, what challenges do you fancy.

Well for me, there is one main aim and several smaller ones, my main focus is going to be my attempt at my first ultra marathon, it is 50km off-road through the Chilterns. Now, some readers amy be aware that I have never run a marathon or really fancied one that much, but this event just appeals to me, it is off-road and will provide a very stiff challenge.

I am looking forward to doing a couple of duathlons in March and April, these should provide an interesting contrast to the triathlons I did last year.

It will not escape your notice that there are no triathlons on the list for this year, well that is simply because I am in a bit of a quandary with them, I struggle with the swimming and really for me I need to improve even if I just want to do sprints rather than longer distances. I will still be doing swim sessions, mainly for cross training.

The list of events currently is as follows:

Date Race Name Distance
18 January 2015 Hot Chocolate Run Series – Race 1 10k
21 February 2015 Rail To Trail West 10k
7 March 2015 Gatorade Eton Duathlon Race 3 5k/20k/5k
4 April 2015 Gatorade Eton Duathlon Race 4 5k/20k/5k
31 May 2015 Chiltern 100 Sportive 122k
11 July 2015 Chiltern Challenge Ultra 2015 50k

This is the plan, and the hard work has already started and will continue in 2015

Rat Race London River Run

Today I took part in the Rat Race London River Run, basically a 10k run with obstacles thrown in which mainly involved water.

I have done a few Rat Race events in the past, and they are always well organised and reasonably priced, this was no different.

The event was set up and around the Excel in London, and took full advantage of the docks to make some interesting obstacles.

This was the first time this event has been held in London, previously it was up North and actually often shown on Channel 4. So, how did the event go for me, well on arrival, slightly later than planned due to issues on the tube, it was off to registration.

Registration was the usual simple, quick and easy affair and then it was off to change. The changing tent was a bit dark at one end as it only had lights at one end, bit odd but there you go.

The bag drop was well organised, and they had a system of looking after your valuables, which was a good and well received idea.

Onto, the start after the usual enthusiastic warm up from the gym teachers on the stage. The first 600-700m was inside the hall, but it still had a few hurdles, a tyre run and a couple of things to climb over.

Once outside, it was quickly into the paddling pool and off to the beach to go under a couple of inflatables, the advice of don’t drink the water was probably very wise as it seemed salty and whilst not obviously filthy, not the best!

A bit of a run next, up some steps, over a bridge and then onwards. To be honest I can’t remember the exact order of the obstacles, but there was a swim, followed by clambering over some inflatable rings. I fell off the rings into the water, typical. Then there was a couple of floating platforms which you had to jump onto, I jumped but the platform was a long way away and whilst i sort of caught it, fell again. You will see a theme here!

Next up was the big test, the jump into the water from a 3m high platform, it was a case of walk to the edge wait for the countdown and jump. I have to say it was an odd feeling jumping, it seemed to take a long time to hit the water, maybe I was flying!

Once out, it was more soggy running and off to the kayaking, luckily I jumped in with two other people who turned out to be decent paddlers, so I was carried along really.

After this came the strangest one, a water slide, the slide was steep and I was certainly travelling at sped when I hit the water. Climb out and off again.

There were on the course a few non-water obstacles, a small inflatable, some monkey bars, a couple of things to climb over and then something to go under. Most of these you got to do twice!

The final water obstacle was an inflatable tunnel you went through and dropped out into the water, swam round a buoy and then climbed out.

In true Rat Race style there were a couple of walls to climb over in the finishing straight, just to keep you honest, and then it was over.

I have to say I was really looking forward to this event, and if I am honest it wasn’t as much fun as I had hoped, but it was still fun.

On finishing I realised I had picked up the usual assortment of Rat Race bruises and scars, most of which will be sore for a few days, that is just traditional.

If you have never done one the Rat Race Obstacles races, I would recommend doing one, they are a good laugh and well worth doing with someone or a group for more fun factor.

First Race of the Year – Done

Today I did my first race of the year, the Water of Life 10k organised by Purple Patch Running, it was an off-road event run alongside the River Thames.

My build up for this had been going pretty well until this week when I seemed to be going backwards, no real speed when needed and legs feeling like I had run a 1000miles each session. So I have to admit I wasn’t really holding out to much hope for today and I think I would have pretty much settled for anytime under 57 minutes, which I know is no real time and shows no real ambition.

The course started and finished at Bisham Abbey, and headed off through Temple to Hurley alongside the Thames and back round to the start. It was a basically flat course, the only hills provided by the bridges over the river, but the ground was soft and in places slippery. In fact so slippery that I went round a bend and slipped, luckily I didn’t fall or twist anything but it did slow me down for a bit while I recovered myself.

Variable weather is always a problem when running, and today was no exception, it was cold and so I went for the long bottoms and base layer and t-shirt plus full trial shoes, after about 7km it decided to hail and then rain and then bring the sun back out, spring time is so fun! But generally I think I got the clothing about right, glass I didn’t go for gloves and for me it was a bit cold for shorts, I know I am a nancy boy!

If you get the chance to do this event next time, or the half marathon they run alongside it I would say do it, it is very well organised, the marshals are super friendly, the course is good and very easy on the eye all you need to make it perfect is some warm sunshine.

My time, oh yeah well I managed to drag myself round in 52 minutes 55 seconds, nothing record breaking but ok I think for now it left me finishing 65th out of 288.

Survival Of The Fittest

Saturday was that time again, the time for Survival of the Fittest, the RatRace organised obstacle race run around Battersea Power Station.

If you have never done one of these types of events, then there are 2 things to keep in mind, firstly the distance of the event is really not the key component and secondly that speed is not a requirement.

This year the course was slightly different, in that a number of the obstacles were near the beginning and then there was a long run out to the athletics track and then back again to the power station for the final obstacles and the famous wall.

In terms of obstacles there is something for everyone, well in a manner of speaking, as there are obstacles that involve climbing over, going under, through and of course a ready supply of water an mud!

As it would take me pages to describe all the obstacles, here are some videos I shot of a selection of them using my GoPro

I will say that running wearing the GoPro does make it a little more difficult as you have to remember to duck a bit lower etc.

In addition to the videos below there were a couple of sections where you had to carry a sandbag, a traffic cone and an empty beer barrel.

These events are great fun, I love the fact that there is no time pressure as you often get stuck in a queue for an obstacle, however there is a downside and that is I always get bruised doing these. This year I have managed to bruise some ribs and shoulder as well as removing the usual amount of skin from knees and shins.

Don’t be put off have a go and enjoy