Sunday 29 November 2009

2010 - A year of great challenges!

I look around a few blogs on here and see great plans being prepared. To name but one I've just read about, Ultra Running Collie and his "man-servant" heading for the coast to coast. So as a rallying call to myself and others out there, lets really push the boat out, reach for the stars and leave no stone unturned in a quest to explore the potential of the everyman (and woman). I'll keep my big plan secret for 2010 for now as it still seems unachievable. But I will say - pending the delivery of a new chequebook - I'm entering my first 50. Not even 50, but 55 for the premier of the Hardmoors 55, which isn't that far off so I really need to get my (muddy) boots on.

Too early to summarise 2009, but I've made steady progress and some good leaps, from ultra to multi-marathon, with numerous marathons along the way to take my marathon or over distance count from 5 to about 15.

For now I'm kind of ticking over with LDWA challenges in last few weeks and another 17m today. A really muddy affair after the East Yorkshire area has suffered a mini-deluge in the last few hours - though an East Yorks deluge is probably business as usual for those in the Lakes, Peaks, Dales, mountains. Good undulating fun with the club running from the black mill at Beverley Westwood to the black mill at Hessle foreshore.

So any tips training for a 50? Most people just say lots of 4-6 hour runs. Great stuff! I enjoyed my prep for the three marathons doing lots of 3-5 hour runs. Lots more LDWA challenges and fell races..... wish I could do this for a living.

Monday 23 November 2009

The week and the Wedge

I seem to have got the cold out of the system - ok man-flu - which I guess was my pennance for months and months of continuous running with no breaks. Good week last week. Short hill reps Monday, part trail run Wednesday in the light (what a privelage mid-week at this time of year. Thursday Speed sesh with club - as car less I had an extra 3/4m on start and end to get to meet up. Then the WU and CD were over a mile and we did two laps of the speed loop at easy pace as extra WU. Throw in 8 x ~900m laps, 300m recs and it was quite a mad sesh. Ran consistently (3.13 fastest, 3.26 slowest) then pulled out a 3.08 at the end. I finally seem to have figured how to run a speed sesh without blowing up, more about stamina than speed I reckon for 800's. About 11.5m altogether so I rested up till Sunday

Then a cracking booze up Friday night with club. I only just recovered to be washed up, breakfasted, and out of the door for 5:15 on Sunday to head for the Wensleydale Wedge. I think a 4:30 rise for a run is a new PB for me! 115m later and having dodged or driven nervously through the odd flood I arrived to a nice empty car park. Nice and early, relaxing cup of tea and chat with others in Askrigg village hall and off at 8am. Ran with Mark again, we both seemed to be a bit more energetic than last week at Burley Bridge hike, still a bit off 100% I reckon though.

First 8m seemed all uphill and plenty of evidence that the Yorkshire dales had got the tailend of the weather from neighbouring Cumbria. There were floods around here but villages and towns are scarce so its mostly flooded fields, overspilling rivers or resovoirs and slightly damp sheep and cows. It started to lash down at 8m or so, into a headwind, then into our side, even a bit sleety and slight hail. I stopped, got the gloves an hat on just in time as fingers became a bit numb. Thankfully we turned to be wind assisted and then the rain stopped and a long downhill. Then the best CP I've ever had at an LDWA event - though I'm still a relative novice at these and I here wonderous tales of the extravagant food stops at the Fellsman from Mark. Numerous sandwiches, pork pies, homemade flapjack, cookies, hot drinks, to crown it all it was indoors in a village hall so we got warmed up. Got even better when we learned we were at halfway.

Onwards and really enjoing this, very much like the terrain at Trollers Trot and Wharfdale marathon not far away - lots of what I call "well manicured trails", very grassy and "spongy" due to the no doubt frequent rain. Not too much harsh stuff. There was the odd waterlogged bit, but not too bad really. Next was Aysgarth falls and a treat as the taps were really turned on full. Roaring white water was great to see and it seems due to trhe weather the tourists were staying home. Shame for them as hardly any rain apart from that bit earlier. So green and the dales seemed to have been scrubbed clean.

We pushed on to Bolton castle, walking the odd bit in castle approach. Another good fuel stop and usual selfless and cheery LDWA organisers. Then onwards for last 7m or so back to Askrigg. This was beautiful again, running the ridge north of Wensleydale with the swollen Ure far below. But.... it did seem uphill a lot of the way. We were glad to finally ascend back into Askrigg.

