So here we are my final instalment to The Oner blog. One of the most unbelievable
journeys that I have ever been on. I have learnt lessons about myself about
others and gained a whole new respect for endurance athletes.
I am writing this a week after the event and I am still not fully recovered
from two torn calf's minor ligament damage in my left knee and some severe
ITB issues. This race was like the reverse of Forest Gump, being able to
run for long distances to feeling like I have braces attached to my legs.
Would I do the race again!? Only time will tell..
When I first started doing the races I had completed I put everything I
could on the line during the races and got to the finish line exhausted
and in pain. But this pain would disappear over the course of the day and
I would be left feeling good that I had accomplished something but a little
empty as I wanted to take my body beyond what is comfortable and really
feel I achieved a monumental task. I had watched footage of ironman athletes
on empty crawling across the line with nothing left and ultra marathon runners
on the boarder of death. In a completely non sadistic kind of way I wanted
to experience this. Searching for this moment in a race was almost like
some kind of spiritual pilgrimage hoping there would be a moment when you
come to spiritual enlightenment and everything becomes clear and you know
you have found this point. Having done recci's of the The Oner course I
knew this moment would happen but I wasn't too sure where and when this
would happen. This filled me with a healthy mix of excitement and fear.
Let me introduce you to The Oner:
82 Miles of coastal path running from Charmouth to Studland with over 10,000ft
of elevation with a strict 24 hour time limit.
Now that sounds simple enough just run at a pace of roughly 4 mph for 24
hours and you will make the finish. But then there is the slight task of
the hills and we will get onto that later. So my task for the day was to
just keep trucking staying ahead of the cut off and make it back in the
24 hour time limit.
So here we go...
I had cheekily managed to persuade my mum and dad to come down from Shetland
and get a flat out so we have some family time and use flat as a base for
them to hangout when supporting me along the route. So we all arrived in
Weymouth on the Friday and settled in for the night of carb loading. A nice
surprise was to see my brother and his girlfriend that night for more support.
I never had a doubt through my whole training that I wouldn't finish the
race but began to feel a real pressure that my family had made such a huge
effort to come down and support me. It was a strange feeling having a Guinness
that night, not much was said between us and it almost felt like I was heading
into battle to never be seen again. A final kit check and burritos made,
friday night came and went and I woke up about 6am on Saturday after very
little sleep but felt fresh and ready to go.
We all made our way down to the Ferrybridge Inn with enough kit to probably
start a small jumble sale. I was feeling a lot more relaxed about kit check
as i pretty much had double of everything just incase something wasn't up
to standard. The kit check was thorough which filled me with confidence
in a strange way as they obviously knew this race was going to be tough
and wanted to get everything right. Issued with a tracker so family and
friends could follow your progress, glow sticks, dibblers, maps and number.
I signed my life away on the disclaimer which I didn't read because I didn't
want to let the fear set in that its possible to die out there, a small
slip on the wet rocks or a wrong turn and you will be off the edge and probably
It didn't make a difference by not reading it as the medic took the mic
during the briefing and stated the obvious dangers which made it even more
real coming from a man in uniform. So now fully shitting myself I had 2
hours to kill before the start. Thoughts were racing through my head and
just wanted to get started. We left Ferrybridge for Charmouth and the atmosphere
in the mini bus was lots of nervous chat and laughs for the first 20 mins
then as the mini bus began to struggle up hills around Abbotsbury and the
sight of the coast came into view conversation stopped, all you could hear
was GPS watches starting up, food being scoffed and the relief of a safe
fart. As we arrived at the start I tried not to feel intimidated by people
wearing their MDS tops, various other 100 mile ultra tops and people with
expensive compression wear that I couldn't afford. I went pretty old school
with shorts, socks and t shirts combo. I had my trusted Saucony Peregrines
and my salomon Agile 12 stuffed with 3 litre of water (which decided to
leak when laid down) 1 litre of Science
Fitness that will be supplying their awesome energy juice on the course.
I also had all necessary kits along with the contents on a small newsagents.
I am not from this area so names of places are not my strong point but I
knew it was a bloody long way. As we set off at mid day we just headed south
to the SW coastal path then East. I ran with Jon Regler for a good 14 miles
stopping off at checkpoint 1 and 2 together enjoying the food and juice
which was on supply. As we hit check point 2 he said that our pace was good
enough for a 3 ? hour marathon. This was a little bit of a shock as we were
aiming for a 5 hour marathon for the first leg and I think this made my
guts tumble all I can say is that im sorry for who went in there after me.
Up and down all those hills I felt good, my knee was attempting to spoil
the day but it wasn't going to stop me. The terrain was forever changing
from coastal path to road to PEBBLE BEACHES. Sapping energy from the legs
these beaches were killing me.
I forgot to mention the weather.. It was forecast for sun, sun and more
sun and it delivered. A beautiful 20+ degree day with a slight breeze it
was glorious running weather. After about 15 miles I felt so comfortable
I was on my own with a few people ahead I was topless shorts rolled up and
loving life. Embracing the day and feeling like I looked like Anton Krupicka
I slowly began picking people off and was telling myself that 7 ? m/mi were
not good for endurance events but I was feeling fresh and listened to the
body. Checkpoint 3 came and went, I was aiming to be at checkpoint 4 at
5pm but arrived their at 4pm first marathon done and back at HQ. There was
certain people I kept overtaking then getting over taken by and I ended
up striking up conversation with one guy called Paul Beechey we ended up
spending the next 50 miles together. After checkpoint 4 at HQ you head out
towards Portland Head along a pretty depressing stretch of road I caught
my family and a very good friend who would joined me during the night. Leaving
Paul to truck on I stopped for a brief interview, put in a request for some
Imodium and some more painkillers for the night and headed off again aiming
to be back down to HQ for a big break before the night section.
The first section of Portland head is up, up and up then once your on the
top its pretty flat for the first half but due to its open landscape you
had to deal with the wind. Driving winds from the coast made this relatively
easy section hard going. The lighthouse was checkpoint 5. Mum and dad and
best mate Jake were there again at the checkpoint I hit a few Imodium and
took some ibuprofen to combat any little niggles. Paul and I were now back
together and having run this section at dark I could remember rough directions
and knew it was pretty technical section. We was running with another runner
who was pretty strong and was pushing the pace. After a nice scenic trip
round Portland and its beautiful prisons it was a relief to be coming back
down. This was the only point where you would double back on your route
and you would see other runners starting Portland. You wished them good
luck and tried to hide the pain you were feeling, I was looking forward
to getting back to HQ checkpoint 6 and having a good break. The support
I had was beyond epic, I was greeted by more support at the bottom of Portland
head. A brief stop to say hello and I was off on the short run back to HQ
and checkpoint 6.
My spirits were lifted as I got back to HQ about 7:15pm. Having worked out
the times in which I would have to leave checkpoints to be one schedule
I knew I could have a good 45 min break to get some food, drink, change
of clothes and re evaluate how this race was going to change my life. Checkpoint
6 is the mark of halfway and was stocked full of treats. It was a very warm
welcome back here and I smashed about 6 bowls of pasta, couple of sandwiches,
a few sausage rolls, 3 bananas, 2 chocolate bars and a handful of sweets.
They say never try anything different on race day but I had never run 80
miles so everything was different. I had a really good stretch, warmed up
in the car doused my legs in Better_you magnesium spray and felt good and
ready to head off.
The race was going really well apart from an upset stomach, legs were feeling
good, I was feeling positive because of the support, the weather was great
and was meant to be good during the night and I was half way through. All
was good, I collected my cheat sticks which I purchased after the previous
recci with the boys and went to go and test my head torch before setting
off and NOTHING! Changed batteries, blew into it, taped it, punched it not
even a flicker. Luckily I had my brother who was driving round to each checkpoint,
I had a spare at the house which he would later drop off to me on the course.
After about 45 mins of a break Paul and I headed off and the night slowly
started to draw in. We both kept being polite and telling each other to
run on if we felt stronger, but we both just kept chatting and adopting
the walk run attitude. We made our way into Weymouth collected my head torch
and resisted the temptation to drop into the pubs and the house for a drink.
