Running for the pies

Running for the pies

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

13th September: Forward planning

Thought for the day: Is there such a thing as backwards planning?

Anyway, as summer rapidly disappears into the distance, if the 2 weeks of sun in July counts as a summer, the time for planning my winter racing calendar begins.

I had already sorted one race for next summer in the guise of the Lakeland 50, so my runs starting in the new year will need to take in to account this looming on the horizon.

At the start of this year I set a goal of a sub 4 hour marathon by 2015's end, so the final marathon of the year (just before Christmas), is the flat course of the Portsmouth Coastal, which has previously been a PB for me. To make this a reality I am hoping to put some strong race times down in advance as well as taking-on the flat ‘Thames Meander’ course in early November for a ‘practice’ in the lead-up to it.

I have entered for a second time the Clarendon Marathon, a point-to-point from Salisbury to Winchester in early October that is relatively flat for a trail marathon and a race I want to put in a stronger time than that of 2 years ago so I will be viewing this as 'speed-work' with a sub 5 hour time, the closer to 4:30 the better.

Following on from Clarendon at the end of the month is the recommencing of the Coastal Trail Series, of which I am a big fan. The one recurring race on their calendar that I have yet to run is the 'Suffolk' which is on the coast around the RSPB reserve of Minsmere where the BBC films its 'Springwatch' wildlife series. Aside from me completing the 'full set' of the CTS races with a finish, its location of East Anglia ensures the course will again be relatively flat and a good chance of recording a faster time in anticipation once more of the attempt at the sub 4 hour marathon time.

After this, the races get harder with the CTS events on the 'Gower' in November and the as beautiful as it is brutal 'Dorset' in early December, where if I manage to beat my PB times for both I should be in fine fettle for Portsmouth.

Finger’s crossed and injury permitting with this quite intensive close to the year I will be entering 2016 with 50 marathons under my belt - not too shabby considering my first was just 27 months ago!

Into January and the new CTS event at Dover provides an unknown test for me - previously their January race was in Anglesey but this has been dropped from their calendar, which for me is a shame as I really enjoyed that trail, even if it was a pain in the arse to get to! At least I have been able to run it in good weather as well as in a continual downpour and savoured the views from the top of the mountain.

February has the always testing South Devon, March sees me in Sussex and April a longed-for return to Exmoor and a trip to Pembrokeshire at the end of the month.

There will no doubt be other races spattered between these (Steyning and Pendine to name a potential pair) but come May my focus turns to preparation for the Lakeland 50.

I have entered Endurancelife's debut running of the 'Jurassic Quarter' course, a pretty tough 44 mile ultra over the 'Jurassic Coast' that will provide a stern warm-up test for me.

As yet June is blank and the final warm-up in the first week of July will be the Ultimate Trails 55k ultra. Whilst this is in the Lake District, it is over different hills to those in the Lakeland 50 and is a touch easier on the total ascent over its duration. At least with these two races I should be relatively well prepared for July's end... So long as I can dodge injury until then (fingers well and truly crossed!)... I've just got to keep my eyes open for a run in June that will be a good work-out for me.

Eat pies.
Drink beer.
Run far.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

6th September: The Change-Up

In the UK we may not have the same scale of scenery and the heights of the Alps to put on our own UTMB, nor do we have the established routes of North America to hold our own Leadville, Western States, Vermont or Wasatch ‘Grand Slam’. What we do have are our own equally challenging races in the remoter and more beautiful parts of the British Isles.

One of these races is the Lakeland 100 which has built a reputation as one of the tougher events on the British trail-running calendar. Similar to the UTMB, where you can run parts of the course as separate ‘junior’ races, the Lakeland 100 has a sister race where you take-on the second half of the course: the aptly named Lakeland 50. Tickets went on sale for the 2016 edition of the 100 & 50 races at 9am on September 1st, with 400 places up for grabs in the 100 and 650 in the 50.

When 8:59 ticked-over to 9am, the British ultra-running community descended into paroxysms of mouse double-clicking and refresh button bashing as they attempted to gain entry in to one of the most sought-after events on the calendar, an event that when the entries opened last year it sold-out in a mere 19 minutes!

I have to confess, I was one of those sitting by my computer screen come the appointed hour… And somehow managed to squeeze-in as one of the lucky few who bagged their place inside the SIX MINUTES that it took to sell-out this year!

Dear god, if that’s not a sign as to how sought-after an entry to these two races are, then I don’t know what is. The 100 mile course is certainly a tough one with the organisers advising of a 50-60% failure rate and of those drop-outs, 80-90% of them are before they have even reached the halfway point!.. It appears its as tough a race to enter as it is to finish, yet this certainly has not deterred the number of people wanting to take-on the challenge.