4:26 and felt good most of the way, not stiffening till beyond 20. We reckoned it just a bit over 23m, and amazingly didn't get lost once! (though we did stop and ask directions from the navigationally-more-konowledgable a few times). Not got the stats so not sure how hilly it worked out. Pleasently not half as hilly or grim as I feared. Above the high standard and value offered by all LDWA events, so I can see why this one filled up with a few days to spare.

Rudolph's Romp next... I'm up for a swift one there.

Sunday 15 November 2009

Time bandit

Had a day down in London last week. I was one of the bemused outsiders who costs the "rushing locals" thirty seconds as I try and suss out the ticket machine - northern time bandit. I always kept to the right on escalators though. I sometimes think I rush around too much but I could never live life like that, I wondered if this is a north/south divide thing ... correction a London/rest of country divide. It must make a weekend chillout that bit more special. If I were a doctor I'd prescribe regular LDWA challenges or fell runs to slow down!  No offence intended - Intrigued to hear from "That London"-ers on this. I bet a few of those people who race up left side of the long escalators could be, pretty handy, hill runners.

Sunday 8 November 2009

Under starters orders.....

I kind of feel I'm back at the start of something again. The last 6 months have been fantastic and have delivered me back after a wild, circular ride, hopefully at a higher base fitness than I started with. I did "kind of" a schedule to prepare for the 3in3 and Snowdonia, but it was all good fun, LDWA events and fell races for long runs. Thursday speedwork with club, not caring what I did just wanting to keep my finger in and enjoy the banter. The other runs are just a blur, some weeks I probably only ran 4 sessions but was doing 30-50 miles. I've run new parts of the country, met new and interesting people, had some of the best carb-reloads ever and now its all over....

Targets met.....
what now?.....
Sit around, get fat, work too hard?
Nooooo..... though I have piled on a few pounds this week whilst layed off due to an aggressive cold. Lets call it winter layering.
So?....... what?

I may be short, slow and untalented, but otherwise I'm just like Usain Bolt. Right now I'm just loosening up, doing strides along the first few yards of the track, thinking about the next race, my target, then its in the blocks and I'll go for it. Not 100m mind you, comparison ends there, but it will be bigger, better, maybe faster than the last. How else would I be satisfied?

I'll get around to updating my Hit list soon and hope to catchup with many a member of the off-road community this winter. Afterall, we don't take winter breaks do we? I'll be doing Rudolph's Romp, a speedy little LDWA event in my nearby, this December. Then I'll see if I can improve last years mark in the formula 1 event of the English Fell racing scene, the Auld Lang Syne, hopfully sharp from regular cross country races. Then a rare excursion back onto the roads for the Brass Monkey Half in January. Is a PB (92mins) now beyond me or can I build speed on my solid endurance foundation? Then its back to endurance and I want to really push it in the first few months. I have eyes on the Woldsman as my first 50. However, even before that I quite fancy the Hardmoors 55 - look it up, sounds great. If I don't do that I'll probably do the Jurassic Coast Challenge - another 3 mara in 3 days. One thing I defiantely want to do is the Yorkshire 3 peaks race. I've wanted to do that since before I even ran! Its a great feeling that the qualification of to long A/B cat fell races (or med A) that scared me more than the race I bagged in a few short months this summer.... and enjoyed them enough to do more.

Snowdonia? I think you mean Rain-down-ere :¬)

I vowed after this years FLM not to bother with marathons on the road for a while. 6 miles of cramp, legs taking week to recover from the hammering on tarmac, crowds. Don't get me wrong, FLM is a great spectacle, just not a good race for the "everyman". Anyway, I digress, Snowdonia was my exception, mostly road, but smaller field and supposedly stunning surroundings.

I stayed in Llandudno the night before at my Uncles guesthouse. Its proper comfy, and a good discount for family members. Though judging by the Runners world Snowdonia Forum I should have got organised, laid out some notes and stayed in Llanberis so I could enjoy Petes Eats and the re-hydration Apres-Run. My arrival on the day was a bit late meaning I got the furthest away - but cheapest - car park. I was just in time for a soaking as I walked to registration. met up with Claire who had decided to tough it out and have a go at running the marathon despite very little training due to injury. See how far she could get. Can't help thinking I wouldn't do that, I'm only tough when I'm trained up and confident.

With my windproof jacket and leg cover already letting water through to the running kit I decided to walk to the race start. Better that then stand around in the race and get cold. On the way one joker walking the other way said to somebody in front of me it had been cancelled, but added after the shocked reaction that it hadn't really, but it was likely to be delayed. Ho ho, I don't think so when I'm wet and windswept. This wasn't a bad thing though as it allowed me time to change to my dry - for now at least - reserve running top. About 15-20 mins late, we were off into the wind and rain.