As we headed along the esplanade you could just make out the end of coastline
of where we were heading. Just before we headed onto the coastal path I
said to Paul that I was happy to stick with him through the night as I could
sense the atmosphere getting a little more serious as the light dropped
along with the temp. We both agreed that we would be running partners for
We had a final stop at the fantasy island fun park before hitting the coast
to get our lights on. I turned my lights on and was like a Christmas tree
with flashing lights, reflective strips and glow sticks. I turned on my
replacement head torch and it was about as useful as a one legged man in
an arse kicking contest. Then Paul said that his was brand new and he hadn't
tested his. I was fearing the worse that we would be running through the
night lit by my sorry excuse of a head torch.
As Paul unpacked a mini generator he explained It had been flown in from
Germany for the race, and with great german efficiency and engineering this
thing made the lighthouse beam look dull. It pretty much lit up the whole
Weymouth, I felt my retinas bleed as he turned around to talk to me. I said
to him that he has no choice but to stay with me through the night as it
would be a certainty I would end up off the side of a cliff with my head
So off we headed on the coastal path again adopting the run walk combo which
was mainly walking now as we adjusted to the dark and the different conditions.
I remembered from the recci there was a few hidden turns on route that we
needed to look out for and we navigated these with minor difficulty. The
conditions under foot were very nice and mood in camp was good. We made
it to checkpoint 7 at Ossmington mills with no real problems and was starting
to appreciate how far we had gone and that we were now on the home stretch
(if you can call 35 miles that). We did some maths and realised we could
walk the rest and still finish in a good time. Psychologically this was
good to know as we both knew there was some severe climbs to come. Taking
the race checkpoint by checkpoint was working out well but 6-8 miles at
the beginning didn't seem far but now it was taking us a good 2-3 hours
between each checkpoint as the body started to cease up and the fear of
making a wrong turn crept into our minds.
As we headed on through the night we had now been running for about 14 hours
and I was about to head into the unknown as the furthest I had ever run
was 46 miles. It was almost as if my body knew and as we hit about 50 miles
I started to feel really sick and my guts were in turmoil. It was great
to have someone like Paul with me as he asked all the right questions, just
to reassure me that I wasn't going to die. Im quite in tune with my body
mentally and physically and knew something had to come out. Lets just say
a strong root and a cliff edge made a perfect and scenic relief spot. Standard
me and my epic timing as we got passed by 2 other runners Paul taking the
full flack of their disgusted looks as I was hidden in the bush with my
useless head torch.
The run continued and the route started to deliver the hills. Running at
night psychologically it's a little better with hills because you cant see
the top, but when you see a head torch bobing around in the dark really
high up in front of you it makes your heart sink. Pain ensued as we took
on the climbs at Durdle door and Lulworth cove. I decided to swear prefusly
as we got to the top of each climb just releasing a bit of pain. The down
hills were torture for us both. I tried every method to get down without
using my legs. I wish I had bloody hidden a sledge on route to get me down
We were both in good spirits trying not to let the dark demons in, there
was plenty of times where we were laughing and joking but we had to stop
ourselves laughing at times as it hurt to laugh and descend at the same
time. Support was still pouring in for me and I think Paul was enjoying
the support I had as well, a very good friend joined us a Lulworth Cove
to see us through the night. We began spending a little longer at checkpoints
but it was good to have some fresh conversation as the 'getting to know
you' conversations with Paul were starting to run thin as we both tried
to block out the pain.
After we left Lulworth around midnight we were all in good spirits. Just
one more marathon to go and we would be there. Instead of working checkpoint
to checkpoint we were now taking it hill by hill as we both knew what was
on offer on the final section. Both myself and Paul were struggling with
independent issues and the hills were really taking its toll on us. We both
tried breaking into a jog on the flats but as soon as any incline was introduced
we both ground to a walk again. The Race had now turned into body management,
we took a few wrong turns as tiredness crept in. A few narrow misses as
we avoided getting blown up as we made our way through the firing ranges.
The terrain as I had remembered was so unforgiving, skidding and slipping
down hills was now not much fun as both of us winced in agony. Progression
was slow even with my friend trying to jolly us on.
I cant remember too much of the early morning. But I do remember distances
almost tripling in distance from my memory of the recci and what was going
on. We had been overtaken by a few people coming into checkpoint 9 and they
were looking strong, I wasn't particularly bothered anymore about my position
as I just wanted to finish. Myself and Paul started going into a dark space
and I said to him earlier I had a great story which would pull anyone out
from this mood. I asked him if he was ready for it and he was... What ensued
was a good fun section of story telling and laughs. Moral was lifted and
we bobbed on to checkpoint 9.
As I didn't really know the names of the climbs or sections after checkpoint
9 I vaguely remember saying to boys theres only 3 big climbs left.. They
were known as stairs up to most ridiculous building move. The zig zag climb
and those FUC*%NG stairs. These were now our goals get these out the way
and technically we were home and dry. So we continued on after warming up
in the van and eating so many sandwiches.
I want to take this point to thank the spirit and dedication of the checkpoint
staff. Even into the early hours of the morning they were still really chipper
and keen to help out as much as possible. I have a load of respect for the
staff in these 24 hour events. If I done end up running next year I will
defiantly volunteer to help out.
In semi high spirits we headed on taking in the first of the three climbs
straight after checkpoint 9 as we made our way back into the darkness I
stopped the boys and made them turn their head torches off and took a moment
to enjoy the stars. It was such a beautiful moment and quite comical as
the stars cast more light than my head torch. Running now was some what
of a discomfort and progress was slow but we cracked on we eventually made
it to the zig zag climb just before the dreaded steps. A strategically placed
checkpoint 10 was placed at the top of the stairs which really gave you
drive to get those stairs behind you. Going down was more painful than the
up and plenty of swear words were used by me. We joked about counting the
stairs but decided to take them on in two sections. The steps didn't stand
a chance we smashed our way up them with the thought of a coffee, food and
the last big climb out the way.
Our next bonus was the thought of the sun coming up and this was a welcome
relief as we made our way along the coast towards Swanage. Taking a moment
to look back and see what we accomplished thoughts began to sneak in of
the finish line. Myself and Paul had both done a recci of this section but
only up till Swanage so we didn't know what Studland had to offer. The terrain
was pretty flat compared to what we had done from Lulworth as we entered
checkpoint 11 again my family was their but they didn't get much fun from
me as my body was now in self destruct mode and I was in a a lot of pain.
My brother again putting in the hours slept at the checkpoint so he didn't
miss us. My mate Jake I think was relieved to be released at this point
as I wasn't much fun and my answers had dropped to yes and no. That point
I spoke about earlier of being in a state of pure exhaustion I think I had
found it.. My usual chatty self had gone, my sense of humour was non existent,
I adopted the role of kevin and perry as my parents asked if I was ok as
I saw them.
Now all we had left was 7 miles along Swanage seafront up and over Studland
and then along Studland beach and we would be finished. Paul created a 12th
checkpoint by calling his wife and getting a coffee made for us as we passed
his house. Up and over Studland then down onto the beach we both attempted
a jog but there wasn't much left so we power walked the whole beach. The
sand was compact so it was not too hard. We were both hurting but spirits
were good as Paul went off in front to meet his family. Over a little bridge
and the finish line was there. 21 hr 22mins.
I was greeted with a round of applause, a medal and a cup of soup. These
kind of races have such a great atmosphere and such a big team effort although
it is an individual effort. The race was one of the hardest things I have
ever done in my life and a lot of people who took part rated it one of the
hardest races they have done. The organisation was amazing, the atmosphere
was great, the checkpoints were always readily stocked, the staff were positive,
just a great event. Having the ability to track the runners makes it such
a great spectator sport allowing supporters to follow.
I would like to thank all the support I had, with them making it to each
checkpoint really spurred you on and knowing there will be someone you know
and love to be there for you if you need them. I would like to thank Paul
Beechey as well for his wise head who helped me through the night and thanks
to his head torch. A big thanks to all the staff and especially Claire for
allowing me to blog for the race. Thanks to Science
Fitness for their juice, a great tasting product that come straight
from way down deep in the congo.
