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The Montane Lakeland 100 and some other stuff.

I was going to say that we are in the middle of a global pandemic, but are we in the middle?  I was hoping we might be nearer the end, but I am sure that’s wishful thinking. One thing is certain though:  running buddies have made the whole dreadful experience that bit easier.  I am the kind of person who is happy to be alone and to run alone, in fact, at times I really need the solitude, but running with a club member once in a while is a serious tonic.  So far I have ran with Lauren, Emily, Shaun, Andrew, and Jon: all amazing Ely Runners.  On top of this, Lauren organises a weekly strength and conditioning session via zoom (my attendance could be better), and fellow Ely Runner, Charlotte uses the same technology to deliver to her club colleagues a weekly training run.  As a result of plenty of lone runs, socially distant miles with club members, and the odd zoom session, I can feel myself getting fitter at last!

In the lead up to July, I signed up for the Run Around The World Challenge, in aid of the mental health charity, Mind.  A few other Ely Runners signed up also, so we have been stacking up the miles for Team East.  It has been fun to have bit of a challenge, and to compare mileage with club members:  we will also get some bling at the end.

A challenge doesn’t alway equal fun, as I found out when I signed up for and completed the Montane Lakeland Virtual 100. When pandemics aren’t spoiling things, The Lakeland 100 is understood to be incredibly demanding, with a high drop out rate: all set in the stunning Lake District.  So, let’s get one thing out of the way, signing up for a 100 mile event, to be completed at your own pace in seven days, and probably somewhere flatter than the Lake District is not going to be as tough as the real thing.  But, if you have never completed a 100 mile training week, or a virtual event expecting you to stack up that many miles in seven days, please do not underestimate it;  it is demanding in its own special way.

I signed up for the Lakeland 100 (actually 105 miles) as I had upped my mileage in July, and I wanted to give myself a little confidence boost for The Stour Valley Path Ultra (in August).  Right away I looked at my work schedule; compared mine to that of my wife, and then thought about childcare.  I worked out that I would mainly run 10 milers, twice a day.  In the end I planned it this way..

Monday early in the morning – 10 miles

Monday evening – 20 miles

Tuesday early in the morning – 10 miles.

Wednesday to Friday – an early and late 10 miles each day

Saturday morning – 5 miles

On the Monday, I rolled out of bed at 0500, did the essentials and was out of the door swiftly.  As I had eaten and hydrated well the day before, I did not bother with breakfast but did swig back some squash.  This first run made me realise how much many of us miss out on by not seeing the Fens at this stunning time of day, as at just after 0500hrs I saw the flat landscape in a different light (literally).  In one ten mile run I saw hundreds of Greylag Geese take off from the black Fen soil in the fields to my left and swoop into the Great Ouse River; I spied a Barn Owl flying low below the raised bank I was running on; a pair of Roe Deer scared the life out of me when I surprised them as I passed a pump house; I saw a huge buzzard, and all kinds of dragonfly; it was a joy.  At the 5 mile point I ran back at a bit slower than my marathon pace.  All in all, no problems.  That same evening, and I have no idea why, I thought I would have a crack at 20 miles along the same route, but this time out 10 miles before heading back the way I came.  I was sensible enough to hydrate well after the morning run, and to eat well but not too close to the actual run.  I took an ultra vest, which carries a litre of water, a sandwich and some wet wipes (you don’t need an explanation).

Stunning Fens

10 miles in the morning and 20 later the same day was tough, and I was berating myself during the final 5 miles. But the way I saw it, I had eaten away a sizeable chunk of the event on the first day.

On the Tuesday, due to work commitments I was not able to run 10 miles in the evening, which made me all the more pleased that I had churned out 30 miles the day before.  I got up at a silly hour and ran 10 miles on the same route.

There’s plenty of company on my preferred route.

The Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were all 10 miles in the morning and the same in the evening, but during these runs, I had that company I mentioned earlier from various Ely Runners.  Running with people seemed to prevent the dark thoughts; it even sped me up a little!

The views are stunning on the Great Ouse. Ely Cathedral can be seen on the horizon to the right.

By the Friday evening I had ran 100 miles in five days.  As mentioned earlier, the actual Lakeland event is 105 miles, so I had a 5 miler to do on the Saturday morning.  I was chuffed when fellow Ely Runners Charlotte and Emily offered to run this with me:  Emily chose a trail route in the utterly gorgeous Wicken.

 

Just a few distractions on the Wicken 5 miler.

There’s something worth mentioning about Emily and Charlotte, don’t ever think you can ‘out inappropriate’ them when it comes to conversations: these two are experts at covering forbidden areas: I think I sail close to the wind at times, but these two…

Once the 5 miler was done and Charlotte handed me a beer (fair enough, it was 0800hrs), I went home and reflected on what it is that’s tough about a 100 mile week: for me it is the fact that if you really want to do it, having a break isn’t an option, as it will add miles to another day.  Also, you hurt all of the time: I found I hardly slept for a week as my legs kept me awake, trying to repair themselves, but never getting a decent enough window to do so.  My amazing Ely Runners friends helped no end, as did monitoring the Strava entries of another local runner, David Mould, who ran the same virtual event with the ease that is expected of such an experienced distance runner.  Finally, I should mention that there is an amazing Lakeland100 group on Facebook:  reading their stories and following the progress of a huge number of runners was so motivating.

I enjoyed it in a weird way, and during the whole of July I stacked up 186.4 miles.   Would I do it again?  Maybe.  I will be back to report on the Stour Valley Path Ultra in mid-August!

 

parkrun

Moaning about stuff.

