Running for the pies

Running for the pies

Monday, 18 February 2013

3rd February: Training Run

With the CTS South Devon looming on the horizon next weekend, I felt I needed to get out and do some miles. This time I thought I would extend the canal run I'd previously used as a final warm-up... So off I trotted to Church Crookham to join it, to make the run a decent 20 miler by the time I got back to the village. This was the first run I had done since picking-up that cold a couple of weeks ago.

The cold had pretty-much wiped me out from doing any physical activity at all, and whilst my mind was well and truly up-for-it, the body was not and after about 12 miles it was screaming at me not to do any more! The temperature was close to freezing and after nearly 2 hours of running with 2 t-shirts and my running jacket I was still feeling cold in my core, my leg muscles were stiff, unresponsive and were starting to cramp, and so for the first time on a run I decided to knock it on the head and give-up seeing as  the big run is next week.

The problem with doing this meant it was a 3 mile walk home, well at least I had my iPod to listen to.

One good thing the walk gave to me was the chance to watch some deer eating in a field next to the canal for longer than if I was running, and to follow the most beautiful bird in the British Isles from tree to tree for about half mile down the canal... The Kingfisher.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

20th January: Snow

After looking forward all week to the CTS Anglesey, Friday arrived and I was all prepared and ready for the off… Then the forecast snow made its appearance.

At least as the flakes fell I was able to skip-out of work early - the couple whose kitchen Si and I are fitting insisted that we pack our tools and go before we ended-up snowed-in at theirs seeing as they lived at the end of a dead-end street at the bottom of a hill!

When I returned in an unusual attempt at being organised I put all my stuff together ready for the run and loaded it into the car. Having looked at the map previously, the event base was in the middle of nowhere so into the car also went the camping stove, kettle and utensils, plus bacon and eggs so I could do myself a hearty post-race fry-up and get some warmth in to me.

I checked on the website and Facebook at 4pm for an update on the situation and they were stating that the race was still on.

The forecast was for just above freezing temperature-wise through the night, some snow but not too much and during the day it would be around 5 degrees, so it was going to be a cold sleep in a sleeping bag covered in a duvet on the back seat of the motor and a cold run, with no way of warming up afterwards except wrapping up very well.

I'd planned on leaving at around 6 to get there in plenty of time, but what with faffing around it was nearly 7:30 when I was ready to hit the road… I thought one last time I'd check on the event, just in-case it was cancelled… And just as well; Endurancelife posted on Facebook and emailed at just after 7:15 that after a dump of snow it was off :(

All that adrenaline and excitement built-up and nothing to do but curl-up in a warm bed rather than on a cold car-seat. Mentally seeing as I was prepared to run a marathon I thought I would jump on a train and do the canal again in the morning.

Saturday came and I woke-up feeling like I had a hangover from hell, without even having touched any of the sauce the night before. The snow had continued through the night and settled to a decent blanket of about 4 inches. Feeling like shit on a stick (I don't normally get ill) I canned the idea of the canal marathon seeing as I only managed to crawl out of bed at 11am, although I did decide to go-out on my normal 10k route down the canal as a compromise and to prove to myself that I could run whilst under the weather… Plus it would be a good chance to see my normal running route shrouded in snow for a change.

Putting on my trail shoes they made it through the snow and the mud that lay beneath with no problems, and to the bemusement of people out with their wellies slipping and sliding around walking very slowly to be passed by some whackadoodle in shorts jogging past them!

The run did not blast the cold away, so I was left to cough and sniffle with a massively blocked nose.

Monday, 11 February 2013

13th January: Last Practice

Just to make sure I'll be in decent shape for next weekend I thought I'd go for a final training run and take the rest of the week off from running, just do my Wednesday ride.

I chose to do the same run as I did before the CTS Pembroke, but I had decided that I would tack-on a lap of the centre of the village when I got there to round it up to 18 miles rather than the 16 it would just be. The good thing is of the 16 miles 9 of them are cross-country on the tow-path, through woodlands, across a golf course and muddy fields, with the only big hill on the route coming near the end.

The goal was to run it without stopping for a breather - or at least get as far as possible beyond 12 miles, with a steady pace of 10 minute miles.