The Oner 2015
So a week on from the race and I am still hobbling around with my ruined
calfs but I loved pretty much everything about the race.
Recovery has been slow due to severe muscle damage but Better_you
magnesium spray and Magnesium flakes aided in recovery. A really great
company which is backing me.
I would highly recommend Iain Andrews Sports and Remedial Massage, Based
in Weymouth and available for home visits. 45 minutes of pain but bloody
worth it. A lovely guy who knew his stuff and got me back up on my feet.
Mob: 07831 710662 Email: email@example.com
Whats next? I am the mix of planning a ridiculous triathlon with a friend
which is starting on August the 8th. Check it out at Round
England and then support James Page for his Triple Brutal in September.
"Do you have the talent? Is rarely the question. Do you have
the guts to finish? Is the real question" Orrin Woodward
Questions, Doubt and physio
So here we go less than two weeks to go until the big event and the month
leading up was a big smack in the face to how real the whole race is going
to be. Throughout my training I had been relatively lucky and injury free,
feeling that my body was some kind of machine that would never stop working.
After the recci of part two of The Oner route which I managed to get through
in one piece, I was buzzing with confidence and was excited to be making
my way to Bristol to take part in The Green Man Ultra. This race would be
my first registered ultra clocking in at 46 miles.
I was really excited for the race, I was to use this race as a prep for
The Oner. I had started to taper my training down and was carb loading like
mad. Working at a cookery school there was endless excuses to cook food
that I needed. I made my way to Bristol the night before and prepared my
bag for the race which ended up weighing a ton because I didn't quite know
what to put in there. Burritos, chocolate bars, 3 litres of water, 1 litres
of Science Fitness,
camera, wallet, phone charger I probably could have had the kitchen sink
I turned up an hour early slightly nervous that they would take one look
at my kit and realise there was something missing or it was against the
rules to carry this much stuff. Almost like queuing up at the airport scanner
I knew I didn't have any issues but still built the idea up in my head.
Safely through Ultra security, I was an hour early so had an hour to put
my number on and have a stretch.
As the race started we ran for about 2 seconds before it bottle necked down
narrow walkways. For about the first 3 miles it was very stop start waiting
at turn styles and gates. Slowly the field started to spread out and the
weather was starting to warm up which would turn out to be a glorious day.
Now I didn't have a clue what time I was going for, all I knew was that
I had to finish in under 9 hours to make my bus back home to London. When
the course director said at the beginning about how tricky the course is
and there will be no PB's here my heart sank a little. I was adamant not
to miss my bus home. I even booked another one an hour earlier to see if
I could make a night out in London.
So the green man course from what I gathered follows a forest trail around
the perimeter of Bristol. I chatted with random runners, almost like speed
dating with one burning questions that I wanted to get out of them... My
questions were as follows:
Have you run this race before? Done many other races? Training for anything
The main answer I wanted from them was their expected finishing time. If
it was over 9 hours I would politely jog on. I was overtaking people until
about mile 10 where I caught up with a group of runners who were all going
for under 9 hours and had GPS maps. As we ran on conversation was good,
I made it to the second checkpoint and I had to remove a small stone from
my shoe as I put my shoe back on the group was already leaving so I had
time to eat some of my mud covered burrito and stuff my pockets with jelly
babies. I had to catch up with the group because I didn't have a clue where
I was going and the course was really technical in the town sections. The
group slowly started to fade and I was left with two guys Duncan and !?!?!?
as we pushed on the pace was pretty quick and there was times I felt like
having a walk, I just sat behind the guys put my headphones in a took myself
somewhere else. My plan was to go checkpoint by checkpoint, I think check
point 2 was about 15 miles then there was a big section to checkpoint 3
about 27 miles check point 4 was 38 then home stretch.
The race went through horse fields that were knee deep mud, golf courses
literally running across the fairways, track ways, concrete footpaths, motorways
and roads a real mix of surfaces which began to play havoc with my knee.
As we made it to checkpoint 3 ?!!?!?!? slowed his pace and in almost movie
style talk told us to go on without him. We said our good byes and Duncan
and I cracked on. We began picking off the field and made it to checkpoint
4, I was trying to not show I was struggling but I was pretty much at the
point of self destruct the pace was too much for me. When we checked our
watches we realised the pace was so high that we would run sub 8hr if we
did 6 miles in an hour.
We pushed on through more golf courses and up towards the Clifton suspension
bridge, I slowly began to fade I let Duncan crack on as I was holding him
back and I just had to navigate the last 2 miles. I stopped to have a stretch
and checked my phone for directions. Messages of support were all over my
phone 'your smashing it' ' Oh my god your right at the top'. I didn't know
where I was in the field. I hobbled along the suspension bridge and was
completely lost luckily another runner came along and I followed him.
Those last two miles were horrific; they just didn't seem to end. Coming
down the final hill I saw the community Centre where I had left 8 hours
earlier. Crossing the line I was handed a top 50 finisher medal a t-shirt,
the relief was immense. It was great to go in and grab some food and chat
with your fellow runners. I smashed my predicted time with a time of 7hr
53mins 14th position overall. Loads of time to get the bus back home, so
i eat about 5 bowls of chilli con carne had a shower and went back to London
for a few beers and a dance.
Man Ultra Strava
Lets say this was a big lesson learnt in recovery, although my body felt
good after that night after a few days my shocking recovery skills meant
that my body had pretty much given up on me and everything went into turmoil.
Hamstrings were tight, IT band was ready to snap, glutes were not working
and any up and down stairs was a terrifying experience.
Fully recovered I thought after 2 weeks of pain and stretching it was time
for the final recci of The Oner. Getting up at 4am to get the train to Wareham
for at 9am start was less than ideal having worked till 12pm the night before.
Bad preparation was boosted by the excitement of it being a glorious day
and out running with the boys again on the coast. This time no fear of being
kidnapped we could enjoy each others company along one of the most picturesque
sections of the run.
As we set off from Lulworth Cove which I had only seen previously in the
dark it was clear that the route was really hilly, running the previous
section in the dark you didn't really see the length of the hills so there
was a small psychological advantage. Some of these hills along this section
were intense. Really steep up and down sections which just kept delivering
more and more spectacular views.
The pace was steady throughout and conversation flickered between race day
and mine and Jims ultra's the weekend before. I had a 3 litre water camel
back and a 1 litre filled with Science Fitness tropical flavour (Umbongo).
This was my weapon of choice as it delivered everything I needed for race
day and also they will be there sponsoring the event. Again these runs were
more of a test to see how my nutrition and fluids would pan out on the day.
Stopping off for the occasional selfie and catching my breath from laughing
so hard at Jim and Grant gallivanting down the hills with their 'cheat sticks'.
I was envious by half way.
At one point we all stopped dead in our tracks as we came across a deer
that had got himself tangled in a barbed wire fence. After a few seconds
of staring at each other looking for the answer and asking if anyone had
bolt cutters, Jim the hero he is jumped the fence lifted up the fully grown
1 ton deer allowing us to untangle its badly shredded leg. Feeling like
hero's the deer limped off, turned around and paused acknowledging the fact
we had saved its life. Then it proceeded to limp off out of sight. Dead
or alive we were all discussing the endless possibilities of nutrition that
deer could have given us if we weren't out doing a recci of the course.
After the excitement of the deer we continued on. Things progressively took
a turn for the worse as the day went on. I had a slight twinge in my knee
which kept getting worse and worse as the hills continued. Every little
turn of the ankle was magnified and I was struggling to go on. We had a
long break just outside Swanage for toilet duties and stretching. Jim kindly
parted with his cheat sticks to see if the poles would help the pain. As
we entered Swanage I handed in the towel, really disappointed as we had
only done about 20 miles and also that I would miss the naked beach. A lot
of questions starting circulating my mind and doubt for the first time set
in whether I could finish the race. I borrowed a tenner, retired to the
amusement and waited for them to come collect me.
