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Monthly Archives: September 2014

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I recall pulling out of the NDW100 earlier in the year and thinking that it was the worst moment of the last 3 years of running. Rolling on 6 weeks and I’m now at the foot of the staircase to the Winter 100. My training had been going okay post injury – I’d been building myself up – 10, 12 and then 15 mile runs, couple of shorter back to backs and then BOOM – hamstring.

And that was just a few weeks back and there’s that little matter of the Winter100.

Why this ultra?
Centurion Running are considered to be one of the finest organisers of ultra distance races in the United Kingdom and I’d be foolish to argue, the Winter 100 will be my third time doing stuff with them and I’m already booked in for a further three next year. However, all the evidence leads me to believe that no matter how well organised and well supported it is, this is going to be one bitch of a race, therefore why this ultra? Well that’s easy, because I love the challenge … but I’m beginning to wonder if I’d struggle when I was 100% fit and in good form – which brings me back to the hamstring …

The Physiotherapist
Rosie, my amazing, amazingly realistic and honest physiotherapist (just ask me for her details if you’re in Kent) has been working my body into the ground to get me ready to race. Her efforts have meant that I’ve managed to successfully race the last couple of weekends (10 miles and a 10km) but she tells me I need rest too – bucketloads of it. Despite her efforts though she believes – quite rightly – that the Winter 100 has come too early for me. However, the good news is that she will help me make the best of a difficult situation – the sessions with her have also helped to mentally prepare me for the possibility of a hamstring flare up and what I would need to do in that event.

Looking for positives?
But aside from a hamstring injury and very limited training I’m feeling pretty good but the Winter 100s reputation as a bit of a ball-breaker is terrifying. It’s already been moved from November to October to give people more of a chance against the weather and the course (4 out and backs in different directions) looks merciless. It is guaranteed to be a test of tenacity both physically and mentally, a examination of run strategy, pacing, fuelling and kit.

Physically I’m currently ill equipped but mentally I’m prepared for that level of not being ready! As for a run strategy? Well I’ve got one of them – slow and steady, with an aim of around 4 – 4.25 miles per hour, it’ll be tight and with no capacity to mess about but I believe this is the way my hamstring will get round. Obviously in the sections I can go a bit quicker I’m going to but not at the risk of an injury that could bring my race to a premature end.

Fuel me up buttercup!
As for fuel I’m going to go down the route of real food and isotonic drinks – gels don’t work for me but I often crave real food, particularly savoury bits, my new Oxsitis bag should offer ample room to carry anything I need. I’ll probably add Kinder chocolate too as this has become something of a favourite on the trail.

Kit ready?
As for kit I think I’m pretty much ready. I’ve bought Pearl Izumi Trail N1 and Inov8 Race Ultra 290 for this event and they’ll be teamed with Hoka Stinson Trail and probably some Trailroc 245 and/or Vibram FiveFingers – basically one pair of shoes per section and a spare if it all goes tits up! I’ve made the transition completely to Drymax socks from Injinji and I’ve replaced my Ultimate Directions PB with the Oxsitis Hydragon. The new pack benefits from being able to handle my Z fold poles as well, which for the first time on a race will be going with me – I realise I’ll look like an UltraWanker but do I give a fuck? No.

Pacer?
I’m wishing I’d thought more carefully about this – I decided I wouldn’t need a pacer because if I could make it to the 50 mile point then I could death march my way to the finish and there would be no point annoying a pacer by forcing them to trudge next to me. And if I don’t make it to the 50 mile point there was no point having people on standby waiting for my arrival. However, on reflection, I wish I’d had a little more common sense about this and arranged a pacer, thinking back to the NDW100 and those who had pacers in that middle of the pack part of the race looked fresher and more likely to go on. Something to think about for future races.

Worried?
There are concerns, injury is the most obvious but there are others … the arrival of UltraBaby is having something of an effect but only half as much as my new job which has a more significant element of travel (my commute can be as much as 3hrs each way) and coupled with the need to carry 2 laptops in each day means that running to work is a bit of a non-starter for me. Also unlike some of my fellow runners I’ve never been on the Ridgeway or the Thames Path (well not that end of it) so each step is going to be something new – which is both exciting and terrifying! Ultimately all I can do is my best but I’ve been looking forward to this and I would really hate to fail. I’m also going to have my daughter there on the day – I really don’t want to fail in front of her, especially after her trophy winning exploits last weekend – little monster, making me look bad!