When running is important to you, and you can’t run, it messes with your head: well, it does mine!  At the time of writing, while we find ourselves in the Covid-19 pandemic, we are allowed out for one daily exercise, and although I am not running every day, I am running more often that I have been:  for a couple of reasons…

At the end of February, I needed to have an operation, I won’t go into details, but I will say that although it was not major surgery, it was serious enough to put me out of action for weeks.  I was told by the surgeon that I was not allowed to run, and I soon discovered that I couldn’t run, even if I had been given the all clear to do so.  I was also unable to cycle or swim, so, it wasn’t long before I started to suffer mentally.  Running has done absolute wonders for my mental health; I am not ready to talk about this in any detail, but let’s just say I can end up in some dark places if I don’t remain active.

So, I did stuff that involves other people’s running instead.  I lead the (Ely Runners) 10-week beginners’ course, so I was able to take on static roles, and as a Coach in Running Fitness (CiRF), I can say with some authority that you can learn as much about someone else’s running by standing and watching, as you can running with them: maybe more.  So, being static was a positive thing, as was keeping in touch with fellow coaches and seeing the impressive progress of the course participants.

I also volunteered at Soham Village College parkrun , an event that is really important to me, as is parkrun in general.  As part of the core team of Run Directors, nothing gives me more pleasure than to help set up in the morning and have a laugh with the amazing volunteers.

Sadly, parkrun, and the beginners course had to stop due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent Government response to it.  On top of this, as a key worker, I was able to carry on working, until I started to feel really unwell.  I went from someone who was able to run a half decent 5K or an ultra marathon, to a coughing wreck in just a few days.  Even a walk in the garden caused alarming breathlessness.  A call to NHS 111 resulted in what I dreaded and expected, self-isolation at home. My wife is also a key worker:  she and our twin boys had to self-isolate for 14 days.  Once that was over, and I eventually went for a run, I could really feel what fitness and endurance I had lost as a result of illness, self-isolation and my break due to surgery.

I have a somewhat mercurial mood at the best of times, which can be great, but it can also be problematic: running really helps, but until recently, the release running gives me was removed.  My wonderful wife, as understanding as she is, has had to put up with a grumpy and obsessional prat:  I love her for her patience.  Friends have helped; all friends, but as my blog is about running, it must be said that keeping up with running buddies via social media, Zoom, Messenger etc has been invaluable.  I believe the pandemic might even have strengthened friendships that were already pretty solid, which is often the case among running club members.  Thank you to my close running buddies.  You know who you are.

My running is slowly improving again.  I am slowing things down, worrying less about times and PBs and focussing on being able to run around Ely and the surrounding countryside: long may it continue.

Since this selfie was taken, I have had a shave and sorted the eye brow hair.
trail running, ultra running

Peddars Way 48 Mile Ultra Marathon revisited!

A year has passed since I ran The Peddars Way 48 Mile Trail for the first time.  A lot has happened on the running front since January 2019, a year in which I got 6 ultras under my belt.  The number of ultras in 2019, excessive sounding to some, might be part of the reason why the 2020 Peddars Way felt a little easier to me.  Don’t get me wrong, it was tough, but this year I crossed the line in better condition:  I felt generally happier and more relaxed throughout.

This time I had prepared fish paste and tomato sandwiches with white bread; two bottles of flattened Lucozade; a huge bag of dry roasted peanuts; Fruit Pastils and a banana.  Breakfast was porridge, some berries and a pint of tea.

Once again I ran the race with the amazing Lisa, and we were joined by fellow Ely Runner, Martin, who has now ran a couple of ultras: Peddars was about to be his furthest distance to date. We and some other Ely Runners gathered nice and early at Knettishall Heath.

Ely Runners at Knettishall Heath.

Among our group were speedy types, and people who just wanted to do their own thing, which is of course fine.  Martin, Lisa and I decided to stick together.

After Kevin (Positive Steps) had delivered the race brief, we were sent on our way.  It would be fair to say that we did not adopt as much of a run/ walk/ run strategy as we could have before the first checkpoint; but we were more disciplined than last year in that we had the odd 1 minute walk so that we could eat, and power walk up the slopes.  As I said earlier, I felt generally more confident from the outset:  the great company and gorgeous countryside definitely helped.

The Peddars Way Trail is stunning.

It was during the run after the first checkpoint that our Peddars Instant Messenger chat pinged on our phones, and we got news from fellow Ely Runner, Charlotte that she had felt the need to pull out of the race.  Charlotte is an amazing distance runner, who is training for a 100 miler!  Peddars was for her, a training run, but, when things go and feel wrong, it takes courage and discipline to know when to cut your losses.  I have always found Charlotte to be the voice of common sense; she can clearly apply her calm and logical approach to herself when necessary. We were gutted for her, but she did the right thing.

The checkpoint at Castle Acre is a confidence booster for me.  At this stage you have put about 27 miles behind you: it feels good!  There is soup at this stage!  We decided we would not spend too much time at any of the checkpoints: we agreed that we would enter, refill water bottles, grab food, say thank you and power-walk out before resuming running.  It is hard to leave the Castle Acre checkpoint, but we really didn’t hang about!  The soup was amazing!

It was on leaving this checkpoint that we took stock of how we were all feeling.  As we ran, Lisa told me that an old ankle issue had resurfaced. I asked her how painful it was on a scale of 1 to 10.  Lisa said it was about an 8!  This says all you need to know about Lisa!  Ever smiling, she will not allow something like serious pain to stop her running a further 21 miles having already ran over the marathon distance on muddy, uneven trail!  Martin had little to report on the problems front other than some stiffness in his legs.  My problems were to make themselves known at around mile 32, at which point we found ourselves at the bottom of a long hill.  I had eaten and hydrated very well the day before, and, having recalled the issues I had experienced last year, I snacked well in the early stages of this race.  At the checkpoint we had just left, I took full advantage of the amazing soup on offer, I dipped a jam sandwich into mine!  It was OK!  For whatever reason , as we climbed the hill, I developed tunnel vision, and broke into a serious sweat that seemed unrelated to the effort at hand.  I had to eat some fish paste sarnies (don’t judge me), as well as some dry roasted peanuts, and I necked some flat Lucozade.  It is hard to tell which of these medicines sorted me out: maybe it was all three, but I recovered swiftly and soon we were on our way again.