The trip was not a wasted one as I saw what the course had to offer and
was a real eye opener to my body finally telling me to help it out. After
a visit to the physio is was clear it was just a terrible case of me being
useless. After telling the physio my problems, the famous runners knee was
diagnosed due to lack of recovery and stretching. Doctors orders to stretch
and strengthen all my key muscle groups for running. This was 3 weeks ago
now and I feel loads better from resting and conditioning work.
So the lesson learnt is that recovery is essential and plan my races better
in the future so that I have a chance to recover before traveling home.
One massive help is BetterYou Magnesium spray for on the road treatment
and their Magnesium salts for recovery in the bath. Over the weeks of muscle
conditioning and stretching I have used their products endlessly and they
are one of the best supplement specific companies on the market.
So body repaired and feeling fresh and happy due to massive carb intake
week I am so excited for The Oner on Saturday the 11th.
Next time you hear from me will hopefully be a race report from the finish
line and not the bottom of a cliff.
If I look back to my first blog, its made me realise how much of a reckless
but amazing decision it was signing up for The Oner and becoming a Brutal
Blogger. I can see a massive transformation physically and mentally and
with only a month to go until the race I don't think I have been in better
shape my whole life. From reading about ultra runners and watching footage
of the races it spurs me on to become a better athlete and accomplish bigger
February was a great month of training, having come back from Lanzarote
accomplishing some big goals and taking in some big hills I was happy to
see that the training and torture of the hills had been taken on board by
my body and my general form and speed on the flats had been transferred
over. Back home and out running the hills around crystal palace and Greenwich,
the training I had done really came to light. Going out for a hill session
in Greenwich I ended up clocking my fastest half marathon time and again
beating that with another hill session around crystal palace.
My approach when I was in Lanzarote training was to focus on form and hope
this would transfer back over in the UK. My times were falling rapidly,
my mile splits were faster than I would ever of thought and I was enjoying
the energy I had. When I first started running I was so focused on my mile
splits and times that I lost track of the reason I was running. Now I am
focused on my technique and loving the freedom that running brings I tend
not to worry about my splits until after I finish my runs. This allows you
to listen to your body and push not according to splits and data but to
what your body is telling you, in turn my pace and times have dropped dramatically
over short and long distances. This time last year I was running 10K in
55mins, and this month I smashed my year goal of a sub 40 10K with a 38:52.
Don't think I will be running that pace over 80 miles on The Oner.
One day I had been looking forward to was the Recci of the 2nd section of
The Oner Route. Claire put me in touch through twitter with James @Ironjedibra
who this year will be taking on the Triple Brutal. I am running The Oner
for no reason but to test myself and to send my body to a place it will
have never been before. James is running The Oner as 80 miles of running
is just the end of his Triple Brutal Triathlon, just a spot of training
for him then. Not only is he mad but a lovely man as he is doing the race
in September, to support three great and very personal charities to him.
Whilst finding myself in Lanzarote I found the route to my happiness and
to sum it up simply... What makes me happy is doing something to make someone
else happy. Now I hope that this next bit made James happy... I decided
to sponsor James for his Triple Brutal and then added that if he completes
the race I would then do the same race next year for the same charities.
Looks like I will be in wales in September 2016!
So on a wet and windy Friday the 13th I made my way down to Weymouth to
meet up with James (triple Brutal) Jon (Oner finisher) and Grant (Ironman
finisher). I had never been to Weymouth and didn't know where I was going,
it was going to be dark, wet and isolate. I vaguely remember my parents/any
parent saying when I was younger 'don't talk to strangers' let alone go
running with them on an unforgiving coastal path in the middle of the night.
Now where is the fun in that!
As we set off, I ran behind so they couldn't attack me, keeping a safe distance
I judged their pace and stamina just incase things went wrong I could escape.
From the moment we left I dropped bread crumbs like Hansel and Gretel to
find my way back incase things went real wrong. As it turns out they are
all absolutely lovely guys and great athletes and was an inspiring moment
to be running with these guys.
So after setting off from The Ferrybridge inn which I found out would be
a point we would visit twice in the race as it would be the main HQ, we
headed up to Portland. As the sun set very quickly on a beautiful evening
we managed to take a quick look back over Chesil beach and take in the views.
Running rocky trails is something that I love, breaking up the metronomic
feel of road running on flat sections. As we followed the coastal path with
a few slight detours due to landslides we had to succumb to the fact that
we could no longer see without our head torches. This being the first time
I had ran in the dark there was a few moments of toe stubbing and thinking
puddles were slightly smaller than they actually were. Skirting around Portland,
delving deep down on the coastal path the run was very technical, some steep
drops and slippery rocks with no real indication of route in the dark. Jon
made a comment before we got to this section that it would be a good idea
to try and get off Portland before dark, as it can be a bit treacherous.
We took in the sights of not one but two prisons, got slightly lost and
then followed the lights back to the Ferrybridge. At this point it decided
to lash down with rain and horizontal winds picked up as we made it back
Fighting back the urge to jump in the pub for a pints and an early night
we made our way along the esplanade of Weymouth, quite a dull section after
the fun technical side of Portland, non the less the miles went by as it
was flat and on tarmac. The rain subsided and we entered the coastal path,
we would follow this all the way down to Lulworth. When I say coastal path
in the light I am sure it resembles a path but in the dark you are just
following a section of grass that is only ever so slightly trod down. Big
sweeping open grass fields funnelled into trackways that were so muddy we
all fell over and a few choice words were muttered. I found that the more
I focused on not falling over and thinking about my next step made the miles
tick by before I knew it we had done over 26 miles and only had a few hills
before we made it to the finish.
Those last few hills seemed to go on for a long time and in our fatigued
world, there was confusion between miles and kilometers. Looking at the
map and thinking we were 4 kilometers from the finish soon turned into a
lock stock sketch. With Grant asking James how long we had left and James's
response always being the same every 10 mins. Grant's calm attitude soon
turned into one of a confused, frustrated exhaustion as he kept asking "but
you said 4K 10 minutes ago." The last few miles seemed to go on for a long
time as the stone signs leading to Lulworth turned from Mile increments
into decimals of Miles.
A few weeks prior to the recci James sent me an amazing photo of Durdle
Door. One moment that made me laugh, was when James walked me to the edge
of the cliff at Durdle door (knowing now my life was safe after spending
6 hours with him) he pointed into the pitch black and proclaimed how beautiful
Durdle Door looked. There was lots of great moments on the run, swapping
stories and sharing useful knowledge on the route, a memorable experience
and a great place to run. A few brief stops on route to refill and to take
in the stars total run time of 6hr 35 distance 27.7 miles.
It was great to finally see what I had let myself in for. I found the section
of the run fun but challenging. I have never been on a recci of a route
before. I have just blindly signed up for events that I know deep down I
could blag with my general fitness. But having run this section of The Oner,
it has hit home that this event is pretty serious and not something you
can just turn up and complete.
The rest of the month consisted of lots of long slow miles getting my legs
used to the punishment and also a lot of hill work in and around Greenwich.
I had a few more pool sessions, which was partly to keep the body moving
after the runs and also to keep me in check for my triathlons. Speaking
with James when doing the recci it was great to rack his brains about training
and race advice. One conversation that really stayed with was about the
swim section of a triathlon. You can probably blag the 112 mile bike and
run 26.2 miles but to swim 2.4 miles is not something you can just get up
Having immersed myself into the triathlon and ultra running scene I started
looking for sources of inspiration. A week after meeting James for the recci
he invited me down to the triathlon show in Sandown park where I was blown
away by one of the guest speakers. Adam Walker, who was not a freak athlete
but a normal guy with a drive and passion to achieve the seemingly impossible.
A man who swam the Oceans 7, the toughest 7 channel swims in the world.
He spoke of his training, logistics and sacrifices he had to make to complete
this challenge and it was great to hear and see that the people that attempt
these challenges are normal people after all. Also having the chance to
catch up with one of the Brutal events sponsors ScienceFitUK
who do a great range of energy and recovery drinks aimed at endurance sports.
tropical flavour is a game changer.
