I’ve written a few blog posts during Project Trail that have ended up being published to the Men’s Running site. I thought I’d re-create them here to them as a record. Time has flown and the race is a mere 9 days away…..
16th November 2016 – The Tale of the Taper
The taper. The final few weeks of preparation and contemplating the challenge lying ahead. Some runners seem to love it as a chance to fill their faces with carbs; others are bouncing off the walls, desperate to get to the race. Here’s a few of my tapering observations…
Where has all the time gone: You’ve had this race booked for months. Training plans were meticulously created with mileage building up until race day. Suddenly, you’re mere weeks away and the taper is here. You begin asking yourself, “Have I done enough?”; “I don’t think I got enough long runs in!”, “Why on earth did I skip so many sessions from my training plan?” It’s not the time to play catch-up, though; the work is done and suddenly doing back-to-back runs to “catch-up” is only going to end in disaster.
All sorts of things start hurting: You’ve worked far too hard for anything to scupper your race now. But every run is a potential disaster, and the phantom injuries start to appear. Twinges appear in the knee/ankle/hamstring without warning, but are you imagining it? Is it the paranoia of a potential injury? Why does everyone on the bus/in the lift start stepping dangerously close to your toes? Why have they organised a BMX night at work? (This actually happened).
Embracing the carb load: Everything contains carbs, right? At least that’s what you tell yourself. The fourth biscuit from the office cupboard is just taking advantage of a carb-loading opportunity, and no-one can tell you to stop eating because you quite simply need the energy. Best to try not to end up stuffed full of white pasta and a dodgy stomach the day before though, eh?
Giving up the beer: Months and months ago when you booked on that race, you promised yourself to go tea-total for at least the final two months, well maybe one month. As time creeps along, you suddenly realise there is your cousins wedding, the works outing, and at least four Fridays during your dry period, so you decide two weeks will be enough, maybe one week. Roll on the night before and you’re convincing yourself that surely one glass of red wine will be OK? It’s mainly fruit, right?
You’re about to stop boring everyone to death: Everyone will be glad this is over. The missus has heard so much about your current kilometre pace and which socks you’re going to wear that she only has to look at you and starts glazing over. People dive for cover in the office in case you start to talk about your upcoming race. Don’t worry, it’ll all be over soon and you can bask in the glory of all the hard work you’ve done. At least for five minutes until you start scouring the internet for the next one!
25th August 2016 – Peaks and Barges
We’re now into the full swing of Project Trail training and any thoughts of easing into the latter half of the year with a couple of brisk country walks, rosy cheeks and warming cups of tea have rapidly vanished. It’s all about getting the hilly miles in, bleeping TomTom watches, and bleeping out my expletives when the going gets tough. I’m loving it, but three years ago if you have told me I’d be doing this I’d have blown the froth off my pint with laughter.
Last month I completed the Peak District Challenge (PDC) as part of a duo with Michelle Edye. We met at our local running club and soon found a combined passion for getting out there on the trails. When I found out that you could enter the PDC as a team, I instantly started crafting a cunning plan to persuade her to enter. As it turns out all I had to do was ask, and then spend some time convincing her that the 100K might be too far! It was a great run and ended up being 55K – the last 10K being in torrential rain, which definitely added to the drama. I think my brain stopped functioning properly towards the end – I tried to high-five Michelle to get the spirits up. We missed. Twice. Then we considered wading through a river to get back to the end quicker. Truly not thinking straight!
My furthest ever run and a great learning experience for long trail running. I’m also really loving the Columbia Montrail trail shoes as I got through the whole thing without a blister in sight!
In other news, completely un-planned, I won a race! I randomly entered Man v Barge, a quick jaunt over a hill (Marsden to Diggle) while a canal barge chugs through Standedge tunnel, the longest canal tunnel in the UK. Not only did I beat the barge but I beat everyone else in the five-mile race – even the barge looked surprised! This, followed by a beer on the canal path before noon and a chip butty, made for a brilliant day.
25th July 2016 – Reality Sinking In
The reality has now sunk in that I’m part of Project Trail and fully committed to running 50 miles. No matter which way I Iook at that number, it’s far. Converting to kilometres made it look worse, so instead I looked for some other measurements. I’m now considering it as a mere 16.67 leagues, or 16 leagues and a bit. No problem.
I ran my first marathon this year, two weeks after completing the 50K Canalathon, kind of in the “wrong” order, but I’ve tried to see each race as a stepping stone to the next. I already had a couple of long races planned in 2016: the Peak District Challenge (50K) and Man versus Mountain (Snowdon), but my brain is one step ahead of my physical ability so I already knew I wanted to go for a 50-miler in spring 2017. Then I saw the Project Trail competition and knew I wanted in – especially after seeing a picture of an ultramarathon aid station!
