Running for the pies

Running for the pies

Saturday, 21 April 2018

15th April: Snow

Finding my marathon mojo I think was largely due in part to the unusual dump of snow we experienced here in Hook in the middle of an area of Hampshire that seldom sees more than a light dusting maybe twice a winter if we were lucky… This year we had two once in a decade snowfalls  that brought-out the big kid in us all.

I’ve been battling against plantar fasciitis since setting a pb over marathon distance back in November, where it flared-up over the second half and cost me a chance of a sub 4 hour time… I went to see our local physio - the excellent Simon of SB Physiotherapy, who massaged and manipulated, stretched and taped me so I could at least make the start lines of the races I had booked, but to be blunt even in lovely scenery or surroundings they were no fun and an act of endurance rather than enjoyment, an exercise in finishing and nothing else.

Steadily the symptoms have lessened and when the snow arrived I knew I had to grin and bare it and get out into the white stuff.

Snow 1:

My first run was an early 6am meet with fellow Hooker Russell where as day dawned we cracked-out a 4 mile out and back across the fields to the next village in near blizzard conditions - the wind tearing into us as it was below -10 degrees and wearing just shorts on my legs, running headlong in to it on the way back it began to freeze my hamstrings feeling like they were going to pull and reduced my stride length noticeably to cope.

My partner in crime this morning.

Sideways snow.
Courtesy of Russell: Snowy panorama with me in the middle!
It was an eerie blue light as dawn broke around whilst we ran through the large flakes of horizontal snow that stung your face on impact they were blown so hard, certainly a memorable run for nature at its most raw.

Snow 2:

The next morning with taking a snow day I volunteered to lead a run over a different route, this time around 10k which saw us celebrating the 50th birthday of one of our fellow club members, although he declined the offer of the bumps into a snow drift! Along the way we passed sheep in the fields which made me realise they really are cream in colour when they are against something as pure white as snow. The snowing itself had stopped whilst we were out but with the dry nature of it the wind was whipping across the fields creating ‘snow devils’ which was something to be seen!

I am ashamed to admit it but for the first time on this run I joined the dark side and ventured-out wearing running leggings having frozen my hammys the day before - it felt a bit dirty doing so, but seeing as I have to carry them as essential kit on runs even if they are never worm, it seemed sensible to give them a try.

Snow 3:

Saturday saw a different direction for a 10 mile run that was an absolute giggle from start to finish. There were plenty of stops to mess around, including testing out the theory of if you can run fast enough over the top of a snow drift you won’t sink in… Needless to say it remains a theory! We even found on our travels an igloo that someone had built in a field between diving headfirst into snowdrifts and other general tomfoolery.

All this meant that come the Sunday and my scheduled Steyning Stinger Marathon I was knackered before I had even started, which led to a day of grumbling and moaning to myself as I trudged slowly around the muddy course for a very slow finish!

Snow 4:

Part 2 of the snow arrived as I was running the CTS Sussex Marathon, so the day after I accompanied my fellow ‘Hookers’ (those of us who are members of Hook Runners) for our Sunday trail run… Venturing out into yet a different direction to where I had been in the snow before we were all acting like big kids, all 26 of us who were out at the same time.

As we reached the more exposed part of the route the wind was really howling and unpleasantly biting as it cut across us drifting the snow. On the sartorial front, nearly all the men out were wearing shorts, eschewing leggings as if you weren’t in the wind it really wasn’t that cold. One man out walking his dog even berated one of the few men-folk wearing leggings as the rest of us went past with glowing pink legs on display: “Now those are real men out in shorts today”.

Snow 5:

A final lunchtime bimble on the same route as the first of my snow runs whilst the snow rapidly receded - We found a snowman and his dog on a bench along the way and by the time we returned after less than an hour out there was about half the amount of snow there had been when we set-off.

It was great to be out running in the snow - I was Spud-less throughout as whilst he enjoys playing in the snow, he was not keen to go out running in it. Having a pair of More Mile Cheviots with the large amount of grip on their soles was excellent as I was able to run with confidence through everything - that said I did realise the perils of running in the snow on one occasion when my foot went down a hidden rabbit hole covered with snow causing me to tumble - a lucky escape as I could so easily have damaged my ankle. We probably won’t have snow like this now for anything up to a decade so to be able to act like a large child in it was very welcome… Until the next time my white powdery friend!