As mentioned in my previous blog the book Born to run by Chris Mcdougall
changed my running and I have almost turned into some weirdly obsessed sales
man for the book. When people ask about running I instantly refer back to
how this book changed my life. This then leads me onto Eat and Run by Scott
Durek, nutrition wise it is inspiring and the stories again push you to
do things and achieve goals that you didn't think were possible.
For my final sales pitch 'Hell and High water' by Sean Conway I read the
first 10 pages and was straight on Google looking at logistics of a similar
adventure. Again this book makes the impossible seem possible with a little
determination, hard work and belief that no goal is impossible. A story
of one mans attempt to swim the length of Britain with a small support crew.
The story starts out in the politest manor a 'shambles' but that's what
makes the whole story seem real and believable. His personality and views
on life are very similar to mine and I instantly related when he was willing
to give up his job and career to pursue something that he was passionate
about. Huge kudos to all these people. Without these guys doing what they
do we wouldn't know the limits of the human body.
Only recently a few big changes have taken place in my life and I have begun
to realise that being bold and going for something that you didn't think
was possible is what life is all about. Instead of talking about these dreams
that you want, go out and achieve them.
The trip of insomnia, insanity and old people.
A beginning of a new year is the best time to start as you mean to go on
with, excitement and energy. With that in mind I booked myself a 10 day
trip to Lanzarote to escape the impending heat wave that was destined to
hit the UK.
The choice of this location, usually associated with leathery over 60's
was, chosen merely because of my knowledge of one of the hardest iron man
events situated there. With minimal research the exact location was chosen
on; proximity to mountains, and therefore distance from the party capital
and all round nice looking aerial view from Google earth.
Being my first training abroad, meant using a bike box, which actually turned
out to be more of a bag. Packing it, usually a 10-minute job, transpired
to be a 45 minute Laurel and Hardy sketch with profusive sweating courtesy
predominately of my flat mate who we'll call Spike for legal reasons. Spike
who seems to have a dodgy thermoregulation system means the heating is constantly
on. Spike is known to be most exercise confident on the turbo trainer in
the early hours of the morning following a serious binging session.
Following the standard easy jet experience I arrived in Lanzarote. After
a brief bag drop I headed out to some of the most exciting coastal running
I have had the opportunity to enjoy. I had a little recci up one hilltop
and contained my excitement for the next day. Having only had a few hours
kip the night before I headed back to Hotel Los Fiscos for a siesta. It
only dawned on me whilst running to catch the last minutes of Dinner the
joy I booked in to.
I was semi expecting the holiday to have a good 7 days of training and the
last few days living the dream and partying like I was 17 on an 18-30 debaucherous
holiday. When I arrived for dinner it soon became apparent that this would
not be the case. It definitely wasn't an 18-30's crowd it was more like
a 60-80's. Instead of naked poker and semi-clad girls drinking cocktails
with phallic descriptions, I was confronted with food that you didn't have
to chew and nightly entertainment of which consisted of Bingo, bird of prey
show and Karaoke night. Although slightly disappointed, I was here to train
and this yellow brick road of death gave me no excuses.
A way to escape this party fuelled atmosphere, was by a book recommended
to me (by my mum) called Born to Run by Christopher McDougal. A book that
any runner/ultra runner should have on their book shelf. The book is so
inspirational it led me to suffer a mild form of insomnia. The book lasted
me about 3 days but the inspirational stories of the runners involved will
never leave me. I had never experienced such a drive and enthusiasm to wake
up every morning and go out and train. Each day I woke up after a restless
sleep, went for a little 3 mile run down the coast as the sun rose before
breakfast. After Breakfast I had a stretch and impatiently waited for breakfast
to go down so I could go out for my day of exercise.
After my run on the day I arrived there was no questions as to where I was
off to on day 1 of training. I packed my hydration pack with two 3L camel
backs one with water and one with electrolyte and magnesium tablets. The
trip was there to help me understand my nutritional intake on my runs as
well as to see what my body could take. Heading out along the coastal path
towards the mountains I made my way up a small hill and found a path, which
weaved its way through, up and down some beautiful rocky terrain. Around
each bend the views opened up into spectacular views of the coast. As mentioned
in one of my previous blogs I tend to plan a rough route and try and play
it by how I'm feeling, taking in another incline depending on what the body
is telling me. (This would be a big error later on in the trip). Today I
was full energy and excitement before I knew it I was faced with following
a path or scrambling up a real steep hill off the beaten track. It was hot
out today and trying to make the most of the sun I had my top off thinking
I looked like Anton Krupicka, skimming along the trails bobbing past tourists,
I decided to head off track and head up this hill. Slowly my visions of
me looking like Krupicka turned into me scrambling up this crumbling hill
looking like one of the 18-30 candidates crawling home after a night out.
The hill was relentless not due to its incline but the terrain. Impossible
to get any momentum, as rock after rock crumbled below. Making it to one
of those classic false summits, the terrain changed into huge boulders,
the relief of solid footing was refreshing. The joy of making it to the
top was magnified when I turned round and took in the views. I retraced
my route, tearing down the hills again regaining my visions of looking like
Krupicka, I made it back home with energy and juice to spare. 16 miles and
loved every minute.
After the fun filled day before I was keen to get out and do some more exploring
and planning. I was mainly away for clocking up miles running for The Oner
but am also entered into two Ironman distance Tri's and two 70.3's, which
I'm sure will increase throughout the year. So I brought my bike out to
clock up a few big rides as well. I went out for a nice 10 mile run to the
foot of the hills and back home. From reading Born to Run and watching YouTube
clips on Scott Jurek I really focused on my running technique and body posture.
Making these small alterations, I found myself wanting and able to make
detours to add more miles on to my 20-mile run. One main point that I took
from the book is to 'enjoy' your running. Taking a positive attitude into
why you are running and the community that your involved in really helps
your mindset. Trying to refocus the mind onto something completely irrelevant
really helps keep me entertained when doing long miles and releases any
tension in your mind of miles and pain.
Post run, I decided to get the flashy carbon TT bike out. Now, I have very
minimal knowledge of bike maintenance so when it came to putting my bike
back together, lets say I was a little hesitant that a wheel may fall off
half way down the road. Pre-holiday I had it serviced where I had a possibly
enlightening conversation with a Mechanic; "Have you got a torque wrench?"
"Yeah' I nodded and muttered with a smile. "Good" he said, "because you
don't want over tighten the stem otherwise you may crush the carbon." I
didn't have a torch or a wrench but didn't want to look like an idiot with
my carbon TT bike. Putting my bike together was a doddle, aero bars on,
wheels on, pump up the tires, job done in 10 minutes. No need for a torque
I turned the first bend, past a gaggle of hung-over 18-30 looking girls
thinking I looked awesome. As I turned a sharp left, apparently a torque
wrench could have come in handy, as the whole aero bars turned and the wheel
didn't. Epic fail. Rule one listen to the professional.
After that minor fall, I got back on the bike and headed up out of town
and this was a struggle, 10 minutes in and it was carnage. I kept pulling
over thinking it was another Martyn assembly problem and my brakes were
rubbing, or I had put the wheels on back to front. I turned around and soon
realised that what I was riding up was a real steady hill, and the Cassette
on this bike was not designed for hills (again I would later find out in
epic proportions). I got back home really disappointed that I only managed
a measly 10 miles, so much for wanting to do the 110 mile ironman bike route.
So as a form of punishment/make up for the days bad performance I planned
a rough route which would pop my ultra marathon cherry and take me to a
place mentally that I have never been before.
On my evenings I had no real interest in joining in the bingo nights so
I spent them adding to my insomnia by researching and watching footage of
my new found obsession of Ultra marathons. Now these races were ridiculous
135 miles in 130 fahrenheit through Americas Death Valley. Now once I heard
about these races it just added to my hunger to become one of these elite
athletes. Living like a recluse in my apartment in between my nightly yoga
and core strengthening exercises I started to plan a route that would set
me on the path of becoming one of these hero's. Again I planned a very rough
route, which would take in some nice hills and would take me to a round
30 mile mark. Now as I mentioned earlier this rough route planning would
become a big stumbling block.