I can’t deny that I’m somewhat apprehensive about the distance of this run, as I know it’s an entirely different strategy to me turning up to a parkrun with a minor hangover and stumbling round the course. I’ll be on my feet for a long time so need to have both the physical and mental preparation in hand, this is why it’s so great to get a training plan devised by Robbie.
Previously I’ve prepared my own training routines based on things I’ve read in magazines or the internet, but to have a tailored plan to take into account my running experience and the races I have planned will be a huge benefit and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into it. The Wendover race looks a real challenge so I have no particular aims of finishing times – solid consistent laps without injury would be fantastic.
I’ve been asked the question, “Why do you run?” a lot and for me, while I did quite a bit of martial arts in my teens, most of my 20s and early 30s has been spent working, playing in bands and not being particularly active, other than various country walks or swimming now and again.
Since running, I’ve really noticed my fitness increased and I really enjoy the physical feeling of running (most of the time!). Especially when everything is working well, I feel strong and like I could keep going, although this feeling has been known to rapidly disappear!
Of course, the going will get tough but I’ll just repeat the mantra which has kept me going through quite a few tough moments – “the finish line doesn’t move, you do.”
Out-of-the-blue, I’ve been given a fantastic opportunity to be part of Project Trail after entering a competition in Men’s Running mag!!!
What is Project Trail I hear you cry! It’s an ongoing feature in the mag where 3-4 guys are entered into a race, trained up to within an inch of their lives and then featured for a few months to show their progress. The race this time is a biggie….. Its the Wendover Woods 50 miler! As well as race entry we also get training plans and advice from Team GB’s Robbie Britton and lots of free running gear!! If its anything like previous “Project Trails” then there’ll be a regular feature on how me, and the other two competition winners, are getting on, so my ugly mug will be out there in a national magazine! I’m off to Wimbledon for the first photoshoot this week so am covered in fake tan, and am plucked and preened to within an inch of my life (last 18 words not true).
Whilst I have been working hard at running, this really will be a challenge…. 50 miles…. that’s just a bit less than two marathons…… its 16 parkruns…. its…… really…… far…… am I going to be able to do this? One thing is for certain, its going to take something pretty serious to stop me 🙂
I have written the odd race report on this blog, but I do intend to do more frequent posts on how the whole experience and training is going and, ultimately, a full report on the race itself. I considered starting a new blog as this one was really dedicated to my exploration into music, sound bending and camera mangling, but then it dawned on me I really was overthinking it. Given all the content that’s been posted here since I started it in June 2012, running is just another “tentacle” emerging and another part of my life…..
With the evil pincers of available time closing in on me, I have unfortunately taken a break from my piano lessons as over the last few months had been able to dedicate less and less time to it, and really want (and need) to dedicate the required time and effort to run a fifty mile race just a few short months away! There are still a few songs in the pipeline which will get finished eventually. At least I can blame one of them on Mat because I’ve been waiting since October 2015 for him to send me a bassline, but these things can’t be rushed eh? 🙂
I set up a new Twitter account more geared towards running, so follow it HERE @allhailthetrail
In honour of this momentous time, I have drawn a stick man running up a mountain…..
I spent some time in Coniston in the Lake District last weekend, predominantly to run a marathon (which I report on below), but first up are a few photos I took over the few days.
First up a lowly gate combined with the fantastic evening sky
The beautiful calm of Coniston
This is Grange-over-sands where we stopped off on the way. I initially wasn’t too taken with this shot, but the more I look at it the more I like it. Nice sky, great brickwork and a summery girl at the bottom to bring in a bit of colour.
A field, a couple of hills and some drama
Race Report: On to the run itself. Having recently run the 50km Canalathon followed swiftly by Manchester marathon, I was reasonably confident for getting round the Lakeland Trails Coniston Marathon. Its only a few extra hills isn’t it? In my head I’m already a long distance trail runner, but the reality is quite different. I’ve ran a marathon distance three times (all during 2016) and done plenty of trail running but never actually combined the two, so this was my chance to get out there and prove it! I had about 8 weeks since Manchester marathon so no sooner had I recovered and started getting the distances up it was time to start ramping down again, my longest run being a hilly 30km in the Peak District. Was I going to be ready for this?? Well here I am ready to go, 8am with a lovely stroll down to race HQ where it’s a hive of activity. Its worth noting now that even pre-9am it was already looking to be a scorcher of a day.
Living in Manchester I’m an expert at rain running, point me along a canal towpath and I’ll splash along for as long as I need to, but running……. in this heat?! We were off around 9am and I got into a reasonably comfortable pace but as we entered the first climb many shifted into a “power-hike” and I shortly followed suit (with hindsight I’d have taken it a lot easier at the start). It was tough running, mainly as very little of the route was shaded so the sunshine was quite relentless, but things were going reasonably well and I got to halfway around 2 hours.