Eat pies.
Drink beer.
Run far.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

9th April: Trainer Failure (CTS Exmoor 2017)

In the last entry I alluded to my trainers falling apart mid-race in the Exmoor CTS marathon last year... Well this is what happened.

I was pretty chuffed with the trainers LSS had bought me for Christmas: 2 pairs of Karrimor XTS. In appearance they looked like wannabe minimalist Inov8’s being low drop and consequently very flexible and also very comfortable... I was really enjoying wearing them and eager to get running I toed the line at the start of 2017's Endurancelife CTS Exmoor marathon under the blazing sun in temperatures already in the late teens at 9am.

It was about a mile in and on the climb up on to the cliffs of the shorter 7 mile loop that I felt a pinging sensation at the front of one of the trainers. I looked down and saw the sole had detached from the toe of one trainer... I thought nothing more of it, blundering on regardless.

Shortly afterwards I felt the other trainer ‘ping’ and sure enough that one had the sole separating from the upper. Bugger.

The start of the failure.
I carried on running but could feel my right trainer sole getting further and further separated from the upper and in real danger of total failure... 2 miles in and I’m looking at a DNF through footwear failure if I’m unlucky!

Crossing the moor I felt the sole catch on a rock and fold back under my foot. Looking down it had separated from the upper all the way back past the ball of my foot. I realised the other foot had peeled-back about 5cm and the was worsening. To get by I had to drastically alter my running style, pronouncedly heel-striking so as to try and preserve the trainers until I was back at the start. I looked like I was running whilst wearing flippers, with the soles making a slapping, clapping sound at me with every step, much to the amusement of those who were overtaking me.

Getting worse!
At 4 miles I reached the aid station and asked for gaffer tape to try and bind the soles to the uppers but they had none... It was going to be a long slow sole slapping 3 miles back to the start to try and get some tape from there.

I arrived at the start just as the half marathoners were being unleashed on the course and had to wait for 300 of them to run past before I could get in to the marquee. Inside I asked a Marshall for some gaffer tape and they refused to let me have some!.. I explained clearly why I needed some and reluctantly they found a roll and supervised me using it in case I used too much! Great, don’t you love being treated like a 3 year old!

It was all to no avail though as with the moisture of the ground soaked in to the trainer fabric, the glue would not adhere and the tape slipped off the front of the trainers, so I was faced with a choice: DNF or a walk to the van to change into my only other footwear: walking trainers... Half a mile up a 16% gradient hill and I was at the van contemplating chucking it all in, but after a can of red bull and a strong word with myself I put the walking trainers on and eventually rejoined the race having lost over 30 minutes with this on top of about another 20 from the enforced slow pace of the last 4 miles.

The trainers at the van.
A good race time was gone, but the sun was shining and with no pressure I would not suffer too much in the warmth from overheating via my exertion, so a leisurely bimble it was for the rest of the day surrounded by some cracking scenery!

The trainers were binned after a poor showing of just 150 miles and you know what, the other pair went at the same mileage which kind of explains why they were on sale in Sports Direct in the first place - I did not really trust the second pair for racing in after I had accumulated about 70 miles, can’t think why!.. Still combined both pairs of trainers were £30 for 300 miles, so not too bad on the money per mile stakes but frustrating as I was certainly not expecting a trainer failure mid race! Karrimor trainers seem to be a bit of a lottery - they either go for 700 miles a pair or 150, still at least they're cheap as trainers go when they do give-up early.

At least by means of compensation on a compromised race there was plenty of time for pictures of trail porn along the way without pressure for a decent finish and I maintained my 100% record of finishing my races rather than DNF'ing over footwear rather than something worthwhile like injury!

Certainly a real contrast on conditions from one year to the next when you look at the pics in the previous blog entry compared to this one... It was actually easier to run in the conditions this year as it was not too hot and maintaining a level body temperature was easy, unlike when these pics were took where the temperature had jumped over 10 degrees in one day making it difficult for everyone as consequently no-one was acclimated to running in 20 plus degrees temperature and strong sunshine!

Eat pies.
Drink beer.
Run far.

8th April: Claggy Exmoor.

Having re-found my marathon mojo at the start of the month whilst running down a hill in a flurry of snow I was actually looking forward to today’s run rather than just enduring it.

Hanging around in the rain.
 The fun bus is still suffering from a severe case of engine-knack so I had to borrow LSS’s somewhat smaller motor to get down to Exmoor for the Endurancelife Coastal Trail Series marathon. Driving in the darkness I arrived at the Hunters Lodge event base in Heddon Valley on the stroke of midnight having seen a first for me... A Polecat! Just a half mile from my destination and one ran along the side of the country lane towards me and stopped for me to get a good look as I drove past, which was awesome!