I headed off around 10 am on my usual costal route then headed off piste
west towards a large formation of hills that would lead me over to a volcanic
area which I had seen and heard had some phenomenal views and some great
running. The first 10 miles went really smooth, gaining some nice altitude
and finding my way back down to the basin of the hills with some time in
between to do some naked selfies on top of one of the highest mountains
on the island. Whilst at the top I could see the weather changing but could
also spot the sublime Timanfaya National park. In my head I had 2 little
towns that I could aim for using road signs and this would lead me on the
route I was aiming for. I joined onto a road that had signs for the Timanfaya
National park. Ticking along at a nice pace of 8.5 mile per min. The weather
at this stage had turned from a glorious 22 degrees sunny day to a horrendous
cold wet and windy day within a matter on minutes. As I followed this road,
which I thought was taking me towards the park I soon realised I had managed
to do a complete U turn and was now heading back down towards the coast
on the opposite side of this mountain range.
Now at this stage I would add that I had a map that had decided to dissolve
on me from the rain and a phone with no signal. So I headed for some high
ground to get my bearings. This is where things turned from good to bad
very slowly. At the top of the hills I got my bearings and this cluster
of hills with ravines splitting each one looked amazing as the weather cleared
up. I identified the peaks that I had climbed the other day. At this stage
I was at about 16 miles and knew it would be roughly about 10 miles back
home if I headed back through the route I took the other day. So I decided
against this route and carried along this trail route that ran across the
top of this mountain range.
I thought I could head around the cluster of mountains and find my way back
onto my route I had taken the other day. Things started taking a turn for
the worse around 24 miles where I had made my way into one of the bases
of the hills. Thinking I was a fully-fledged adventurer after watching my
fair share of Bear Grylls I went with the idea that a dried up river-bed
would lead towards the sea. This was the case, but not in as straight a
line as I had hoped. The zig zagging river bed was a fun, time to relax
and regain some of my mental imagery of Anton Krupicka. I eventually made
my way down to the sea which I thought would be my saving grace and let
me follow the coast all the way back to town.
Attempting to skip around the rocks formations that separated each bay.
Again this was not the case and I was confronted with sheer rock faces with
crashing waves with no hope in hell of making it around. So it was now time
to bite the bullet and head up and over all of these hills. The first three
hills were nice and easy with trails built in, allowing me to regain some
confidence and get me closer to my goal. But then a trail, which I had been
following led me along the top of a peak and right back towards the sea
where the trail acted like a roundabout and sent me back where I had come
from. It wasn't like any form of trail running I had done before where you
could come off the path and freestyle your route. As I learnt these paths
needed to be stuck to. I headed off the trail and saw a beach where I had
been the a few days before a few bays down. Making another Bear Grylls risk
assessment of my route I was planning to take I decided to try and climb
down a rock face to make it down to the sea again. Another fail.
Making it half way down an easy climb the cliff then turned into a real
cliff and it was suicide to try and get down. The most depressing part of
this point was knowing I would have to back track the route I had just come
along looking for another way back. After a good hour of stressing out and
panicking about being eaten by a pack of wild wolves I managed to make my
way onto a route I had run a few days earlier. I bumped into two German
walkers who must have thought they had walked onto the set of Braveheart.
A bloodied, semi clad hairy man shouting 'freedom' at the top of my voice
as I made it to the path and realised I was now safe.
30 Mile Strava
I learnt many lessons this day and think a recurring theme seems to be not
planning a route and getting lost. The stamina of running 30 miles was fine
and I think I have a lot more to give. Emotionally I was exhausted from
being an idiot and getting myself in that situation. One of my favourite
definitions is of madness and I quote very loosely "the definition of madness
is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result".
The rest of my holiday consisted of runs that varied in length between 10-20
miles. Sticking to routes that I had planned and I specifically knew where
I was going. This allowed me to focus on my running technique and not stress
about the fear of being lost. Also a few nice bike rides and BRICK sessions.
20 Mile Hills
One very memorable bike ride was a nice 70 mile jolly to the top of the
island and back. As mentioned earlier the cassette/bike is not made for
hills and I found this out after about 40 miles. Cruising to the north of
the island following a beautiful coastal route I made it to the town of
Orzola. I am a very social sports man, so I say hello to everyone who rides
or runs past me, a bit of common courtesy. There was a lot of moody cyclists
out this day, I don't know if my Spanish was not up to scratch or they just
don't talk in the Spanish isles, but I was ignored by all fellow sportsmen.
After about 40 miles I came up against a hill that was known as The Orzola
smasher on Strava. And it was that indeed. Not being able to keep up a high
cadence my legs were ruined before I made it a quarter of the way. The most
frustrating thing was seeing cyclist whizzing down smiling and now they
Fu**ing say "hola" as I'm in bits going up this hill.
Making up time on the downhills and suffering on inclines I limped my way
back home, I was happy to be off the bike and had made it back in time for
some chew-less food.
70 Mile Bike
The trip was everything I had hoped for and more; lots of running, good-ish
weather and plenty of solitary time to really 'find' myself. This solitary
time played out on my lift home where my good friends Jake and Jamie had
their ears chewed off as I got 10 days of silence out of my system.
The New Year started well positive vibes all around, training has been pretty
steady since being home and lots of exciting things happening. Some might
say I'm crazy, but I booked in for a 44-mile trail run a month before The
Oner to get some experience and get those legs working.
"If you want something you never had, you have to do something you've
never done". -Anon
The Christmas period at work as mentioned in my previous blog was a damage
limitation month. Work, work and more work and attempting to squeeze in
any form of exercise where possible. I have always set goals or little targets
to achieve throughout my life, being them minor objectives like when I am
at work and have to finish peeling some potatoes before I allow myself another
coffee. I like to think of these minor accomplishments as stepping-stones
and these small accomplishments govern my life. I almost feel like a small
child in an adults world, what I mean by this is in a child's world they
associate good behaviour with toys and treats, where in an adults world
the same principal applies but with hard work and achievement. So when little
Timmy wins the teachers award for playing the recorder in a school production
and receives a lollipop and a new pair of football boots as his treat. In
my adult/child world when I have worked 90 hours weeks for December and
have made it through the festive period at work without putting on any excess
baggage, I treat myself to a nice new Orbea TT bike and killer pair of Saucony
Perigrine running shoes and a nice training holiday to Lanzarote in the
So a moto that I have started playing my life by is 'achievement and accomplishment
deserves a treat'. Be this something small or something big. It can be applied
in a non-materialistic world as I discovered in my recent trip to Edinburgh
to visit my parents for Christmas and new years. My non-materialistic treat
was making it to the top of Arthurs Seat in Edinburgh and being blessed
with one of the most spectacular views across a beautiful city.
Not only is Edinburgh full of amazing people, friends, friends of friends
and family. It has some of the most amazing running routes I have had the
chance to run. Edinburgh being the city that was built on 7 hills you can
only imagine that there would be some great hill work available over the
Christmas period. I had done my research before arriving and took a walk
down to Run
and Become, a great small running shop that gave me some great advice
on shoes and hydration packs for my winter training. They gave me heaps
of information on where the best trails were in and around Edinburgh and
speaking with them discovered they had ran The Oner themselves. It was nice
to hear about their adventure on the race I would be taking part in in just
a few months. They told me to take my shoes home and walk around in them
for a few hours to see how they felt, if there was any problems I could
return them if they were in box fresh condition. I nodded politely knowing
full well I couldn't resist taking them for a dirty trail run around some
of the routes they had told me about.
Nearest to where I was staying was Arthurs seat. A huge Granite rock which
dominates the Edinburgh skyline. With lots of routes carved into the perimeter
of the rock and through the centre there was endless trails to get stuck
into. So after getting back from the running shop I kitted up, with it being
0 degrees I put on my thermal gear filled my hydration pack and put my new
shoes on. I set off to the base of Arthurs seat on a mission to conquer.
I saw a steady stream of people that looked like ants heading up the one
route that was ominously called "The radical route". Passing people as I
got to the base I became a little complacent as I saw tourist heading up
this route in mini skirts and high heels.