The picture above was taken from near enough the highest point in the race at around 15 miles, so whilst there was a reasonable amount of climbing (my watch said 920m) it was pretty much several “ups and downs” rather than one large climb, but the views up here were fantastic and make this type of running so much more rewarding than pounding the pavement. I really had begun to tire by this point and knowing there was another 10+ miles to go in 25 degree+ heat was quite a challenge on the mind. I’m a stubborn bastard though so I kept repeating my mantra “The finish line doesn’t move, you do!” to get me through it. I also put some music on (hip hop of course) but that did kind of ruin the natural vibe of the run.
Five or so miles later I found myself approaching a dead body face down in some “scrubland”. I was quite unsurprised given the heat but thought I had better investigate just to make sure that they were either dead or doing the finest “planking” session in the north-west. Rather than death, the unfortunate runner had got something worse – cramp. Planking seemed to be his cure for it and he assured me he was ok, so given it was nearly lunchtime and all I continued on into the heat.
The view above, whilst fantastic in it own right, I found quite soul destroying. I had around five miles to go and running had become almost optional with the vast majority of people around me resorting to trekking along feeling sorry for themselves, and what could we see? Mainly nothing but a long dry path, not a water station or shady forest in sight. But as I mentioned above, the marathon organisers were hardly likely to bring the finish line up here to me so jog on I did. I did come across a small stream so I filled up my hat and poured the lot over my head which did seem to invigorate me somewhat!
An hour or so later and this is me in the last 50m, incredibly relieved!! Wind-on about 2 minutes later and I was in the lake, oh the lovely cool lake. I finished in a time of 4:42:21 which to put into perspective is a whopping increase from my Manchester marathon time of 3:27:37, which goes to show what the hills and heat can do to you! A fantastic organised race with a really good crowd. “Interestingly” I finished 62nd, which was also my race number so clearly I carefully planned my time and finishing position 🙂
Its done, dunno what all the fuss was about!
I learnt a lot about pacing (slow slow slow) and a lot about my own abilities. I know I have loads to work on to build up for some long races later this year and all being well some even longer ones next year!
Soothing marathon feet!
Goodbye for a while Coniston.
Last July, I entered an “Ultramarathon”. I must’ve been on a running high because the furthest I’d run was a half marathon, but it seemed like a suitable challenge! The race was the “Canalathon”, the course starting close to my flat in Manchester City and weaving its way along the canal to Soweby Bridge in Yorkshire, a total of 50km. Clearly that wasn’t enough for some people who took the 75km and 100km options, but 50 was enough for me!
Time rolled around and suddenly it was 27th March 2016 and I was up at stupid-o’clock (not helped by the clock going forward) loitering in a retail estate car park on the outskirts of Manchester along with a few hundred other runners.
After a quick race briefing (run 50km that way *points*) we were off. I know these canals well and knew they would soon get clogged so got myself in a good starting position and settled in to a comfortable (although faster than planned) pace. I’m not going to etch out every detail so I’ll try and summarise in blocks: –
- 0-10km – What the hell time is it? When did I agree to this? 50km seems an awful long way.
- 10-20km – This is awesome, I’m a hero!!!!
- 20-30km – Past half-way, and I’ve got to do that again!!!?
- 30-40km – “Only” 20km left. Eating anything anyone is offering you and that I can find in my bag.
- 40-50km – Everything hurts.
There was great support all round the course and it really helps to get some cheering when you’re at a low-point. I really do appreciate the organisers/volunteers who give up their time to make these things happen – standing out in the cold on a canal by Rochdale all day really does take some dedication!
Then suddenly it was over. I didn’t actually realise I was at the finish point so had to be told to stop! And that was that, after many months of tough training, endless talking about it to anyone who would listen, it was all over.
I definitely wanted to finish under 5 hours but I ended in position 15 of 166 finishers with a time of 4:26:35, so a great result for me! Link to Results
Before and After (for some reason I seem to have to lean to the right)
Lyme Park Night Run 6km
I wrote most of this back in January after the race but didn’t get round to posting, so here it is.
Lyme Park…….. A glorious escape from city centre life, perfect for a summers day picnic or a cheek flushing stroll to try and catch a view of some deer. That’s why I was there on a cold, dark, wet Saturday night along with 300 or so others excitedly strapping on a head torch.
This was part of the National Trust night run series, with both a 3km and 6km route available. The former mainly consisting of family/younger entries with the big boys and girls braving the longer distance. We lined up cautiously quite far from the start line which I instantly regretted when we started as it took quite some effort to get over the line, around the crowds and into some kind of position where I could get up to a proper pace. This was a squelchy mud bath with 3-4 punishing hills. The biggest difference I noticed with night running in muddy conditions is that in the light you subconsciously plan the optimum clearer path. With just the extent of torch light there is no such luxury so any wrong choice can take you deeper into the mud.
