Saturday, 21 May 2011


I was delighted this week to realise my 6th place in the recent ultra won me some money, as I was third male. 20 whole pounds cash*! Woot! I shall be the Endurance Life spending it as soon as I have decided what event to do next.

A busy week but managed some running. The hill out the back of the Farringdon Travelodge proved useful for hills reps. Having half an hour free early in the morning on Thursday I decided to see how many times I could run up and down it. Turns out, 12. The day before I had a pleasant trot through the city, checking out some old haunts. Quite a lot of new buildings, but good to see one of the worlds greatest cafes is still going - the Peoples Choice.

Today I tried a new run route. Out through Shurdington, up on to Crickley Hill, then along the Cotswold Way to Leckhampton Hill, and then Cleeve hill and home. 30km with nearly 900m of ascent, in three hours. Was quite pleased with the 10km average speed over that terrain.

A recovery baguette with four 'not bacon' strips and two fried eggs perked me up at the end, as did a trip to Go Outdoors. I love that place. The one in Gloucester is big! It's like a playground. I came back with a Osprey Raptor pack, a 10 litre water container (which means we can now have running water in the van - tested and it works!) and a Power bar (which I had eaten before I crossed the car park.

In other news - no rapture. Probably for the best, I've got stuff to do tomorrow.

* Not actual cash.

Sunday, 15 May 2011


It's been a lazy weekend. I thought I'd recovered pretty well from the Ultra. I ran on Tuesday and felt sprightly enough (and indeed had to run very quickly home from work to get to yoga), and again on Thursday though legs were feeling less sprightly.

However it seemed to have caught up with me by Friday. I was pretty shattered and after a massage my legs really felt heavy. I had planned a couple of hours running on Saturday, and biking on Sunday. Saturday dawned, and I still felt shattered. So, it became an easy day with a pleasant afternoon snooze followed by 'Moon' on BluRay (a great film). I was going to do a local British Heart Foundation on Sunday (today) with a friend, but he was unable to borrow a road bike (and quite reasonably didn't fancy it on a 'all mountain' mtb). Without that as a motivator I slept late and mooched around the house.

I have however indulged in some retail therapy. Some jeans and other clothes, and today, after umming and aahing for a year, I finally took the plunge. I am now the proud owner of a very snazzy looking Cube AMS Comp. But it's raining. And I don't want to get it dirty. So the Simpsons will do for now. Afan next weekend will be a good first ride.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

A long way

I think the title best sums up the Endurance Life ultra I did last weekend. We drove down to the Flete estate on the Friday evening after work, arriving to increasing gloom and rain which eventually became quite an impressive storm. We were very glad to have the van, rather than having to have put up a tent.

Registration opened the next morning at 0830, and with all of 50 metres to walk it was a leisurely start. The rain had stopped, and it was cloudy but dry. I was feeling excited right up until the point where I looked at the route details and saw the distance: 36.6 miles. Oh dear. I had anticipated 32 or 33 miles. The furthest I had run in one go in 2011 was 20 miles! And, like all Endurance Life events, it was likely to be a tough course (spoiler: it was).

Luckily I only had an hour to worry. At 0930 the small group doing the ultra set off. The course consisted of two loops and an estuary crossing (so the race starts were timed so that we crossed at low tide). The half marathon (15 miles) did the first of the loops, ending with the watery crossing. The full marathon (a mere 28 miles) did both loops and ended with the water crossing, whilst the Ultra did both loops, crossed the estuary and then off we went on the first loop again, shoes full of water.

The first loop was a pleasant, if rolling, run along the coastline, before turning round and heading back inland (after first ducking under an electric fence!). The group quickly split, and for a long while I ran with a couple of other intrepid racers. We hit a checkpoint at just under 12 miles quite quickly (1:36) and I was feeling very comfortable, though very aware that this was likely to change in short order. As we started the third member of our group dropped off, leaving me with Diane Roy who was looking very strong (and went on to be first woman and second over all). The second loop headed away from the start inland, before hitting the coast, and heading back in along the coastal path.

We arrived at the sea front at around the three hour mark, with Diane having pulled ahead by a couple of hundred metres. At this point there was a nice flat mile on the beach, before we picked up the costal trail and things got...hard. I was definitely feeling the distance at this point, and we progressed along the costal path in a wearing rhythm - a steep climb up to the cliff tops, a short rolling section, a steep descent down to a beach, followed by a steep climb up to the cliff tops etc etc. Diane was occasionally visible silhouetted against the sky as she crested the top of a hill I was just starting to slog up.

Eventually I arrived at the estuary and headed up stream to the crossing point. Ahead I could see figures making their way across the water - the half marathoners at the end of their race. At this point I was passed by Oliver Sinclair. We chatted briefly, before he quickly pulled away.

The river crossing wasn't too bad. Cold, but not deep. I was quickly across, and was briefly amongst all the half marathon runners. Then they turned up to the finish, and I, somewhat reluctantly, headed out on the first loop for the second time. I was pleased with my time to that point - approx 4:30 which wasn't bad for 28 miles.

At this point my legs were tired, but I felt pretty good, The pace was slow, and I walked on the steep bits but was fine. As I ducked under the electric fence for the second time and approached the final steep climb I could see Oliver at the top. I was, by my estimates, 4th at that point, and was vaguely hoping I could hold on. The run back was fairly easy, though given the distance we had covered by then, not quick. With some three miles to go, I looked back and for the first time in ages saw another runner. She caught and passed me quickly, and pulled away looking strong. Ok, fifth I thought. I can hold on to that. The descent down to the estuary had been fast the first time, but on tired legs was much trickier. I also quickly realised it would mean we would be finishing with a climb back to the start/finish.

A brief section of flat along the water front and it was indeed up hill. With probably just a few hundred metres to go, I heard something behind me, looked back and saw another runner approaching. No way I thought and speeded up as best I could. It was to no avail - I was passed by (according the the results) Helen Bennett, who was positively flying. I have absolutely no idea how she was able to sprint up hill like that after that distance. Suitably impressed I slogged on to the finish, and sixth overall in 6:29.

It was great course, and I was delighted with myself for completing it. Endurance Life did their usual brilliant job of organising, and all the EL staff were friendly and helpful.

The Domino's Vegetarian Supreme pizza was well received that night!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Ultra run shopping

Food shopping for a couple of nights camping and doing an ultra makes you look like some sort of sugar and noodle freak. Pain au chocolate, mini cheddars, jaffa cakes, super noodles, some red bull. Plus some baps and vegetarian sausage - can't beat a sausage sandwich after a long run. Chuck in some SIS Rego, or the For Goodness Shakes recovery stuff and we're set.

Weeks before races always seem to be really busy at work. A long day today, and in London tomorrow so an early start. At least I can sleep on the train.

Otherwise all set really. Chuck the stuff in the van, and off we go!

Monday, 2 May 2011

Weekend away

Just back from a pleasant weekend camping in the van in Combe Martin, on the north Devon coast. Really nice little town, and the coast there is amazing. Miles of cliffs, deep wooded valleys and Exmoor just inland. A real variety of terrain.

Views are good.

All confirmed for the Endurance Life ultra next weekend. In the pub yesterday evening Ali realised you had to book camping separately - I had mistakenly assumed it came with the entry. The deadline to book was 1 May, so we hastily booked over 3G there and then.

A week of tapering now. Legs are appreciating it, having not really had a break since before we went skiing. Hopefully by Saturday I'll be raring to run!