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Race Report: Wendover Woods 50 Mile

“Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.” Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

You could be accused of being over dramatic if you replaced the word “space” above with “Wendover Woods 50” but for those who did it, at times it felt like it.  But anyway, I’m jumping ahead of myself…..

The wait was over, the training was done, the miles were in the bank and there was no more time for worrying.  The Wendover woods 50 mile race was here and I started brilliantly by stepping out of my car, in a cold field in Tring at 7am, into a giant poo.  Undeterred, I squelched my way to the start line and looked around for the other Project Trail guys.  Soon meeting up with Nic and Jon, we were a mixture of excitement, compression gear and fear.  Glancing around the field I could tell this was for the big boys, with the Centurion Running Grand Slam title at stake some people were going to be flying round this.

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Project Trail 2016: Daniel Stinton, Nic Porter, Jon Gurney

The Wendover Woods 50 is, as the name suggests, “a 50 mile foot race consisting of 5 x 10 mile loops on forest trails, entirely within Wendover Woods”.  Just for fun though, nestled within those beautiful sounding woodland trail laps was 2,900m of climbing.  Which, I can now tell you from experience, is a lot.  The race organisers, Centurion Running, had tactfully named some of the sections; “Hell’s Road”, “The Snake” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” presumably to somehow keep the spirits up!

Since winning a place in this race from Men’s Running and their Project Trail feature, the pressure was on.  We’d been featured in the last five issues of the magazine to report on our progress and had training plans devised by Robbie Britton (Team GB Ultrarunner) to get us all ready for the day ahead.  I’d trained hard, and had some great races and running experiences along the way, but nevertheless earlier in the week did have quite a flap about my ability to actually run 50 miles.  By the time race day arrived, I’d decided to put those worries behind me and thought the best tactic was to just get on with it.  I had a proper “plan” for this one; eat as much as I possibly can, drink as much as I possibly can, take it easy at the start and finish strong. 

I knew that the first couple of laps just needed ticking off, and the Project Trail guys and I had suggested we start together.  This was great to take it reasonable easy, have a chat, keep the spirits up and get used to the course.  During the start of the third lap I slowly peeled away and realised it was time to go this alone.  The laps consisted of magnificent forest trails, some mud and numerous short(ish) sharp climbs. 

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All very happy because we’re going downhill

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I took the opportunity to have 30 seconds rest by pretending I needed to take some photos

Somewhere around the third lap I saw Gary Dalton, an ultrarunner I’d met the previous year at the Adidas Thunder Run.  He was doing a couple of laps in reverse as moral support for the runners and our exchange went something along the lines of……

“Hi Dan, how you feeling?” said the self-confessed moany trail runner.  I gave an honest reply saying that I was feeling pretty good.

“Well why are you walking then!?” came the response.  I processed this for a few moments and came to the conclusion it was a very good question, so run I did.

… and so the day went on, taking each section as it came.  At one point during the “Power Line” segment I emerged into a large open field.  This is a brief pleasant change to the woodland trails and due to the time of day, the sun was coming down bathing the woodland surroundings in a beautiful light.  I actually outstretched my arms and leant my head back, either praying to the Great Running God, or to take in as much vitamin D as I possibly could.  As I crossed the field I bumped into my number-neighbour (284), a young lady who I can see from the results was Rachel Dench.  We had a quick chat and I started wittering on about what a fantastic moment this was and hopefully sharing some of my current positivity.  A short while later, re-entering the woods, we shared some jelly beans and and I was on my way. 

In a bizzare mind-game I was actually looking forward to lap four.  Well past the halfway point I’d already decided this was going to be a self-indulgent lap so I put my headphones on some to blast out some of my favourite songs and really started gritting my teeth to get round.  I had a couple of moments of euphoria during this lap as I knew I was well on my way to complete it, and nothing was going to stop me.  I was doing my two favourite things, running in the woods and listening to some crushing metal and hip hop, I had a few moments of dancing and punching the air – sorry to anyone who saw that and thought I’d gone barking mad but in some ways I think I probably had. 

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Ten miles to go.  Feeling the burn.