Lisa. One of the most calm and positive people to run a long way with!

It would be fair to to say that after 30 miles, things start to get a bit tougher!  My feet started to hurt and I had those tell tale bruised and aching feelings under several toenails.  My right hamstring started to tighten, no doubt compensating for a very old injury in my left leg.  Lisa’s ankle issue persisted, and Martin, still ailment-free until this point, reported feeling some pain in his feet.  We pressed on.

Things got a bit trickier here and there from about mile 32 onwards, with the running getting more technical, the tracks muddier and more uneven, and the gloom of the fading daylight making it a bit more of a challenge.  The three of us just kept pressing on.  We got chatting to several runners, mainly due to the odd thing that happens whereby you keep passing people, only for them to catch you up, and for this to be constantly repeated.  One chap we were passing overheard me talking about how much I would love a Snickers Bar (Marathon to those of us old enough to resent the change in name), he went on to produce a bag of chocolate from his pack, which he happily shared with us!  Among the selection was the chocolate I wanted! Never has a Snickers/ Marathon tasted better!  This chap was anxious about the cut off time; we reassured him that he would make it (he did).  Not sure if you will ever read this, Brian, but thank you.

With Martin, a tough and relaxed distance runner.

Checkpoint 3 is at about 34.25 miles in.  It is hosted by Bungay Black Dog Running Club.  As we approached this point I remembered with fondness the tea, coffee and hot sausage rolls the group of volunteers provides.  Enough said – they are amazing!  Talking of the Black Dog Crew, we encountered two of them again having not seen them since the June 2019 Norfolk 100K ultra.  Jules and Rachel!  It was great to see them again!

Great to bump into Jules and Rachel from Bungay Black Dog Runners.

So, the final approximate 14 miles from checkpoint 3: this is where things got tough.  Martin, Lisa and I made quite a team by giving each other loads of encouragement.  Poor light to pitch black set in very quickly, and with head torches, we pressed on with the tough bit.  In order to make sure we kept covering ground, and given the muddy, unstable trail and pitch black conditions, we agreed to bursts of 90 seconds of running, punctuated with power-walks.  This worked well.  About 5 miles from the coast we hooked up with a lady who was running alone, who decided to stick with our regime until about a mile from the coast.

Before we knew it, we were running the familiar downhill trail with hedges claustrophobically hemming us in from both sides.  At this stage you can easily touch the hedges on other side by raising your outstretched arms.  Lisa shouted out that she had seen a pair of orange eyes peering back at her through a gap in the hedge; whatever the creature was, if it had given chase, we could not have ran any faster!

When we finished the long narrow path towards Holme-next-the-Sea, we were greeted by glow sticks throughout the village, guiding us to the part of the the race we had been longing for: the run up to the beach.

There was a lovely moment as we headed towards the sea.  Martin’s young son, Thomas was running alongside us:  his family had travelled via train and bus to be there.  It was clear that Martin was elated by this, as it was unexpected!  Suddenly we hit sand, and just like last year, we could hear the roar of the sea, and feels its spray, but we couldn’t see it.  We all ripped a page each from the book hanging from the post, and took a selfie.  It is necessary in this race to remove a page from a book, hanging from a post on the beach; this is presented to race officials back at the Village Hall as proof that you have completed Peddars!

Pages from ripped from the book!  We were joined by Martin’s son, Thomas!

The run back to the Village Hall seemed to take forever!  We were all hurting, but adrenaline and pure joy had kicked in, blocking out anything that might have stopped us from running.

Eventually we could see the Village Hall ahead and on our left.  It was quite a moment when we ran inside and over the chip timing mat on the floor.  Just like last year, we were greeted with cheers from the volunteers, and from the runners who had already finished.  My mate, Steve was there with our change of clothes, and Ely Runner, Allistair Berry was there volunteering!  Steve commented that I was in a much better state than I was at the end of the race last year!  I was really pleased to hear this!  Medals were presented to us, and then we attacked the beans on toast!  The hot mug of tea was amazing.  I didn’t care about modesty at this point, I just changed into my track suit there and then (poor people).

At the time of writing, it is the Monday after Peddars.  My legs hurt more than they did the day after the race, and my feet and toenails are in a sorry state!  I have eaten tons and the hunger is only just easing off!  It has all been worth it!  See you in 2021, Peddars Way!

parkrun, trail running

Soham Village College parkrun and the Ely Runners Christmas 18 miler.

After a heavy October, I have kicked back a bit:  I have ran way fewer miles in November, and yet carried on eating at the same rate.  I have kicked back too much, I have gained a few pounds (not a major problem) and have definitely lost some fitness.  My fault!  I have some serious training to do in early 2020.

I have just two things to report: the new Soham Village College parkrun, and the Ely Runners annual Christmas 18 miler (oh, and maybe a little review of the year).

 

Soham Village College parkrun.

parkrun, is, as we all know, is a global phenomenon, and thanks to two fanatics, it has come to another part of our little corner of the world.  Andrew Scarlett and Jon Price discussed Soham Village College parkrun ages ago, it has been a real slow burn in its planning, and with the help of a core team of Run Directors (of which I am one) and volunteers, a trial event took place on the 16th November 2019.  We are now at event number 4.

Some of the Soham Village College parkrun volunteers. It only works because of people like this.

I have enjoyed working on the social media and promotion for this parkrun, and with the help of Neighbourhood Cares Soham, we managed to reach out to the local community.  It is really early days, but so far, we have had enough volunteers to cover all of the roles needed to allow parkrun to happen each week, and we have had a respectable turnout of people to walk/ jog/ run the events.