The Lakeland 100 Route (Start/ Finish in Coniston).
The 50 is used by the organisers as a stepping stone to qualify entry into the 100, whereby you need to have finished the race inside of 16 hours to earn the right to submit an entry to the running of the 100. This must now be my minimal target for the race as there is no guarantee that I’ll be lucky enough again to gain an entry to go for a sub 16 hour time if I fail this time.

The Lakeland 50 route that I'll be running.
Now I’m entered I really need to be in the right shape to deserve my place on that start-line next July, in what is safe to say will be my toughest challenge yet!. I found the 30 mile Peak Skyrace to be the hardest event I have completed so far, even though I have gone further, however this was a good wake-up as the route is akin to that of the 50, at half the cumulative ascent and just over half the distance. I finished this in just over the 8 hours having faded quite badly in the last section, so I know I need to be in a condition to go double the distance at the same rate and will need to change-up my training accordingly!.. I need to make that start-line come July in the best possible condition to face the challenge, which will mean the best shape I have ever been in my life; the life of a 39 year old fat-bloke!

Aside from my continual running of trail marathons, which will be training for the 50 in themselves, I will need to take on more hills during my normal training routes which will require a rethink.

Where I live, the immediate area is pretty flat, and my normal training run for years has been a 10k from home to the canal, along the tow-path then back to the village - with the route 90% on trail… The problem with this route is it is flat, pancake flat, so I need to remove myself from my comfort zone and in to something that involves hills.

Fortunately there is one small (especially by the standards of what I have run) hill just outside the village, so from now on I will be running up this on every run that I go on… And better still the ascent is a Strava segment so I can easily monitor my progress on this.

Once up the hill all the way back to the village is undulation, so your continually changing from up and down over the last few miles. This route, with the flat canal section at the start to act as a warm-up works out at 10.5 miles as opposed to the 7 I was running before, so this will make me run further than I previously was by 50% each run, with the hard part of the course starting with that climb at mile 7. By doing this I will have a cumulative ascent of 350ft over the 10 miles as opposed to the 50 over 7 that I am used to. Ok, the route will now be 25% road, but beggars can’t be choosers, especially when this is the only hill around the village… It also means that rather than the mere 75ft of ascent per run, it will be upped to 350ft.

I think I will also need to be paying more visits to Hawley Woods and Caesar’s Camp for hill work in those more challenging locations over the coming months, although its a bit of a pain in the arse having to drive somewhere just to run. At least my start-point at Hawley Woods is next to a sports centre so I could cycle the 10 miles there, run the route and cycle the 10 miles back afterwards.

All of these are really just thoughts at present, but I realise there’s a definite NEED to be upping my training mileage and the quality of those miles if I am to stand a realistic chance of hitting that 16 hour target next July.

Eat pies.
Drink beer.
Run far.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

30th August: Time for a change.

There comes a time of darkness and sorrow that befalls all of our lives. A time for reflection, a time to remember, a time to mourn.

Yes, it's time to do an 'Old Yeller' on a much loved and faithful servant of a pair of trainers.

I've had my pair of Asics Gel Trail Lahar's since before I embarked on this trail marathon odyssey and like the aforementioned hound, they have served me well but now need to be put out of their misery... Unlike the dog, at least my footwear isn't rabid, even if it does smell like it might be on occasion.

The trainers have been warm, comfortable and the fact they are Gore-Tex has been a curse and a blessing: When you run through mud and a tiny bit of water then you know you will stay dry, but if you go through a depth where the water comes over the top of the shoe, the water comes in and just stays in the shoe without draining, held there by the Gore-Tex that is so effective at holding it out.

The fabric on the tongue is now fraying and the grips are wearing down to be similar to road shoes, so they're no longer much kop on the trails (not that the grips were good enough for hardcore muddy slippery trail running in the first place, as I found to my cost on my first organised marathon), as I can now feel every stone under the balls of my feet, leading to a sharp intake of breath and a wince every now and again when I tread on a pointy pebble.

I've been so happy with them as my 'light' trail shoes that I've decided to replace them with a newer pair of Asics, the 'Gel Trail Tambora 4', so aside from dispensing with the Gore-Tex they are essentially a like-for-like replacement.

The new trainers :)
Fingers crossed for many happy miles to come in these bad-boys... Once I've been out and about in them a few times then I'll be posting a review as to how they fare... I will not be canning the Lahar's just yet though, I'll be keeping them for any pavement pounding to be done when it's raining or there's puddles on the ground.

Eat pies.
Drink beer.
Run far.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

23rd August: Running Distance Gradings

In the world according to LSS, the distances below have been assigned the following gradings:

  • 10k: Double park-run
  • 1/2 Marathon: Semi stupid
  • Marathon: Stupid
  • Ultra Marathon: Ultra Stupid.

I think there's a fair bit of wisdom in that!

Eat pies.
Drink beer.
Run far.