Finally I was at the business end of the race and strapping on a headtorch for the final lap.  This one needed a bit of focus as tiredness was setting in and you really had to concentrate to stay on track through the winding woodland paths, but it has to be said the course markings by Centurion Running were excellent.  I started the lap with a nice chap called Mick and we had a good chat but I soon pushed along and ended up running most of this lap alone. The field had really spread out by now so other humans were few and far between.  After a final push during the viciously steep last 2km, suddenly (well, more accurately, 11 hours, 2 minutes and 15 seconds later) I was over the finish line.  My friend, and top-running buddy Michelle, had come along to the end for moral support and was probably twice as cold as I was, so massive thanks for making an appearance!  Immediately people were thrusting medals, t-shirts and minestrone soup at me, which was a great way to finish.  The whole Project Trail experience has been fantastic, its magnificent to have completed it, but of course I’m slightly sad its over.  Not one to mope, I can now enjoy a little relax and look forward to the ultras I already have booked for next year.  Game on!

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Cold and needing a beer……  I was a bit chilly as well.

A few of the details and stats below for the true running geeks:

I finished in 43rd place with the laps times below:

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I think the main thing I’m pleased with (other than finishing!) is that my laps were reasonably consistent. OK, I slowed down a bit for the fourth lap but then somehow negative split the last one in the dark with a head torch.  Despite the inevitable tiredness I just wanted to get this lap done.

Not that I’m an expert at these things but I definitely learnt a few things during this race and got great advice from Robbie Britton.  Here’s some summary thoughts, a mixture of my own experience and advice given:

  • De-hydration will shut you down.  Drink, drink and drink some more.  I added electrolytes to my pack at every lap when I filled up.
  • Lack of nutrition will shut you down.  Eat, eat and eat some more.  Right from the start.  I really followed points one and two even when I didn’t feel like it, and have to say I felt as energised as could be expected.
  • Stay positive.  People had talked to me about “dark times” on these long ultra runs but I decided I was having none of that.  I tried to stay happy, be positive, talk to people, have a laugh at the aid stations (which were great)and just keeping moving and enjoy each lap.  Its what we’ve been working towards and looking forward to for so long, so why not enjoy it!?
  • Get everything right during training.  I had a definite plan on the type of foods that agree with me and had a load of it with me on this run.  However, I caved in to a ham sandwich on white bread at one of the aid stations that sat uncomfortably somewhere in my digestive system for at least an hour.  Know what you can eat.  And eat it.
  • A more personal one, but I discovered one of the best things about my running is my walking.  I realised I can get a really good march on, even on the steep sections which probably helped me climb from 84th place on lap 1 to 43rd at the end.
  • I’m going to go all Matrix on you, but you have to believe Neo!!! ūüôā ūüôā ūüôā

Finally, a quick shout-out to all the people and gear that have helped me along this; Men’s Running Magazine, Rick Pearson, Isaac Williams, Robbie Britton, TrainAsONE, Centurion Running (the organisation, marshals, aid stations and route markings were brilliant), Michelle Edye for the solid running training and chat, Johnny Fuller (Sporting Therapy), Columbia Montrail, TomTom, Adidas Eyewear, Petzl head torches and High5 nutrition.

And to the other project trail guys, Nic Porter and Jon Gurney (and support and photographs from Chris) – fantastic effort all round and achievement for us all! And of course Vicky Stinton for putting up with my continuous training and talking about running!

 

HDR Photos (Greenfield, MOSI, Media City)

I’ve been experimenting recently with High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography, which is taking 3 (or more) photos at different exposures and combining them to get the best exposure range across the picture.¬† I’ve been using some software called Photomatix which came free with a magazine and has a few “painting” type settings which with various tweaking seem to give a surreal effect.¬† I¬†really like the output, but i’m going to struggle to take a “normal” photo again!¬† So….. here they are…..

First up (and probably my favourite of the bunch) a couple taken around media city in Manchester, home to the BBC and ITV:

Media City Bridge

BBC Building

These ones were taken at Greenfield just a short train journey from Manchester on the edge of the Peak District (bottom one edited by Mat to get a better composition):

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Finally, on a wander round the city, I visited the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) and popped into the Cathereral:

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CHURCH

I really like how most of these turned out and the almost strange effect that can be achieved.¬† I think it maybe works better on more “human built” things than the natural world, but lots of future experimenting¬†to do!