Final preparations?
I feel a bit like Diego Costa of Chelsea at the moment – limited training and just turn up to the game. But my final couple of weeks of preparation will be gentle runs to get me back used to running and then a looped marathon in a country park not far from the Kent coast (my aim will actually be 11 laps) and therefore an ultra distance. If I can manage that kind of distance then I’ll go into the Winter 100 feeling more confident – but ultimately it’s a case of here we go again. So good luck to all the Winter 100 runners – you’re all awesome.

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It was a foggy day when I set out for Dartford yesterday morning, quite a cool beginning to the day, cool enough infact that the race top I selected was one of my heavier Ronhill long sleeved efforts. My dad drove us to the start as he would be entering the fun run later in the day and clearly with him he brought a cheery smile and the sunlight (it was therefore the wrong choice of top).

For those who follow this blog or those who stumble across it you’ll know that I ran this race last year and had nothing but good things to say about it. That opinion has not changed, here’s why.

New Course
The location is the same, the course is new – roads that we previously needed to cross have been removed and the route itself felt a little bit tougher. It felt a slightly more exposed course but it was a bright and warm day and that made it feel really rather pleasant. Add to this that the two lap and winding nature meant that you could keep an eye on those behind you or infront and so you were well served for your overtaking manoeuvres.

Price
A bargain! £16 on the day, cheaper in advance, decent facilities, great course, medal, the best volunteers lovely catering company and biscuits and pain au chocolate at the end. This was all topped though by some top notch organisation from the race director who says of the race ‘I just want people to enjoy themselves’. My belief is that you’ll need to go far and wide to find someone who didn’t enjoy themselves.

As for me I’m still in that comeback phase of things so I was glad of running in 54minutes and although the hamstring gave me crap all the way round I felt it was manageable, whether I’ll feel like that at the Winter100 is a very different matter.

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And then this happened …
The race also had a fun run option … I’d suggested to Pops (my dad who was visiting) that he could run this with his son (UltraBoyRuns) and granddaughter (UltraBaby) – unexpectedly though we also had the GingerNinja join us so it became a real family affair. 1.8km or as my GPS read – 1.98km, easy.

UltraBaby would be using the UltraMobile while the rest of us were powered by foot and we set off quickly but soon decided that it’d be better to peg ourselves back for the sprint finish. UltraBaby took in most of the details of the day and gave serious eyeball to the other competitors.

We flew around the course, clearly unlikely to come first but having a grand old time with three generations of a racing family doing what they do best.

https://vine.co/v/OZ02gBuvEaB

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For the final 300metres I sent Pops on his way to ensure UltraBaby beat our nearest rivals and he thankfully pipped them on the line with a sprint finish and myself and the GingaNinja came home at the back of the pack but roared on by an awesome crowd.

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But this wasn’t it!
To finish our day we discovered that UltraBaby had been the fastet baby of the day and therefore not only claimed her first medal but also her first trophy.

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Thank you Dartford Bridge 10km – we will be back next year! And if you’re looking for a great PB 10km race course or just a great Raceday out in Kent then this it it!

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My comeback from injury had been curtailed in the most part by my ongoing hamstring problems, I’ve brought back my training to a minimum and built my focus on strengthening and stretching the various affected areas. In practical terms this has meant much more cycling (about 120km per week) and about 30 minutes of stretching and physio ordered exercise with the occasionally doff of the cap to running (such as last weekends Les Witton 10 mile or running with UltraBaby- see picture above).

But the problem today isn’t injury the problem is that I just can’t quite shake this illness I’ve discovered I’m suffering with and its called The Running Bug.

Are you a sufferer?

Here are a few of my symptoms

1. You are grumpy when you don’t run
2. You buy new kit when you can’t run
3. You get green eyes when you see runners go past and you aren’t running
4. You enter races in the hope that you’ll be fit and well, despite all evidence saying you won’t
5. You turn up on race day and tell yourself you’ll run it off
6. You suffer with magpie-itis when you see other runners medals and wonder whether it’d be easier to steal their medal or just the race next year
7. Your sense of style eludes you as you go to work often missing key items of clothes such as thundercrackers or consider it acceptable to be sat there in neon all day.
8. ‘Normal’ people think you might have the kind of mental illness that requires therapy to cure you of spending hours and hours on a road or trail
9. You’ve stopped giving a flying fuck what anyone else thinks about anything (particularly running)
10. You often suffer with a rash round your gonads (that might just be me)

You may not suffer with all of these, infact you may not suffer with any of them but while I’ve been injured and on the comeback trail I’ve had almost all of the above – so much so that I’ve already signed up for two more ultra distances this week. If you suffer like I do then consider yourself lucky because running is just plain awesome – which makes you awesome and I’ll see you out there this weekend awesome runners.