Everything went without incident, with no stops for breathers and off into the village I returned, only for my groin to suddenly get very tight in the middle, either through cramping or a strain so I had to make a judgement call. I thought that I could probably make the lap of the village, but with the big race a week away there was not too much point in risking a proper pull or tear, so I opted to hobble back home - which was a couple of hundred yards, to err on the side of caution and lard the groin in deep heat afterwards.

Looking at the splits I made the run without stopping in a 10 minute mile pace - although this was dropping off over the last few miles, so scaled up I suspect it would have averaged out at 12-13 minute miles over a full marathon distance.

Mentally and physically I feel I am in a far better shape going in to this marathon than before and I am raring to go, looking forward to an easy week before nailing the run at the end.

Looking hard at the GPS data of the course, it appears to have far fewer hills but longer in duration, rather than lots of short sharp ones on the Pembroke, although the run does finish with an ascent and descent of Mount Anglesey!

What I am not looking forward to is the 6 hour drive to get there and kipping in the car in the forecast sub-zero temperatures before doing the run.

11th January: New Year's

The pool re-opened this week after its Christmas break so off I went to start on doing the 700m distances again so that if I manage to get in to any triathlons this year I will at least be used to swimming the required minimum distance for the swim. Something I've also noticed is that the distance from home to the pool is 10k, so if I ever want to do a full-distance as practice I can drive to the pool, do the 1.5k swim. Hop on the bike for a 24 mile ride (in a long-winded manner) back to my house and run back to the leisure centre to get the car!

I also thought that the swimming would be a good chance for my knee to clean itself out in the chlorinated water seeing as I was a bit dubious about the fluid that keeps seeping out of it when the scab breaks. After seeing what was left of the scab after the swim, it definitely appears to have nearly hit bone in 2 places and because it has torn out chunks of flesh rather than grazing or scraping its taking a lot longer to heal as it has to build from the inside-out rather than just scabbing :(

Back to cycling with Kelv joining Moose and myself and on the journey we looked for the pot-hole I 'found' but could not see it. Walshy couldn't make it so we went out for 20 miles on Friday night, taking a couple of decent hills. This was Walshy's first ride of the year and was suffering from a cold so we weren't pulling-up trees, just getting around at an average pace. Once we're up to fitness I look forward to blasting those couple of hills which have been set as time-trials on Strava, so we can see where we rank in the greater scheme of things.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

30th December: Gut Buster

I spent the last couple of days since the crash willing the gash to get better. I intentionally did not look at the dressing or change it over this time as I did not want to be scared off by anything I saw!

I'd agreed to enter the Gut Buster after Walshy, Stu Charles and Dan Swaine had said they intended to give it a go. Unfortunately by the time I got my finger out of my arse and went to organise my entry, they had filled-up. On closer reading of their website, it stated that they close the race based on car-parking availability at the venue, so with the race not being too far away by distance - around 10 miles, I was intending to cycle so I contacted the organisers over a place on the wait-list.

Their reply came that if I could get there by car-share or any means then I could enter on the day regardless for the standard £20 fee, so by cycling I was guaranteed a place!

On the day I was up at sparrow's fart getting ready to ride there. I had decided that I would just put an elastic bandage over the dressing on the knee to protect it and hope for the best… I knew that the wound was not scabbing properly by the amount of plasma that was leaking out and the occasional dribble of blood.

I set out and about a mile en-route I realised I had left my wallet back home, and with needing to pay the £20 I had no choice but to return, grab it, and dash off again. This had cost me 10 minutes and I was conscious about not making it on-time.

Pedalling furiously I managed to get to the event about 10 minutes before the scheduled start. After registration I sent a message to Walshy asking where he was - it turned out they had all gone to the gee-gee's at Newbury the previous day and got too wasted to even consider being up for a run… So it was me alone.

The route for the Gut Buster is about 75% cross country and the rest on the farm-tracks and country lanes, with a ford to cross. The route takes you around the walls of Calleva Atrebatum - where I had run the Real Relay torch through the middle of not 6 months previous - then off across farmers fields back to the start. The weather leading-up to it had been rainy on top of sodden ground, so a mud-fest was to be expected and I had already got wet on the ride over from the spray.