Slowly picking up the pace the first section was a steady accent up but
then I slowly began to realise why it was called 'radical'. Icy, rocky with
no direct route up the path it slowly got steeper and before you knew it
after 10 mins of jogging and lunge walking you had gained 500ft. This short
section gave epic views over Edinburgh. This route then dropped slowly into
what can be described a spaghetti junction of routes. One route was a concrete
route that headed around a corner and the others disappeared through the
middle of this great rock. But then there was the tourist route, which was
the steepest of the lot. A relatively short climb that is pretty much vertical.
Once you had made it to the top you are rewarded with views over Edinburgh
that would fill most postcards. Taking a moment to take in the views and
feel I had accomplished something I looked around and there was gaggles
of tourists dressed in what could only be described in their Sunday best
sipping champagne with picnics enjoying the glorious winter sun. I left
the top and headed down laughing to myself wondering how the girls in mini
skirts got on. I polished off a good 10 miles then headed back to run the
loop that surrounds Arthur's seat, meeting back up at the spaghetti junction
to join onto the radical road I couldn't help but notice an argument erupting
between two girls covered in mud in mini skirts and two very hysterical
men. Seems as though one of the top proposal spots in Edinburgh had claimed
another two victims.
Over the Christmas period I enjoyed plenty more runs around and through
Arthur's seat taking a different route each time it became clear that this
mound was an ever giving playground for runners of any level. One place
that I had been told about was The Pentland Hills, located about 30 minutes
by bus out of the city. This was my next adventure of the festive period.
I checked the weather forecast the night before and the weather looked to
be in my favour, so got all my bag packed ready to head off early with the
intentions of a big run. I made it to the base of the Pentlands, having
studied my map I had a very rough route and general direction in where to
go. As mentioned in one of my previous blogs I don't particularly like to
give myself a route just a general direction and be organic with the route
otherwise I feel I get tied down with distances and times.
Now The Pentlands is a different beast altogether, again the mercury was
peaking at a very reasonable 1 degrees as I started to follow a route that
ran parallel to a ski slope, I quickly realised that these hills were more
like mountains. Barely being able to run up a second peak I scrambled up
on my hands and knees on very solid icy ground, after about 30 minutes I
semi regretted my decision to take in these hills as it felt I wasn't really
running but more climbing up the hills. But as this popped into my head
I hit the top and saw what could only be described as all fell runners dreams,
endless trails and peaks that interconnected with steady inclines between
each peak. Scanning the views you could see a loch at the bottle that had
a road running through the hills. I thought if I got down there I could
get some nice miles in and then take in some more accents. So I followed
the trails that had been beaten into the hills heading in the direction
of this lock.
As luck would have it I took in a final big hill and this hill led straight
down into the loch basin. My plan was coming together, get down to the loch
get some miles in and take in the crisp December air. Now getting down there
was something out of a benny hill sketch. Ice mixed with soft mud and 30-40%
hills. It took me about 45 mins to get to the top and about 3 minutes of
combined bum sliding and unplanned sausage rolls. Making it to the bottom
I can only describe it as going through a Narnia wardrobe door. Hitting
the loch road it was still, tranquil and silent again something you wouldn't
expect to be 30 minutes out side a major city. I stayed on this road blissfully
running along not believing my luck, happily saying hello to every dog walker
and fellow runner, it was a real heart warming place. This all slowly declined
into a torturous climb up to what I later found out to be just under 2000ft
above sea level and 1500ft from my start position. I was blissfully unaware
as I skipped across a small stream and followed a very shallow gradient
up the side of one hill. Stopping to gather my energy I decided to make
it to the top then treat myself to some food and drink. I had heard a lot
about blind summits in the adventure programs I had watched but never experienced
one. This was sole destroying; I made it up one peak only to be confronted
by another and then another. It was relentless. Scrambling up the final
peak it was almost like what I would describe the top of Everest.
There was small stone shelters that had been made to block you from the
wind, I saw 3 guys huddled up in one. At this point I had given up with
saying hello to people I just needed to get some food and recover. I eat
my nutritious Scottish staple of Gregg's macaroni pie and a baguette and
toped up my fluids. No sooner had I had my food and got my bag on two real
heroes ran past. Shorts, t-shirt and gloves and they were looking fresh.
I decided to follow them and was blown away by their power. Up the next
peak I lost sight of them as they glided off into the distance. Now I have
a very good sense of direction and plotted my route visually with the aid
of my map back down to the basin. Again enjoying the flat run along the
loch I was hit with a dilemma, the time. I had been running for about 2
hours and the light was starting to fade but needed to get back over 2 beasty
hills. I asked a cyclist for directions and I nodded in confirmation when
he was naming hills and trails when I didn't have a clue apart from follow
where he pointed his arm. I followed my instinct and what direction I thought
the map pointed me in and made it back onto a trail I was on earlier, knowing
I was on my way home I began to again enjoy the beautiful place I had been
running in for the last few hours. Once I had made it back to my start point
its one thing that always strikes me with completing long distance runs
is that people who don't really understand what you have gone through. It
was only until I caught up with a close friend and they were quite impressed
with what I had covered.
of Pentlands run
Scotland treated me very well over Christmas with some great running and
some amazing company. One thing the Scottish know how to do is party and
be extremely hospitable. After all my runs I was well overdue a treat so
welcome New Years and Hogmanay. Don't ask what happened from the 31st -
3rd, all I know it was pretty epic!
One last little walk around Arthur's seat with my parents and the questions
start building up in my head, how am I going to move up here? Now siting
on the train back down to London with my thoughts firmly focused on a Christmas
treat from work to go to the velodrome at Stratford and then my 10 day training
holiday to Lanzarote.
I'm not a person to make new years resolutions but this is one of the first
years I have felt in a long time that big things will happen and lots of
treats will be given.
One of my favorite moto's in life is "The body you have is the body you
have for the rest of your life so you might as well get used to it" so take
this body on a great journey with you and enjoy it while you can.
Over and out, I'm off to find myself in Lanzarote...
Working as a chef the festive period is a time when you banish all hope
of having a social life and succumb to the fact that you will be spending
16 hours of the day inside. I feel like a caged tiger wanting to get out
and do some training. The only real training that I can do is to run into
work which is a non picturesque 10 mile jaunt through south London into
the city, I am not sure how I will fair after the 6th double shift of the
week, but will have to see what the body is telling me.
Having a small amount of downtime at work I spoke with my brother who's
a personal trainer Domin8 and a good friend who does a lot of fell running
and asked them to put together a core and strengthening workout that I could
do intermittently through out the day. When I was training towards my first
triathlon I did get a few strange looks from the boys at work when I started
lunging and squatting anywhere I could in the kitchen.
I get to meet a wide variety of people at my work, as mentioned earlier
I am a chef but I teach people at the Underground Cookery School, It is
very rare to meet people who come to my work who are into ultra marathons
and ironman triathlons, but I met one guy who was a banker for some big
bank. He said his work was really stressful and demanding and all the races
he does are his escape, we connected on the triathlon mad level when we
started speaking of some of the long distance races he had competed in and
what are plans were for the future. I asked him how managed to fit in all
the training around his work and his answer will never leave me.. He said
and I quote "The Company pays for our own personal trainer, nutritionist
and life coach and within the building we have a gym, spinning room, and
infinity pool for people who want to keep fit when at work. It's in their
interest to keep us healthy". If you don't work for a massive company and
have all of those things easily accessible the exercises below are free
and pretty heavy if you do them all together.
If not too tired I go for a minute on each exercise with no rest in-between.
Whilst at work I tend to just bolt 2 or 3 of the exercises together whenever
I can/feel like it.
Planks 1min (30 sec rest) x 3 sets
Squats x 10 into 10 press ups x 3 sets (30 sec rest)
Lunge walk whenever possible
Wall sits 1min
Gecko crawl 10 meters whenever possible
Russian Twists x 20
Piston squats x 10 (30 sec rest) 3 on each leg
Raised press ups (put something under one hand and alternate arms) 1 min
These are exercises that are all body weight orientated and can be performed
anywhere. Working essential muscle groups for running.