Ancoats

Ancoats

Since my Lumix GX1 suffered a heat stroke in Gran Canaria and I replaced with a GX7 back in Sept/Oct I barely seem to have used it. ¬†When I’m out running I see so many things I’d love to photograph, but the two hobbies are very incompatible! I finally took a local stroll without my shorts and trainers instead armed with a camera and thought I’d focus on one particular area – the southern part of Ancoats close to Manchester City Centre.

Before¬†I even knew I was destined to become a¬†Manchester resident I visited here back in 2013 with work so spent some eerie time in the deserted/derelict Morning Star hostel and school which I mentioned in THIS POST. ¬†Its a strange area on the fringe of the city, clearly industrial, but lots of¬†deserted/derelict buildings with pockets of nice flats, kind of like the Northern Quarter has burst its seams and some hipsters have spilled over Great Ancoats Street clutching their Macbooks and little dogs. ¬†I’ve not gone for beautiful photos here (ability problems) so just tried to capture the vibe of the area. ¬†So, without further ado, here are a few snaps!.

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Anita Street, very clean and well presented considering the surrounding area!

Coffee

Nestled inside an old Mill, a coffee shop serving Ancoats Coffee.  A true hispter hangout.

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I wouldn’t try getting in here….

 

Car

The hawk-eyed amongst you will be screaming “That’s not Ancoats!!!” and you’d be right. ¬†I wanted to try out keeping some colour in a B&W photo so here is my first effort. ¬†This car is in the NQ right by Cord bar and hasn’t moved since I began living here.

George Leigh Street

George Leigh Street

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I too, wish I knew the way.

Smiths

Swift half down Smith’s?

So there you go. ¬†It was good to get out with the camera again and also try out a few different editing techniques on the pics above. ¬†Until next time…..

 

A Glowing City

I took a late Sunday afternoon stroll on Sunday, camera in hand to see what was happening around the City Centre.¬† I wanted to get some “people” shots, but sometimes its just not happening so I ended up looking out for nice architecture and buildings.¬† Of which there is loads!¬† It was a nice evening and once the light dropped a bit there was a nice orange glow everywhere.¬† A few of my favourites below.¬† The first one in particular worked really well, and it all got rather exciting as I got kicked off by security so had to rush the shots!

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Above Shudehill at sunset

Tunnel

Part of the Town Hall extension (I think)

Seat

Such extravagance! A light up seat

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Its not all good.  Scummy back alley.

NQ

The NQ.¬† My adopted home.¬† As much as I miss the Black Country, I wouldn’t have it any other way right now ūüôā

Secret Chiefs 3 / London

I took¬†a trip down to our capital this week to watch the Secret Chiefs 3 during their three night residency at Corsica Studios. The band have multiple “sub-bands” focusing on different styles of music, so each night had a “different” band playing. I could only make two nights, so saw the UR / Xaphan combo plus the final night set of a mixture of various sub-bands / sounds.¬† It was fantastic.¬† They have a new (ish) drummer who is an incredible technical death-metal style player which has added a whole different vibe, great in most of the songs, but I did find it a but strange during some others.

Of course I took the opportunity to take some photos.¬† The venue was packed so it was difficult to get a good position and it took a lot of settings-juggling to even get any photos as i’m new to this style of photography.¬† It was a great learning experience and i’m a lot quicker with my settings now and understand the ISO/Shutter Speed/metering a lot more now…¬†¬† Here are a few pics along with some others around London.

Timba Harris

Timba Harris.  He played a number of instruments throughout the night, violin, guitar (an Encore no less!), keyboard, trumpet and an egg shaker

Trey

Trey Spurance.  Band Leader.  Had unfortunately injured his foot on the tour so had to sit in a rather comfy looking office chair

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The Chiefs in all their glory

Skateboard

Skateboarding next to the Thames

Rothko

I always try to get a Tate¬†visit squeezed in on a visit to London.¬† This is part of a set of paintings by Mark Rothko.¬† I really like The Tate as I can wander round in awe¬†firstly at the fantastic art on display, but secondly in amazement at some of the seemingly childish scribbles, or blank canvas’, or a couple of swirls 0n a piece of canvas (along with¬† the descriptions of what the swirl represents).¬† Some of it is utterly arty tat IMHO, but nevertheless it causes a reaction.¬† I’ll be talking about the black circle on a white piece of paper at the art museum in New York for far longer than the incredibly intricate painting of some historical figure.¬† I think some art has transcended its very purpose, with artists being almost able to get away with “anything” due to their reputation.