Two of our superb, regular volunteers.

Soham Village College parkrun is an interesting one, with some twists and turns, and time spent on the concrete of the College grounds as well as on gently undulating fields. It may not be a PB course, but it is a fun and varied one, which will certainly help with anyone’s 5K times.  Come along and see what you think!  It’s brilliant!

 

The Ely Runners 2019 Christmas 18 miler. 

This is one of the BEST events in the club calendar!  Members can choose to run from Woodditton to Ely (cross country), which is just over 18 miles, or a couple of shorter options. All distances are demanding, mainly due to mud, the undulating terrain and the fact that it really is a bit of a technical run.

Ely Runners gathering at Woodditton. December 15th 2019.

This year I ran the best part of the route with running buddy, Emily.  We covered the trail though woodland from Woodditton (ups and downs, tree roots, mud) and along the amazing Devil’s Dyke, which gives stunning views of the surrounding countryside, and requires you to run along a very high path lined in clumps either side with Hawthorn; Blackthorn; Wild Rose bushes; thistles and general all-round prickly stuff!  It’s great!  The wind made the run a little more demanding, but not as much as the mud and puddles as the terrain turned more ‘Fenland-like’.  We met up with Charlotte, who wore the BEST festive costume (see if you can guess who she is from the pic above)!  Sadly, as we got to the second food and drink station, Emily decided to cut her run short as she was not feeling so great.  We tried some sublime Rolo Vodka and Sloe Gin, provided by the amazing Claire, and then we carried on.  For the rest of the run, we stuck with Martin (who I ran the Kings Forest Ultra with) and Allistair, another amazing Ely Runner.

Me and the brilliant Emily!

I found that the Sloe Gin and the Rolo Vodka led to a slightly elated feeling as I took in the views and enjoyed the banter with my fellow runners; however, the drinks did repeat on me a fair bit!  Speaking of banter, there was a lot of it and I’m not sure it should be documented here: needless to say at times it was controversial (it often is when Charlotte is around)!

It should go on record though, that after Emily had ran off to find undergrowth and bushes, behind which she could ‘spend a penny’, she ended up with loads of those burs (hooked seeds) in her underwear: upon rejoining the trail she looked somewhat flushed and loudly announced ‘I’ve got seeds in my under-crackers!’  Emily, it would have been wrong of me not to record this for posterity.

At the first food/ drink station with Charlotte, Kyle and a ‘donkey’.

Once we got to Ely (and that last slog with the Cathedral in sight is tough), it was time for a shower and slap up roast lunch, organised by the Ely Runners Social Secretary and superb running buddy, Lauren Thomas.  All in all a brilliant event!

 

2019

It’s been a crazy year for me, with many highlights and personal achievements: 26 races (including my first duathlon); getting very close to my 100th parkrun; delivering my first one-to-one coaching sessions; delivering my first track session; completing 6 ultra marathons (and getting my Positive Steps Grand Slam tankard); winning the Ely Sporting Hero Award (The Ely Hero Awards) as well as the England Athletics Regional Volunteer Award (inclusion category); supporting people with a learning disability and/ or autism to enjoy parkrun.  Hard work like this doesn’t happen in a vacuum: it requires support and understanding from loved ones, great running buddies and an amazing club.  I have loved 2019!

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No more now until Peddars Way in January 2020!  Merry Christmas!

ultra running

Thetford Forest 10K Night Run, Thurlow 10 Mile and The Stort30 Ultra.

October has been a silly month.  Too many longer distance events all inside four weeks:  it won’t happen again.  That being said, I have learnt something about myself: I think I am slowly becoming conditioned to the longer runs, as I do not seem to require the recovery (time-wise) that is often quoted for longer runs.  For example, I ran the Kings Forest Ultra, and with no running in between, I felt really strong at the Thetford Forest 10K Night Run.  Less than a week later I was able to run the Thurlow 10 Mile race, and again, I felt good!  Then, just a week later, I ran the Stort30 Ultra, having volunteered as 25 minute pacer at parkrun the day before.  The rule of thumb is one thing, and I recognise the need for rest, but, there is a lot to be said for becoming conditioned, and knowing your own body, and what works for you!

Thetford Forest 10K Night Trail

Ely Runners: James, Clare, Lauren, me and Nicola at the Thetford Forest 10K Night Trail.

The Thetford Forest 10K Night Trial was special for one main reason: it was Ely Runner Lauren’s return to events for the first time after a long period of injury.  Lauren of Girl Running Late fame, has had to endure plantar fasciitis.  Lauren might not think this, but she has tackled her injury with patience and self-discipline, at least outwardly:  I am sure it has been a bit more complex closer to home.  Any way, she was back, and raring to go!  Lauren made it clear she was sticking with me, and I made it clear to her that she should not do this given I had ran The Kings Forest Ultra only days before.  Once that waffle was out of the way, and we had posed for pics with other Ely Runners, off we set!  Lauren was strong from the offset, and in her typical style, she pelted along, occasionally checking I was still there.  I am under no illusions that I was faster than I have been before; I know Lauren was taking it easier than usual;  but it felt good to cross the line just behind such an amazing runner; with her taking the third lady position; and considering I had ran the Kings Forest Ultra just days before.  The Thetford Forest 10K night trail is a really fun race!  Do it in 2020!

Thurlow 10

Each year, Haverhill Running Club organise and host the Thurlow 5 and 10: a choice of a 5 or 10 mile race through picturesque Suffolk Countryside, starting and finishing in the village of my childhood: Thurlow.

I first ran this race in 2016, and I know that I will run it every year until I can do so no more.  I love the atmosphere, the way Haverhill Running Club encourages everyone, and of course the fact that I get to run through my old stomping ground.  It is pure nostalgia for me.