The opening miles are perhaps deceptively easy, your gradually climbing from step 1 and by about 3 miles its slightly more than gradual. After about one mile a strong gust gave us some of that hard rain that almost feels like hail. Eyes squinting, leaning into the wind, like the other 1000 or so I plowed on. It wasn't long before the rain slackened and then stopped. This weather may not be abnormal in the area, judging by the torrids of white water cascading down the mountainsides either side of the Llanberis pass and the rapid river next to the road at points. The landscape was already stunning but the best was yet to come. Only the last part of the initial 800' climb felt even a bit challenging, which inspired confidence.

Just after the 4m mark the climb was over, passing through some loud crowds, a water station and small settlement we hit an initially quite fast downhill. Loads of people flew by but I held off a bit, just going with gravity without applying effort. The route made a left turn to reveal my personal highlight. A gorgeous greener-than-green valley far below, between hills on the left and the foothills of what I guess was Snowdon on the right. My lack of local knowledge means I can't confirm if Snowdon was there. Neither could my vision as the clouds sat just above the top of the Llanberis pass hiding the peaks above.

The drop down to the valley bottom progressed in stages over quite a few miles. Lots of people passed me, many who I saw again later. I maintained a decent pace down but felt a slight stiffening in the legs as I'm not used to steady downhills of this length - who is... right? Next stop Beddgelert and a small climb to halfway. A nice change and confidence inspiring to go uphill, which always seems a bit less uncomfortable when the legs start to suffer from the repeated foot strikes on hard roads.

Try as I might I couldn't seem to get far below 9-min/miling on the flat - I suppose this is fast compared to many of the off-roaders I have done and the road pace has probably suffered a bit due to this. I could have probably forced a fast pace, But I'm sure I would have suffered. I already had various stiff sore bits on my legs including right knee which felt sharp at times.

On the long road to Waunfawr I was looking forward to the climb. I was fairly sure I could get up there mostly running due to my training this year, I was also sure many others wouldn't. Not that it would be easy, but I knew if I could get up there at more than a walk I had a good chance of my sub-4 target.

The support at Waunfawr was great and I felt good to run up the first hill through town. Like at the Llanberis pass many miles earlier I had the feeling it must get more difficult. I wasn't disappointed. Around the corner and got one of the chocolate goodeis on offer at the feed station. I'd already taken a big swig of energy drink, but I'm no slave to one form of energy provider and the stomach felt alright. The narrow road became more of a track and ot felt like any one of many moorland climbs I'd one in the last 6 months of long off-road LDWA, fell runs, etc. Call it cruel but I drew confidence from running up this, even when it was barely faster than a walk whilst so many others were walking at a variety of paces. This is the terrain I can do well and I guess many of the competitors weren't so used to this kind of climb.

As it levelled out the track became rockier and the weather descended again, strong side winds almost blowing the runners sideways. Combined with the rain which had restarted on the way up it felt cold again. Then came the descent, at some stages just a path. At first I meandered along and lost a few places. Then the off-road conditioning kicked in and a I thought "this is steep, but I've done worse" and the old classic "brain off, brakes off" and down I went skipping down, jumping, windmilling the arms, hoping to inspire others to enjoy the moment - catch me if you can! I was kind of disappointed to hit hard road again as each footstep hurt that bit more.

The loop around Waunfawr dragged and the motivation dipped a bit as some of my - as of yet unexperianced today - road marathon leg cramps started to make things akward. I cursed and got going again. As I passed 800m to go I kicked a bit as people started to run passed me and the competitive bit decided I would lose no more places. Pumped the arms to drive the legs, gaze straight forward and gun for the line. Then it was there, I had to duck around somebody on the line as I drove through.

Under my target of four hours, at halfway I thought I'd be well under. But I think its safe to say this isn't a course for a negative split, what with the climb after Waunfawr coming at the most difficult time. In many ways the descent that followed was just as tough, certainly more painful.

I grabbed my hard earned coaster and foil blanket, I thought I'd overheard talk of forum near line so I headed over. Had a quick chat with a few other forumites anfd then headed off to get some warm clothing. I hung around for an hour to see Claire in and contemplated the planned forum meet-ups for food and booze. Though in the end I was so chilled by the winds I headed back to Llandudno to get a warm shower.

I really enjoyed that and will be back for another go. As you might have guessed the temptation of the mountain race is too much so I'll no doubt do that too in the meantime.