The race started about 15 minutes late, and off we went down the soaking wet farm tracks wending our way down to the ford. In the safety briefing we had been advised to go across the single-file foot bridge to the side of it rather than risking the water, but having run the Brutal a few weeks ago and the Grim in the past, a bit of water was holding no fear for me and as everyone queued to get across I ploughed on through the water, with a few hardy souls following me.

The start had been very bunched and it took a good mile to get enough room to run at my own pace rather than those in front who were noticeably slower. By the time we made Calleva Atrebatum there was ample room and there was no jostling for space.

I was wearing my trail running trainers so I was prepared for the mud, but most people weren't so fortunate - they were learning the mistake I had made at the Pembrokeshire CTS marathon: no grip is no fun! It made me chuckle with a bit of schadenfreude watching people sliding and slipping over into the mud as I ran past with not a care about my footing!

After our lap of the walls of the Roman city we went across some recently harvested fields which were ankle-deep mud with every step and sucked the life out of your limbs. The mud was pretty unrelenting from this point onwards although not as bad as on this field.

Around this part I ended up being overtaken by someone wearing an Endurancelife shirt - one of the ones they give you for running the Coastal Trail Series, so I struck-up a conversation with him before he would inevitably disappear off! It turns out that today was his 99th race of the year and tomorrow, New Years Eve, was to be his 100th! He had set himself a challenge of 100 races for the year - all varying in length from 10k to marathons. By the end of the year, tomorrow, he would have run just shy of 1,500 miles competitively. This guy was in his late 40's so there's still hope for me yet for these mad-cap schemes of physical tomfoolery! He had just run the CTS Gower marathon and recommended it, although he was disappointed about having to run it in the rain, but you have no choice over the weather!

The course was marked at every km and by the time we got to the 9th we could see the finish-line. This was a right tease!.. It was uphill over harvested muddy fields, energy sapping to say the least, but you could see the finish line and it spurred you onwards!

Once across there were glasses of mulled wine and mince-pies for us to snack on, and a chunky medal for the momento. As I stood there necking some mulled wine, one of the stewards came over and started to talk to me asking if I was ok. Bemused I said I was fine, the rest of the conversation went something like this:

No, you're bleeding, quite badly
Am I?
Er, yes your knee
Knee?.. Oh that, it's nothing (I felt like doing the Black Knight from the Holy Grail here)
But you've lost a lot of blood.
Seriously, it's not that bad I did it a few days ago, it looks worse than it is.
You should come to the medical tent and get it properly dressed.
Thanks for the offer, but I've got to cycle 10 miles home so I would just undo all your hard work, so I'll take my chances!

After changing t-shirt I clambered on to my bike and slowly rode-off home, a journey that seemed to take an eternity

In the end after the results were published, I had come-in 98/164 with a time of 1:38:04 a time with which I was happy all things considered with the knee and having cycled at speed to get there beforehand! After my shower upon my return I was still not brave enough to yank-of the dressing, so I left nature to weave its magic.

A good shot of the bloody knee!

Approaching the finish line.

28th December: Crash

To blow away some of the Christmas lard in time for Sunday's Gut-Buster I went out with Moose on the Friday evening. We ambled along at a relatively sedate pace so as not to over-do things with my race and Moose had not been out cycling for a week or so as he is concentrating on his running for the Wokingham half marathon in a few weeks. It all went as per normal until we got to the furthest point from the village.

Just as we went along the road in to Long Sutton, in the darkness at the last moment I saw a massive gash in the road. In went my front wheel at an angle, moving me off balance to the side. In the fraction of a second before I could react to gain my balance my front wheel hit the end of the gash and pitched me forward.

Moose cycling behind saw it all quite clearly: One moment everything was normal, the next my wheels were in the air as I somersaulted before landing at speed, handlebars first. Because I cycle with SPD shoes clipped in to pedals it meant me and the bike are one fixed unit... Until impact when the twisting broke my feet free. Fortunately there had been plenty of rain so the road was greasy so I slid rather than stuck to the asphalt.

Moose's verdict: 8/10 for the acrobatics, 0/10 for the landing!

As I picked myself up I knew it was not good and my knee was throbbing already. I picked-up the bike and it seemed to be kind of ok - except for the bar-ends and the lights certainly weren't facing straight, so I just re-mounted and continued with the ride. My principal behind this was to stop would mean that swelling would commence and the knee would stiffen making it harder to re-commence.