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What better way to mark the arrival of being 37 with a couple of little races, I’d just take it pretty easy but try out my hamstring in preparation for the W100 but then several things happened including a very weird dream and reacquainting myself with my running arch nemesis.

Weird
On Friday night before I’d intended to set out for my VirtualRunnerUK 10km I had a dream which was basically a conversation with my vibrating hamstring but in my dream the hamstring had taken the form of Carole Plowmans (my ex partners, sadly, now deceased mother) banana yellow vibrator which once assaulted me while leaping out of a bathroom cupboard and hitting me on the forehead. Further it kept calling me ‘Dave, you’re my bitch now’ in the style of Papa Lazarou from ‘The League of Gentlemen’ – I think my hamstring was sending a message from beyond the ether.

VirtualRun 10km
However, after waking up from the craziness of my own dreaming and opening some excellent birthday presents – including my awesome new Buff – I set off. With having a ten mile race the day after I decided I’d take it nice and slow around the Kentish hills and trail and this is exactly what I did, nothing too speedy either and the hamstring that has given me so many problems stayed quiet and only my groin and pelvis had a minor flare up. This was a result, even if my time was a stodgy 56 minutes. It was also the first time out for the Pearl Izumi Trail N1 and they were pretty damn fine (a full review will take place once I’ve put some bigger mileage on them).

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Les Witton 10
The Les Witton 10 is supposed to be one of the year openers – normally taking place early January but the last couple have seen it cancelled due to extremely poor weather conditions. These cancellations seem to have forced the hand of the organisers and they’ve called time on the event but there was still time for one last hurrah and at the fourth time of asking I was going to be running it.

With an 8.30 start I needed to be up nice and early so that UltraBaby could have some food and get suited up to watch UltraBoy do his thing.

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We arrived at the sports ground in Dartford at around 7.30 as instructed and headed into a rather plush sports/changing facility, I ran upstairs to grab my number and quickly headed back down to the GingaNinja and UltraBaby. Despite there being hundreds of runners milling around I had everything sorted incredibly quickly and even my pre race toiletry movement was a rather pleasant affair because there wasn’t a queue, there was shit roll and the toilet didn’t look or smell like a cesspit.

The start line was set up just outside the swanky facility and in front of me were several hundred runners and supporters, I turned my back on them and headed to the astro turf playing field and did a few warm up laps followed by a lot of stretching. The warm up proved to me that my injuries were still very much there but in truth is known this all along and so I prepared as best I could, took some paracetamol and ibuprofen and marched purposefully to the start line or rather the back of the crowd at the start line.

It was a wonderfully bright and autumnal morning punctuated by hints of late summer warmth and you really couldn’t have asked for a better day and with the notices given out the race began with the runners gently moved forward.

My aim was anything under 2hrs with 1hr 45mins being considered a good finish (to put it into context a hilly trail ten miles will normally take about 70mins). I’d run much of the route before as part of my training for the White Cliffs 50 but I’d never run this exact route and from the off it proved to be nothing but hills – both up and down.

I was going nice and slowly and pacing myself pretty well, even on the downhills and then it all went wrong – I saw my running nemesis in the distance. He’d started a little bit ahead of me and for a while I sat back wondering if I should just drift behind him but then the old body reminded me that going too slowly was bad for me and not running the pace I felt comfortable with was going to be a bad idea.

Go on feet!
I passed the old nemesis and chugged on through the crowd – gently passing runners as I bounded down one of the few flat sections on the course. As I came up to the hills I decided that it would be best to attack them with all the speed I could muster and so with each incline I found an extra gear and stretched out my legs (only nominally paying the price when I hit the top of a section).

The great thing about the back of Dartford is that it’s actually rather pretty and so the views went from the town through to something more akin to the popular view of rural Kent. In the glorious morning this made my running all the more fun.