It was all over some 31 mins later with the last km being pretty much completely on my own, no one snapping at my heels and no chance of catching anyone in front so came in with no idea where i was in the ranking. The results came up on Sunday showing is placed 6th, but then having another look on Monday and five people were suddenly added in front of me, so 11th it was…. Slightly gutting (especially as I excitedly posted by best ever race position to FB!) but such is life. My running buddy, Michelle, came in first female by over a minute, which is a fantastic result. So we got drunk after and talked about any other fun challenges that may be loitering out there! Post run recovery real-ale of course :-S
The tentacles have continued pounding the pavement/trail for quite some time so I thought i’d put up a couple of reviews of two very different races I’ve entered recently, the Morrisons Birmingham Half Marathon and the Lakeland trails Helveyllyn 15km race.
First up, Victoria and myself eagerly got the train from Manchester to Brum and had a relaxed night with the folks, a hearty pre-race dinner, a couple of Erdinger Alcohol-Freis and then off to the city first thing in the morning. The Square Peg Wetherspoons didn’t know what had hit it as the race masses decended for somewhere to stay warm and to get a bit of caffeine. Even the resident chavs getting an early Carling looked somewhat surprised that their early morning waterhole was chock full of people “wiv numberz stuk on em”.
It was soon time to be shepherded to the start zones. I’d somehow persuaded my sister to do this one so we both went off to our separate zones to limber up for the run ahead. Whilst i’m reasonably familiar with BHam I was mainly focused on keeping my pace up so kind of lost track of where I was. A really great atmosphere and I definitely enjoyed the jazz bands, the thumping raves, the people who’d set up their speakers out side their house and the great cheering support all the way round the route. I even managed to muster up a sprint for the last 200m along Broad Street to try and make it look easy (it wasn’t) but came across the line in 1:36:26 which was just over 5 minutes faster than my last half marathon so I was very pleased. Followed by Guiness, Sunday Lunch, Lager and Pizza (in that order) and it made for a great day.
Post Race Bling
Whilst the big city races are fun, I can’t help preferring smaller events with fantastic views, fresh air, and chunky trainers with grips on them. A wet Saturday in Glenridding and I’m limbering up (hanging around) for the 15km Helveylln trail race. I’d put in quite a bit of training for the Birmingham half marathon, so my plan was to take this one easier with a gentle jog round the Lakes and a handful of golden ales snuck in afterwards. Based on the continuous rain throughout the morning and squelching up to the start line, I began to realise this was going to be tough. The first 3-4km seemed to be a continuous “up”, which exactly matched my heart rate, and for the first time ever I walked in a race. It was a particularly steep section, and most people round me were walking too (excuse alert) but I don’t think I’d have been any faster had I carried on running.
The rest of the race was pretty much a mudbath, ankle deep running through overflowing streams across the paths, muddy bogs, slippy rocks and patches of heavy rain. People were dropping like flies with any slight slip potentially leading to a tumble to the ground. I did manage to stay upright but probably looked like a drunken giraffe on ice several occasions. Any thoughts of taking in the misty views were forgotten as I discovered a major part of trail running is the continuous concentration on foot placement whilst maintaining some kind of pace. It almost gave me brain ache. I came in with some kind of squelching sprint finish over the line in 1:15:42 (82nd out of 256). I learnt a lot about my own ability here and how punishing ascents can be, along with the mental concentration needed to keep things moving.
In an astonishing twist, Victoria actually got me in a photo (previous attempts include my foot only)
The trail map
Should be back to some nasty synth noises or camera mangling soon! 🙂
I’ve been dedicating some time to a new pursuit. Running. Very alien to me initially but I’ve become more and more attached to it. I put up a running page HERE a while ago but thought I’d put up a blog post related to any ‘significant’ runs I’ve done.
Two recent ones are the Stafford half marathon and the Radcliffe 10km multi-terrain.
I dedicated a lot of training time to the half and had an aim to complete in 1:50. On the day I completely ignored all the good advice to stick to my plan and ended up with 1:41:28, a massive achievement for me. So either I didn’t initially aim high enough or somehow just managed to pull it out the bag. Here’s the extract from my Nike Running page:
Second up is the Radcliffe 10km multi-terrain. This was tough. Living in the city centre its pretty flat so to suddenly have to face some short and sharp hills really zaps the energy. I ended up with a new 10km PB of 47:05.
Here’s a picture from Radcliffe, I don’t run, I levitate!
Photo copyright – Steve Bateman http://www.runningpix.co.uk/