The initial climb to the cliff tops.
Sleeping on the back-seat of a hatch-back folded like a Swiss Army knife is not the most comfortable way to spend a night pre-race and when the rain starts battering down on the roof at 4am waking you then it just adds to the ‘fun’. Having only fitfully slept from when the rain started I went to register pretty-much as soon as I could, queuing in the rain and standing in mud that was getting deeper the more people walked over it.

Running through the clag.
At the briefing I managed a brief chat with Luke and also Gareth from my running club who had made the journey down to beast himself over the terrain. Shortly after we were all gathered around in the rain and were unleashed on to the course; a figure of 8 with a westerly loop of 7 miles run first before the easterly one of 20.

A brief clearance of the clag.
The weather report had been for heavy rain all day so we were all ready for a proper soaking, with everyone to a person in a waterproof girding themselves for a damp run to say the least... Which completely threw us all when we climbed up on to the cliff-tops to find we were above the rain and just the occasional bit of low cloud and sea fog in front of us rolling up from the sea.

The stream-like path over the moors.
The air temperature was a comfortable 7 degrees or thereabouts so pretty soon everyone was overheating in their waterproofs, so like most of the field from halfway back I stopped in a sheltered spot and took mine off... But lost about 10 minutes trying to ease it into my already tightly packed camelbak so I could carry on, whilst everyone else scampered past me.

Expecting the hound of the Baskervilles to come galloping towards you.
Pretty much at the rear of the race I was now able to indulge in a rare spot of overtaking as I undulated my way along the coastal path to the furthest westerly point and the trek up on to the moors... The paths here were streams with all the rain and now being on the high exposed parts the fog was properly shrouding everything reducing visibility to around 20m... And that was about as good as it got for visibility for the next 20 miles!

Blair-Witchy woods.
The Exmoor route is a beautiful course of rugged wilderness and scenery, but today nowt of this was to be seen... I’ll say this for lack of visibility; it certainly heightens your sense of sound as you listen-out to try and figure what is around you; the sound of rodents in the undergrowth, the bleat of new born lambs somewhere distant, the gargle of a pheasant and the crash of a wave reminding you that nearby lies a cliff.

More limited visibility!
I meandered through the murk chatting with those whose paths I crossed: a couple of lads over from Jersey whose friend was really struggling in the mud through his trainers not being man-enough to cope, a Belgian expat who lives a mere 20 miles down the road from me, and eventually a lady from Devon who was getting back to trail marathons having had some bones in her foot fused!

As I hit the aid station at 17 miles having just worked my way through a bit of a ‘Blair Witch-y’ woods I saw Gareth already there trying to force himself to eat and suffering from the heavy going of the trail... We shared the next mile or so before we hit the long drag up on to the coastal path again where he disappeared off in front lost to the mist and I ploughed onwards alone.

Up on the coastal path on the descent to Lynmouth, I was able to see a sight you don't often see thanks to the conditions: the white line in the sea where the fresh water from the river estuary meets the salt water of the sea known as the 'salt wedge'.

The diagonal line of the 'salt wedge'.
Through Lynmouth we had to scale the path up to the cliff tops - part of it was blocked by a fallen tree you had to scramble under - I put my hand right onto a holly leaf doing this which was a shot of pain to the system. Once on the top it was a blast along the tarmaced path heading through the ‘Valley of the Rocks’ where I was able to have a relatively close encounter with some of the wild goats thanks to a brief gap in the fog, before it enveloped us once more and I battled on to the finish passing a lovely waterfall, crossing the line about 30 seconds after Gareth who it seemed I had been steadily reeling-in since he steamed up that hill.

A good hard workout today but not much in the way of trail-porn to picture and a whole world of difference from last year with its 20 degree heat and strong sunshine and thankfully today my trainers remained intact, unlike last year!

Something I have really started to notice of late is that I seem to eat a fraction of what I used to on these races. Today I made it around on 2.5 energy bars and a couple of gels. I put this down to changing my drink to an electrolyte+carb one rather than the previously used electrolyte only. I suspect I’m getting a blast of energy now with every sip of fluid which is helping me a lot although I am not taking-on any more fluids as a consequence. Definitely a change for the better.

Gareth in both ruin & ecstasy in a matter of seconds.
Eat pies.
Drink beer.
Run far.