Shark

No trip to London is complete without a visit to the London Aquarium.  By far the best I have been to in any country.

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The very essence of this blog.  The fantastic creatures lurking in the depths.

Wandering the streets

An all photography post here.¬† I went on a beginners photography course the other day and whilst I’d previously picked up quite a bit from the net and magazines, it was good to have someone drumming the main principles of photography into you, balancing exposure, shutter speed and ISO.¬† We got ejected into the centre of Manchester during lunchtime to try out our new-found skills so here are a few I took.¬† I’ve taken a lot of “stills” over the last few months so I focused on capturing¬†people this time….

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This live drumming enchanted the little girl (and me) ……

Girl

Fantastic hair Рthis young lady was facing the other way and spun round as I took the photo.  I think she caught me!

Outdoor

Al fresco dining and al¬†fresco living¬†…….

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Sax in the Northern Quarter

A Spanish Sketch (piano lesson)

Church

A piano lesson piece from “Jazz Piano Pieces Grade 3” – A Spanish Sketch by Terry Seabrook.¬† I tried this ages ago but gave up after a while, so I’ve tried again – and its still a struggle now, especially trying to get the solo section flowing with the piece – more improvisation¬†practice required.¬† With the Spanish vibe, definitely one of my favourite pieces I’ve learnt.

A Spanish Sketch (T. Seabrook)

Party

Both pictures from Alcalali in Spain.¬† The second one is during a yearly festival, where around midnight everyone from little kids to the elderly are partying in the street until the very early hours.¬† I think we lasted till 1am…. ūüôā

The Moth (M.C.)

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The Moth (M.C.)

The idea for this track came after I recorded the sounds emerging from a building site around the corner from my flat¬†(as you do).¬† The first beat you hear is me hitting a shelf in an empty room in my house so it had a nice echo to it. ¬†I put those two parts together and hey presto, there is the start of the track.¬† This has taken my computer to breaking point, mainly as there are three distinct sections; the intro section with organ and “old bar piano”, the techy middle section (causing¬†much jumping around and even some “big-fish-little-fish-cardboard-box” type-dancing) and finally a few sinister hospital-type effects, dropping into some crunching rhythmical metal rhythms.¬† Then end!

The vocals are a few short sentences from Lev Shestov’s Potestas Clavium¬†(Metaphysical Consolation).¬† I’ve¬†just started reading this so am nowhere near understanding it.¬† It appears to be a very¬†religious theme,¬†but I interpret the sentences¬†I read out as the absolute opposite – science never believes it has understood everything, and is on a constant quest of learning and understanding.¬†¬†The use of this is completely inspired by the Secret Chiefs 3 song of the same name.

Tech specs – This track pretty much evolved and was written as I went along pulling in ideas that were influencing me at the time.¬† I’ve used my full arsenal of equipment here, layers of EZDrummer programmed drums, techno beats from the Korg Volca beats and even the live recording of a shelf being hit. I’m exploring the Korg Kross’ potential so have used a variety of patches, from the organ, piano and music box in the first section, the electronic middle section (supplemented by Mininova arpeggiator – great when you can’t think of anything else to do!) through to the crunching guitar of the end section – its been great to layer the guitars to get such a big sound.¬† Its also a challenge playing something on a keyboard that sounds like it could come from a guitar. I’ve tried my best.

For the first time I’ve also used some public domain samples including old army radio static, record slow down and a stolen (I like to say its me paying homage) sample from a classic rap album (answers on a postcard).

There is a potential for a re-mix too with a contribution from Mutate Рmoulding the soundscapes.

End.

Tweeting is Cheating

I’ve finally moved into the modern age so am diving headfirst into “the internet” and have set up a Twitter account associated with this blog. ¬†I had a Twitter account a couple of years ago but ended up¬†barely looking at it.¬† If I’m honest I didn’t quite “get it” as I didn’t particularly want to tweet anything, and there seemed to be¬†an endless stream of stuff I either wasn’t interested or didn’t understand.¬†¬†Here is a second attempt, slanted towards music, music tech and anything I upload to this blog. ¬†So…. add me / friend me or whatever it is you need to do!

Twitter

@BucketTentacles

New track and some piano lesson pieces coming soon!