A couple of years back, I agreed to run the event with an old primary school friend, Jacqui.  In fact, Jacqui was my girlfriend at that tender age: but she doesn’t like to dwell on this!  The first time we ran the Thurlow 10 together we chatted away and took our time.  Fast forward to the most recent race: Jacqui and I found ourselves stood next to each other at the start line, and, although we had not agreed to run together, when we set off, we found ourselves running side-by-side and at the same pace.  We commented on how we were running too quickly, and then it occurred to me just how fast Jacqui had become over just a couple of years.  We stuck together for the whole race, and it is a tough one: undulating – with hills that are long and steady rather than steep.  We had a natter, but there was the understanding that we might need to keep quiet when it got tough.  We talked way less than we did the first time we ran together, as our pace this time was not at all conducive to conversation!

The race took us from Great Thurlow into Little Thurlow;  with bit of trail along the river Stour into the hamlet of Little Bradley;  uphill to Noarley Moat Farm and along tracks into the village of Cowlinge.  A bit of a loop took us back the way we came until there was a long sweeping downhill back into the Thurlows.  I was really pleased to see an old school friend, Neil Mustoe (Haverhill Running Club), who was marshalling out in Cowlinge:  what a superb and encouraging gentleman he is.

Speedy Jacqui, having aced the Thurlow 10.

I had a quick think about how I would tell Jacqui how I felt as we both executed a sprint finish.  I did not want to sound in any way patronising, so I told her exactly this, and how amazed I was at her progress over the past couple of years.  Jacqui seemed chuffed with my observations, but nowhere near as chuffed as she was with her overall pace and race!  She really was bloody amazing!  Oh, and I won a spot prize!  See you again next year, Haverhill Running Club!

Stort30

I then spent just under a week resting.  I did my usual parkrun pacing on the Saturday, but other than that, I did nothing:  I ran not one step.  I went though all kinds of anxieties in the lead up to the Strort30  (a 30 mile trail race in Bishops Stortford along the River Stort).  I entered this race ages ago, and all I could think of by the Saturday night before the event was just how many miles-worth of racing I had done so far in October 2019: too many:  but I was coping.

I ran this race with fellow Ely Runners, Andrew and Emily.  Emily drove us to Bishops Stortford at a silly time in the morning, having laid on a bit of a 90s play list on her car stereo (it was interesting and amusing).  We all reminded each other the night before of the fact that the clocks had to go back an hour.  The following image should tell you who ballsed up the necessary clock action.  I will leave this here….

Clocks back balls up.

The Stort30 is a super-friendly and well-organised event laid on by Challenge Running.  It incorporates the ‘UK trail Running Championships’ Middle Distance Race; something we become all to aware off when we looked at many of the other runners at the start: there were some serious looking people:  the kind of people we knew would see this race as a bit of a walk in the park!  All we cared about was finishing, and given this race had half-way and overall cut-off times, this focussed our minds somewhat!

The route was a glorious run along canal and riverside, often on track, but at times on uneven and very muddy footpaths.  I loved the slippery mud, Emily hated it, and Andrew, in typical Andrew style wasn’t too fussed either way!  There was a generous number of aid/ food stations, staffed by really friendly, chatty and helpful volunteers! One of these stations was home to the self-confessed most-inappropriate volunteers.  We won’t go into detail, but they were funny and superb!  Emily had in her ultra vest a stash of boiled new potatoes in butter and salt:  this made me like her even more than I usually do, and during the whole event I got two potatoes from her!

We agreed on running the first 15 miles and then adopting some kind of run/walk/run strategy on the return (this was an out and back course).  The first half went well, although the muddy parts of the river path were really hard work, but the weather was amazing, as were the views!  The canal stretches were gorgeous with the quaint locks and gorgeous little cottages.

Half way, and Mr. Scarlett maintains the rabbit ears tradition.

Andrew is pretty understated and matter of fact about all events, although this is not to say he is not enthusiastic, and anyone who knows him well will know he loves a chat! When Andrew wasn’t chatting with Emily and me, he pulled ahead for a while to chat with people ahead of us:  legend!

During the longer distance races and training runs I have ran with Emily, I have found her to be superb company, very funny, and at the same time, mercurial in her moods.  Emily will tell you just how she is feeling during an ultra, sparing no detail, and unapologetic for her language.  It is brilliant!  But, it makes me very mindful of how bossy I can be when there is a distance to cover, and especially when there are cut off times to consider!  To this end, I carefully dictated the run/walk/run strategy on the return journey, which was, for the best part a 4:1 (four minutes run, one minute walk).  This worked well, but I was mindful of how acutely Emily was feeling the eternity of the four and the transiency of the one!  I studied Emily’s facial expression and body language carefully before each announcement of a run section.  I would not want to give the impression that Emily is in any way unpleasant:  far from it, she is lovely!  She just wears her heart on her sleeve during ultras!  Ultras are tough!  I place Emily in with a handful of the very toughest and mentally stubborn people I know.  Although equally tough, Andrew is a different creature: whether he found it tough or not, he gave me the impression he had just popped out to post a letter!

The last few miles of this event did drag on somewhat.  It was not hilly, but at times it was a technical run, with tree roots and very wet mud on uneven paths.  But, we got that usual second wind, and as we approached the finish, the fact that we had to do a lap of a field before the crossing the finish line was made all the more palatable by the fact that there was a still a crowd out, shouting and cheering for us, even though we were among the later finishers in an event that included some fast runners!  Crossing the line with Andrew and Emily was amazing, and after a cuppa, a clean up and a hobble back to the car; we found ourselves chuffed with the shirts and medals, but more importantly, happy with what we had shared together.

A special mention should go out to the organisers and volunteers of the Stort30!  Brilliant event!  Do enter it!  I will be in 2020!

Stort30 happy finishers!