When we returned, I told LSS about it and that I might need a bit of help cleaning it up - I go in to shock when I see large quantities of my own blood - So as I began to pass-out when I attempted to do it myself I had to call upon her to finish off what I had started. Soon enough all was dressed and I was a bit gutted about the thoughts of missing the Gut Buster a mere 36 hours away!

What it looked like when I walked through the door.
Turns out that I narrowly missed going down to the patella at 2 points, so there were holes where the flesh should be! I also had to pull some gravel out of my wrist as well!

Here's some shots of the bar-ends and the lights. It seems they took the full impact (thank god) and one of the bar-ends snapped clean-off. These things are solid metal cores with a rubber grip to them, so no mean feat as it is a good cubic centimetre of metal in cross-section. The other had snapped although the rubber had not split so it was held in place.

Right bar-end

Left bar-end
And the lights were scuffed on top to say the least, and these are solid aluminium casings:

Still, it certainly could have been a lot worse!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

26th December: Winter Hill

After the fat-day of Christmas Day, which was spent in front of the goggle box watching what was on, and being productive and doing my expenses and book-keeping, Boxing Day was the day I had decided I would be running to the top of Winter Hill and back again.

Off I went wearing my trail shoes, which kept me in very good stead getting across the bog on the top of the hill to the TV antenna.

Getting up the side of the hill on the cobble was very slippery again and I was not able to run it in full, but stop and hike in places as the footing was just too treacherous. On the way back across the bog on the hill, I lost my footing quite spectacularly… I found myself with one leg stuck in the bog down to my thigh and the other still on solid ground! I tried to pull myself out but just couldn't. The suction of the mud on my leg was just too great to yank my leg out by force. Looking around there was no-one in sight and the last people I had seen were 1/2 a mile back behind me at the antenna with me out of sight because of the undulations of the moor.

Racking my brain for all the survival info I must have accrued from watching Beat Grylls and Ray Mears, I remembered what to do: I spread myself as wide as I could, moved my stuck leg in to the position in which it had entered the sinking mud and slowly eased myself forwards and upwards, toes curled in my trainer so as not to lose it! After a couple of minutes I had managed to extricate myself from the mire and off I trotted again. Sod's law that within a couple of hundred metres of starting again I ran past a couple of walkers heading off in the direction I had been coming from.

As I neared Rivington Pike I came across a poor sheep that had not been so lucky when stuck on the moor, and also an abandoned trainer. Now pardon me, but if you go running on a moor and lose your trainer, you tend to notice. It is a good mile and a bit down to the bottom over mud and cobbles in one direction and a mile of mud and peat bog to the road by the antenna on the summit so why would anyone in their right mind choose to push-on missing a trainer, and as you can see it is not as though it was an old battered thing that has been there for ages. Bizarre!

The one that didn't make it down

I managed to get there and back quicker than the previous time, even though I took wrong turns in both directions trying to find my intended route, which made the run longer as well, so a quicker time to go further is not bad all round!

The weather was pretty good, in fact clearer than before which meant you could see the top of the TV mast in the blue sky that morning.

Things turned in the afternoon though. By the time I went down to see Chorley FC play in their Boxing Day home fixture - a 1-0 victory against Marine, it had already been pouring down for a couple of hours. At least there was plenty of shelter. I would much rather have been down at Cherrywood Road to watch the mighty 'Boro take on Basingstoke, but 350 miles of distance meant I had to go elsewhere for my footy fix, and continually tap refresh on my iphone for the match updates on the fans forum.

In the street next to the Chorley ground lives a local 'celebrity', and I use the term very lightly! At this point you should also bare in mind that the inhabitants of Chorley are famous for its police tasering a blind man from behind as he walked down the road minding his own business and driving cars over their resident Olympic Gold medallist and Tour de France winner. Well this 'celeb' is some numpty of a woman who is that besotted with Shane Ritchie that she has had her car wrapped in photos of him.

Oh dear!
The next day we ventured in to the centre of Chorley for me to get my photo op. that I had been planning for a while… A picture of me with Bradley Wiggins' golden post-box which is bang in the town centre.

The closest I will ever get to greatness.