So for the last week in November I put in two decent runs to keep the body
ticking over, knowing there will be no big runs for a while. The first of
the two was a comfortable run and felt I had plenty left in the tank. The
second of the runs was horrific. I gave myself a rough route of the run
so I would know a rough distance. I set the route out at 25 miles and set
off. With my watch in repair I set off quite quick but then slowly found
my rhythm which ended up siting around my average of 8:15 /mi. The first
section of the run took me out south away from my house up and seemingly
never down some steady hills. These first few hills really took its toll
on me and the mental battle had begun about 3 miles in.
At this point I would like to add 10 pints of beer and a big Turkish feast
the night before wasn't a great idea and probably not the best nutrition
for a big run. This was my final treat before work consumes me. I woke up
had some breakfast and some sugar and salts to get my body started. After
many mind battles of staying in and watching another episode of bargain
hunt or going running I decided with the later. When I run I don't like
to give myself a set route just a rough direction of where I have to end
up to make sure I get the miles in. I like to keep things organic and take
a road that looks nice or take in some bigger hills just to test the body.
Not having my trusted watch to help me keep my pace I just run for what
I think is roughly an hour and check my strava on my phone to see how I
am getting on. The first run I didn't check until mile 16 when I stopped
for a water break. The second run I took in the regular hilly start but
then took a detour off towards crystal palace and encountered some big hills
which made me feel horrific, checked my strava thinking I had done a fair
distance and I had only covered 6 miles. This is where I decided not to
look at the strava again; I kept on running on the rough course I had roughly
I am a firm believer in mind over matter and this run took me to a place
I had never been before. Having read an article on triathlons and the comparisons
between the mentalities of rugby players I put myself into a place that
took all self-doubt out of my mind. A mental battle ensues, checking the
bus stops for directional information began to turn into seeing if a bus
went near my house. The only way to fight the temptation to get on the bus
and go home was to take myself away from this temptation, discovering a
beautiful river pass that took me towards an area I know and a 10-mile loop
that I run on a regular basis. The run concluded with me fighting mental
demons of stopping and giving in but I wouldn't be able to live with myself.
I always find the accomplishment of finishing a big run/race quite funny;
only people that have been through it know what you feel. Numbers and data
are irrelevant just the knowledge of self-accomplishment is enough for me
to be happy. Walking in the house my flat mates look at me and ask what
I have been up to. I try and explain and they just look at me laugh, call
me a nutter and carry on playing Playstation.
Recovery is a major factor to any sport and I am lucky to have a good friend
Tom Coleman who is an ambassador for USN and he hooked me up with some protein
recovery drinks. A 10 minute soak in the bath (I get really bored staying
still) and a good 30 minute stretch a recovery drink and a few prayers to
the hamstring and calf gods I hit the sack. Wake in the morning to a strange
feeling of not much pain, up at 6am for work feel right as rain with the
bonus of not walking like John Wayne.
I think the lessons learnt and the possible moral of the story is to never
run or do exercise where there is an easy route out. A training partner
is so crucial, having someone to dig you out of those dark places, but also
learning these lessons on your own helps build character and will help in
the long run.
Lets hope December flies by so I can make my way up to Edinburgh for Christmas
where I can continue training and do some nice scenic runs up Arthurs seat.
Sounds like I will hit the gym with my brother over Christmas so will keep
you updated with some gym based run specific exercises I get up to.
Here are some exercises for runners from my coach...
There has been so much written about training for endurance events and I'm
sure if you put three runners in a room you'd get four opinions. I suppose
the bottom line is, it's a very individual thing. Some folk believe in just
getting out there and hitting as many miles as possible - for some that
works. We all know that there is no short cuts when it comes to putting
miles in the bank. But strength can help us to maintain good form and prepare
us to cover those miles in a manner that should end up with us needing less
time to recover and in a better condition.
Running is a weight bearing activity and with a strong core and legs we
can maintain our form and allow our weight to sit atop of our hips, clearing
the legs to do what they do. Here are ideas which may help with that.
Hopping. Running is, if we break it down single leg exercises. As one foot
makes contact with the floor the other leg is driving forward to propel
us forward. Hopping is a dynamic exercise which allows us to develop the
elastic properties within the body. This elasticity will enable us to have
less contact time with the ground and therefore cover more ground whilst
using less energy. So, get yourself on a football pitch and hop across,
run back and hop across on the other foot. Three sets and you'll be feeling
it. This is quite a dynamic exercise. Build up slowly. If you are new to
running you could start by jumping with both feet together to twelve, then
six, three then nine o clock. Jumping forward and back with little, light
jumps. Introducing Plyometric exercise into your training will improve strength
and elastic recoil in the body - key to running faster and better. In terms
of technique make sure your foot is landing as underneath your pelvis or
as close as you can. If the foot is landing far in front of you, any elastic
energy is lost. Keep the torso upright, eyes ahead.
Core rotations. Lots of folk running talk about needing a strong core -
I totally agree. How we go about getting that core is where we may differ.
I don't personally believe the plank or crunches are any good for runners
(or anyone for that matter) We need to strengthen the core through movement
not by holding it or crunching it up. The body has three planes of movement.
By working within those planes we can strengthen the core functionally.
So, standing with one leg in front of the other (as if you were about to
go into a lunge) clasp your hands together and keeping the arms long with
no flex at the elbows, rotate from side to side. Go steady for thirty seconds
and swap the forward legs and go again. Then, legs in the same forward position,
arms above the head clasped, in line with the ears. Go from side to side
like a pendulum (imagine you are stuck between two panes of glass) Again
thirty seconds on each leg. Finally arms clasped in front of you (think
standing in a free-kick wall) move the straight arms up and down with a
slight dip in the front leg as the movement takes place. Three planes of
motion and a circuit which better prepares the core for running than holding
a plank for a minute! Should you want to progress this you could increase
speed or even add a light medicine ball. Keeping an upright torso and long
elongated neck is a must.
Again people may disagree but I'd encourage the use of kettle bells, medicine
balls, anything that can strengthen through movement.
After completing a few Olympic distance triathlons I signed up for a half-ironman
triathlon in September. This really got me searching for the next challenge.
If the bank account allowed me I would do a triathlon every weekend. I think
there is only a small group of people that Google "brutal triathlons" thinking
there will just be another nice flat triathlon through a beautiful part
of the UK.
I laughed when I read about the Brutal triathlon which had the option of
Half, Full, Double and then if that wasn't enough the TRIPLE. I defiantly
am mad enough to sign up for it and give it a crack but I think that will
have to be for next year. The Brutal website made me just puff out my cheeks
and blink very quickly just to refocus my eyes and make sure that all the
numbers were correct. Why wouldn't you want to swim 7.2 miles bike 350 miles
and then run up and down Snowdon and then run 66 miles!!
My friends thought I was mad signing up for The outlaw Ironman in Nottingham
after one year of training, so when I started mentioning these extreme triathlons
they just switched off and changed the conversation. Being a spontaneous
character these mad events can be quite lonely as no body apart from other
competitors/survivalist understand the buzz and sense of achievement. So
setting my sights on the Brutal triathlons for the following year I wanted
to take part in something from the Brutal catalogue...
One rainy Thursday a day after my birthday nursing a small hangover, of
course celebrating making it to 28 but also an end to my first season being
a triathlete. I was in a cocoon of self hatred due to the first real alcohol
intake in a long time, resting my laptop on my chest only being able to
hit the down button to skim through the endless drivel on Facebook. Then
Brutal Events stuck out like a sore thumb asking for someone to Blog for
The Oner Event, I sprung up and immediately wrote back saying "where do
Remember I said I was quite spontaneous I hadn't even read what The Oner
was... then I goggled it!!! Then signed up immediately. The initial excitement
began to turn into self-doubt and wondered if the entry fee was money well
spent. I messaged a close friend who does a fair amount of fell running.
The conversation went as follows..
Me: Davo, am I silly do an 80 miles trail run with 10,000
ft overall ascent and 24 hour time limit?
Me: April, be honest
Davo: I reckon it's a wee bit early... maybe next year...but
if you want to try
Me: Great... I'm booked in
Davo: Of course you are, we better get some miles in.
So here I am... Let the winter training get going.