What next!  Nothing major for a while.  I need a period of fewer miles.  More another time!

ultra running

The Kings Forest 50K Ultra.

The Kings Forest Ultra (by Positive Steps) deserves a blog entry of its own!  I learned a good few things!

From the outset, it must be said, that like all events organised and laid on by Positive Steps, this one was well-organised, the course was well marked-out, the check points were superb, and the marshals and other volunteers were happy and friendly!

The Kings Forest is just a few miles from Bury St Edmunds, and the ultra comprises of two loops taking you to the marathon distance, and then a smaller loop to make the route 31 miles.  It is not the most challenging course in the world, but stone and mud paths with regular tree roots and other hazards becomes all the more demanding over a longer distance!

My personal view (I am only a few ultras in now, so I am no expert) is that once a certain distance is covered, and one group of muscles has had it, the gait alters and a new set of muscles gets its turn for a battering:  I really felt this during the Kings Forest Ultra!  A lot!

 

Me with Martin Lewis, fellow Ely Runner and ultra mentalist.

Fellow Ely Runner, Martin Lewis and I travelled over to this event together, and it became clear that we would have a stab at the race together.  We talked tactics and had a long discussion about run/ walk strategies.  We agreed that we both still find that it doesn’t feel right to adopt a run/ walk approach right from the outset, and yet more experienced and superior ultra runners than us use this technique with huge success.  We agreed to give it a go.  When Martin and I set off, we noted that a fellow Ely Runner (who has completed a huge number of marathons and ultras) was adopting what looked like a 4 minute run/ 1 minute walk approach from the off.  A little bit of reading after the event helped me to appreciate just how sensible a run/ walk approach right from the start is.  However, Martin  and I did not start start run/ walking right way.  How rubbish are we!?

The trail was not demanding in terms of hills; it was all pretty flat apart from slight and long inclines and declines.  It was clear that Martin loves downhill stretches: he used this to experiment with speed, and it was impressive.  I, being a bit of an old fart, use down hill stretches to rest, let my arms hang and to lower the heart rate a bit.

Amazing people! Lisa and Kyle!

At this point, it should be mentioned that at the start it was a huge boost for me to see fellow Ely Runners: Peter, Lisa and Kyle, who had all volunteered at the event.  What amazing people!  Martin and I got a huge kick out of seeing them twice at a checkpoint they were stationed at on the big loop.  Lisa gave me a packet of Love Heart sweets!  She knows I always have them on me at an ultra:  she is wonderful, and my main ultra running buddy!

The first loop went well, with Martin and I covering it having executed a decent pace, and with relatively little effort.  Things got much tougher as we approached around mile 21 in the second loop.  We had well before this stage agreed to adopt a ‘rapid’ mile/ one minute walk strategy, and it really worked!  Don’t get me wrong, enough runners had remained ahead of us, and some overtook us, but the speed of our mile sections was rapid, and it meant we overtook people!

We ran and chatted with fellow Ely Runner and Ely Tri Club member,  Naomi Course.  She, Martin and I talked about triathlons and duathlons for a while.  Naomi has a very consistent pace; it was great to meet her!

Martin and I ate well, with him eating better than I did (I still really struggle with eating during ultras, preferring to eat loads in the two days in the lead up).  Martin ate his vegetarian wraps and scotch eggs and I plumped for the usual spam sarnies!

Cheesy feet!

Then there was the cheesy feet!  A bit like cheese scones, but thin and in the shape of feet!  They are a delight, and I have encountered them on the LDWA events only before the Kings Forest!

Like I have said, the second half was tough, with me thinking Martin was dictating the pace, and with him having asked me to organise and time the run/ walk strategy.  There is no doubt this was a team effort.  We were a superb team.  It was a joy to cross the chip timer strip at mile 26, and there was a fair bit of crowd support given we were in a forest!  At the mile 26 point, with a 5 mile loop ahead of us, we were feeling good!  I necked a whole bottle of Lucozade (flattened the night before and left in my bag in a designated area) and ditched my ultra vest, and off we went!  Martin had to bolster me up a few times in the final 5 miles, as I felt my mood dip:  we had discussed how we had passed runners who had clearly had enough and were suffering physically and mentally: we were doing OK at this stage!

I had some twinges in my left calf, and this concerned me a lot!  But for some reason, the pain moved around my left leg as we progressed through the final loop, as if it my body was sharing its protest, and not allowing one area to take on all of the grief.  There was a debate going on in my head at around mile 29, and the side for the prosecution, with the argument that I am an idiot, was winning!  Martin was the man when it came to leadership near the end!  He reminded me of where we were at mile 30 and just how near we were to finishing.  I recall giving him a little push in the small of his back and telling him that I insisted that he went over the finish line before me, and I thought as he pulled away what an amazing runner Martin has become from his beginnings on the Ely Runners Beginners’ course in 2018:  he has become a stronger runner than me in many ways, and this sits just right with me.  Top bloke.

The finish line was superb, and I had been looking forward to it, as it was time to collect my Grand Slam tankard for completing three Positive Steps ultras in the year.  I was greeted at the finish line, presented with my tankard and photographs were taken.

Being presented with the Grand Slam tankard for the Peddars Way 48 miler; the Norfolk 100K and the Kings Forest 50K.

I would like to thank Martin for being a superb running buddy throughout this race: we were both pleased with our performance, and we helped each other out no end.

What next? The Thetford Forest Night Trail, and the superb Thurlow 10 miler! More soon!

 

 

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trail running, ultra running

The 2019 Flower of Suffolk

I have been looking forward to the 2019 Flower of Suffolk 18 miler ever since the same Ely Runners crew ran the SVP50!   Charlotte, Emily and Jon are superb running buddies, and I knew that this event would be a laugh as well putting us through some effort as well as exposing us to some gorgeous countryside.