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It was now an hour in and I’d made it beyond the 10km point, which I thought was something of a miracle given that my hamstring, groin and hips had all at various points been on fire. My genius plan of wearing Skins compression leggings had helped I believe but not really enough to stop the injuries bring a constant reminder that running wasn’t a good idea! However, I was well within sight of my goal and that 1hr 45 seemed a little generous and so I recalculated and aimed for 1hr 30 – I had however forgotten the final brutal hill back to the finish.

I pressed down on all my courage and threw myself up the hill, not only did I now have a target for time but I was sure my nemesis and his acolytes weren’t far behind. I reached the top of the hill and have renewed vigour to my efforts but for all my efforts there was no sprint finish in me (which would have given me my 1hr 30 – instead I ended up at 1hr 31 and I can live with that.

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I crossed the line several minutes ahead of the chap I was looking to beat but that was bettered by the delightful medal I received, which was bettered only by the sight of the GingaNinja and UltraBaby at the finish cheering towards me (although I think one of them was asleep).

The Les Witton 10 miles is a great race and I really enjoyed it and hope that it returns in some form or other. As for me I’m back running but it’s hard going and I’m struggling with the hamstring particularly but with the Winter100 just around the corner I need to keep on moving.

Have fun runners!

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I’ve had over a year of near continuous injury in one form or other and it’s been hugely frustrating but the worst part was the slow but steady gaining of weight. It meant that when I couldn’t run at all I was putting on weight because I simply wasn’t burning off the calories.

I’d find I was starting to spin myself into frustration and feeling mentally fatigued by it and therefore put more weight on and so on and so on.

Just a day or two before I was due to volunteer at the NDW100 I made the mistake of weighing myself. It was then that I rocked in at a terrifying 81.1kg – this was the tipping point literally. I’ve never been 80kg, even when I returned from living in Asia and I was pretty unhealthy and podgy but I was never 80kg.

So on the eve of the NDW100 I dropped my daily calorie intake from too much to 1560, I reloaded MyFitnessPal on my iPhone and I disposed with all the delicious chocolate and bread in the house.

I decided that the best solution in eating terms was an increase of fruit and vegetables coupled with a reduction in high sugar foods like biscuits and the almost total eradication of bread from my diet. However, I also needed to be sensible and was very aware of the fact I don’t really like fruit and vegetables so would have to increase my nut and pulse intake to help stop me feeling hungry – lentils are my new favourite food. Finally I reintroduced tea and coffee which although not awesome in great quantities do serve to stave off hunger – well it does for me!

The other part of the puzzle would be easier – more exercise. Despite injury I increased the amount of exercise I was doing by going to the pool and ensuring that I rocked out at least 45 minutes of cycling each day, periodically I was even managing to run! The exercise bit was awesome, it felt really good to have a target again and I was back in training with my eyes firmly focused on the Winter 100.

I’ll be honest it’s been incredibly hard to get started but with the bit between my teeth I felt believed I could this and make it stick.

Week 1 was a nightmare and there were moments I could quite cheerfully have purchased a large Meat Feast Domnio’s Pizza with BBQ sauce and extra crispy onions and pepperoni but I didn’t. Each day I stuck within the calorie limit and I exercised.

At about week 4 UltraBaby began the process of showing up and in the days between my weigh ins I lost almost nothing – but I did still manage to lose. Had I gained during this period this might have destroyed my mental strength but the 0.3kg that dropped off gave me a lift you can’t imagine.

I’ve now managed to drop about 5kg in the first 6 weeks and I’m pleased with this but know I’ve got a long way to go yet. The best bit is that all my trousers are feeling that much better and a lot less tight. The aim now is to have dropped to about 70kg before the Winter100 as I figure that carrying less weight around that hundred miles will do me no harm whatsoever.

I suppose the conclusion to this is that you’ve got to mindful of your body all the time, show some restraint, don’t punish yourself when you don’t and do enthuse yourself as much as possible and you’ll keep healthy. I let myself put weight on because I blamed injury for my lack of exercise and need to comfort eat but it’s the very same injuries that have forced me back onto the road, the trail and the pool and it’s those same injuries that stopped me pigging out. Ultimately losing weight and staying healthy are a bit like ultra marathons – play the long game, keep positive and don’t stop.

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