This particular event, laid on on by the Norfolk & Suffolk LDWA (I think this one was more a result of the efforts of the Norfolk LDWA) was a great route, and we opted for the 18 mile option, perhaps just as well given the weather on the day!  There is no way to describe how wet it was, it went from torrential to heavy and back all day: with no breaks.

I am mortified at the error I made in my poor preparation for this event.  It rained for a short while at the Ely Tri Club Ultra the week before, so I packed away and zipped up a wet and perhaps slightly sweaty HIGHER STATE waterproof shell/ jacket, and left it in the boot of my car.  I decided to open it in the car on the way to the Flower of Suffolk:  the aroma was far from pleasant, and way from flower-like.  I am not sure Charlotte, Jon and Emily will ever get over it.  I discovered small patches of mould inside the jacket:  it was not good.  I am ashamed.  Rookie error.

We rocked up at Walberswick Village Hall (on the Suffolk Coast) nice and early, but we were still a few minutes late as poor Jon had had to negotiate the most treacherous of driving conditions; so bad that on the way there we got to the stage where we all felt that the event must have been cancelled.  On arrival, we hurriedly made ourselves known to the friendly organisers, and once given our checkpoint cards, we were away.  I had little choice but to wear the horrid jacket, but we were soon to discover that the weather, and even worse smells would soon neutralise the offence I had caused so far.

The start.

We stood in the porch of the Village Hall for ages, discussing the route, swearing about the rain and setting up watches: I know these were all delay tactics!  None of us could believe the state of the weather; and we all knew it was going to be like this for the duration.  Off we set!

It was hard not to be introspective, to look at the ground just in front of us, and to deny the distance we had to cover in such conditions.  Very early on, I recall commenting to Jon that were it not for the rain, taking a little look round would confirm that it was a gorgeous route.  Jon was not ready for such positivity!  I felt that maybe in some way he blamed me for us all being there in the pouring rain:  it was in fact Emily’s fault this time!

The route took as along the edge of the Dunwich Forest, and for a while just inside it.  The path around and the through the Forest was challenging in that it was undulating, and at times we were just below knee level in water.  The route was not coping with the sudden amount of rain.  After a while, we gave up avoiding the really deep stretches of water, and ran through them: you can’t get wetter than wet!

Dry compared with what was to come.

We had the sea to our left for the first half of the route, and although we only got glimpses of it, when we did, it was amazing!  Loud, rough and scary to see!  At a few points along the route were pig farms, higher up than us and flooding into our path!  This made for interesting and smelly wading at several points!

We had some great chats with staff at the aid stations!  It was raining very heavily at the first check point, with the poor volunteers holding onto the marquee/ tent shelter, as it was threatening to blow away!  At another aid station, we perhaps outstayed our welcome and ate a lot of date balls (amazing); crisps and fruit.  The aid station of the day was being looked after by brilliant people with amazing Norfolk accents, who had prepared home-made jam and butter on brioche: we could not leave it alone! We liberated a lot of the food at this station!

Very brief respite from the rain!

I have tried to identify a ringleader for depths of inappropriateness to which we plummeted ‘conversation-wise’ during this run:  I could point to Charlotte, but I am not sure that would be fair, as we all covered subject matter that shocked one another, and maybe ourselves, but it certainly helped us get through what would have been, on any other day a pretty straightforward 18-miler.  But, due to the very challenging conditions, we were on our feet for a long time and we needed to get each other through it.

Controversial subject matter (and singing 90s House Music to each other) got us through it.  Emily reminded me of ‘Smart E’s Sesame’s Treet (by singing it whilst running through pigs’ slurry).  I love her for this, and for throwing me back to 1992, just for a few moments!

The final stretch!

For me, the stretch at the end was the highlight: we were on the beach, and the sea was crazy!  We all managed a final push back into the Village Hall, to discover the whole floor had been ‘tarped’ and the kitchen as laying on tea as well as beans on toast with grated cheese!  We all ate and drank whilst quietly steaming, before posing for a photo and then using the very small toilets to get changed into dry track suits:  let’s just say Jon and I got to know each other a little better, and we laughed” a LOT!

Wet, full of beans, and happy!

What an amazing, low-key, friendly and well-organised event by the Norfolk & Suffolk LWDA. I do hope Charlotte, Emily and Jon have another stab at this in 2020! I will be; and I almost hope for rain!

Round Norfolk Relay, ultra running

Round Norfolk Relay and The Ely Tri Club Ultra Marathon

 

The 2019 Round Norfolk Relay

My last blog entry covered a bit of a disastrous training run on Devil’s Dyke in Cambridgeshire:  I am pleased to start this entry with what I regard as a successful contribution to my club’s entry in the 2019 Round Norfolk Relay (RNR).  This will be offset by an enjoyable but far from straightforward Ely Tri Club Ultra (more on that later).

Within my running club is a small, dedicated team, who’s task it is to put together and organise runners for each leg of this popular relay event.  Back when the team was being put together, it seemed like a great idea to take on leg number 12:  the longest stetch at 19.67 miles.  The time to actually run it came round very quickly, and the nerves really kicked in;  much more than usual.  I suspect this is because of the awareness of the efforts of team mates covering the other legs of the race.  Not only this:  leg 12 is the longest, it requires a steady and rapid pace (not power walking up hills as in ultra marathons), and it has to be started at about half past midnight with support from team members following you in a van.

Given I have three young sons, who I could not expect to keep quiet while I tried to sleep during usual hours, I decided to sleep at my parent’s home on the Saturday afternoon, having already volunteered as a steady pacer at Littleport parkrun that morning.  I am not overly keen on going to bed at night, let alone during the day, so I did not get a lot of sleep, but, given my Mum was involved, I got fed very well!

Fast forward to 22:30 hours on the Saturday night, I found myself in my car in a field in Scole, on the Norfolk/ Suffolk border.  There were other runners around already, and some friendly RNR volunteers to chat with.  I sat and used my iPhone to check the progress of the Ely Runners in the legs just before me, and then I jogged the first mile of my leg, just to check that I knew the way out of Scole before the long, straight stretch of around 16 miles.

It wasn’t long before Ely Runners volunteers, Caroline and Michelle showed up to reassure me, and to transport my car to the end of my leg.  Even though we had a fair wait until it was time for the baton to be handed over to me, it came along quite quickly. I was expected to finished my leg with a time of 2:57:02, requiring of me a constant 9-minute mile pace over just under 20 miles.  Fellow Ely Runner (and Michelle’s hubby), Allistair run down the road towards me (looking very strong), handed to me the baton, and I was off, with the van following just behind me.

Me running leg 12 of the RNR. The blurring was not caused by my speed.

The support van following me was being driven by Ely Runners, James and Andy, and in the back was Lisa (who I ran Peddars Way and the Norfolk 100 with).  They made it clear I should gesture if I needed anything, and apart from me asking for a drink three times, and for the occasional chat and word of support from them, they left me to it.

I was running under 9 minute miles from the off, and I put this down to a fast start (as is often the case), but, it turned out I had sub-9 minute miles in me all the way!  I did NOT expect this, and although I got overtaken by plenty of leg 12 competitors, it was a great feeling for me to overtake a couple of runners!  The middle part of the race felt good, with me knocking out my fastest pace.  Running at night in the cool suited me, and as I don’t really do loneliness, and like solitary running, the dark and quiet was just fine.  The last couple of miles was tough given I had been pushing myself, but once I could see fellow Ely Runner, Matthew, waiting for the baton,  I managed a sprint finish.  James handed me my medal, and the van disappeared, following a rapid Matthew!

Caroline was at Thetford, the end of my leg, to give me a hug (poor lady – I was really quite sweaty) and to hand me my car keys.

The drive home was interesting: I had pushed this race hard, and I had completed it inside my predicted time (just).  I was very dehydrated, and I necked a lot of water during a steady drive home.  I pulled over twice in Newmarket to vomit by the roadside.  When I got home I snuck indoors and got into the bed in the spare room, with the cold shivers.  It took me just under a week to properly recover.  It was a performance I was happy with, even if it did hurt!  Special thanks to the Ely Runners organisers/ van support and club volunteers, as well as the other leg runners.  I can’t wait for the 2020 RNR, but I do not want leg 12 again!

RNR bib and bling!

The 2019 Ely Tri Club Ultra Marathon

I really did prepare for the 41 mile Ely Tri Club Ultra.  I slept well, ate sensibly and hydrated adequately for 24 hours in the lead up to the event.  The race was from outside Ely Cathedral to not far from Jesus Green in Cambridge (and back the same way).  I was pleased to be running this event with ultra buddy, Lisa, and fellow Ely Runner, Martin (his first ultra).

It all started off just fine after a natter with various marshals and fellow runners; if not a tad too quickly for my liking.  I noticed that it was not that far after we left Ely and headed along the river that a couple of people had adopted a very early run/ walk strategy.  There is nothing wrong with that:  am a well aware of how superbly it can work and how quickly distances can be covered with this approach.  We did not take this approach until the second half of the race, and we got to Cambridge and the half way point (20.5 miles) pretty quickly, having stopped only briefly at the superb aid stations.  It should be noted that Ely Tri Club, who have just taken this race on, organised it amazingly:  the marshals were caring; funny and attentive; the course was well-marked out and the aid stations were plentiful and generously stocked.  Martin was great company (as expected), and Lisa, who I am now quite used to, was predictably smiley, reassuring and enthusiastic.  The weather on this run oscillated between exposed sun, and heavy rain, with a pretty constant wind (in our faces on the way out).  It was OK.

Things started to go a little wrong towards the end of the first half: I could feel aching around the site of an old leg break.  I have had some metal work in my left tibia for over 20 years now.  It does not play up often, but when it does, it really can slow me down. This time, it was not about to go away, and this, coupled with some low-level nausea from overindulgence in full fat coke, placed a dark cloud over me for a good proportion of the second half.

With Ely Runners, Lisa and Martin at the start of the Ely Tri Club Ultra

I noted at between 33 and 35 miles, Martin started to question the sanity of running this far.  If this was him edging into the mental struggles that arise on ultras, he was very dignified and calm about it.  I had started to complain regularly and quite openly, with a marked deterioration in my language.  As usual, Lisa, who also struggled in the second half, had positive things to say and kept feeding us doses of that smile!  When there was around 5 miles to go, Martin made it clear that a run/walk approach this close to the end was no longer for him, as he wanted it to over and done with:  with that he pulled away.  About two miles from the finish, Lisa announced that she had got a second wind, and she also pulled ahead.  Although I did not have it in me to keep up with Lisa (my knee and my guts would not permit it), Lisa being slightly in front of me did keep me going, especially given I could see two other runners in the distance behind me.  I decided I wanted to keep them there.  Cherry Hill in Ely is the last thing you want at the end of a 41 mile ultra, but once at the top and through The Porta, it felt amazing to run along The Gallery and left to the finish on Palace Green.

Look closely. Martin at the end of the road not far from Wicken Fen.

The Ely Tri Club team and volunteers really made a fuss of us at the end, and they looked after me given how wobbly I was as I approached their tent.  I was given a deck chair and a drink and I was watched for a few minutes.  What a superb event!  What superb running buddies!  A huge congratulations to Martin for his first ultra performance in tough conditions!

Post 41 miles: soaked and knackered.

Like an idiot,  I have the Flower of Suffolk 18 miler just a week after the Ely Tri Ultra, then the Kings Forest Ultra:  we shall see.

Uncategorized

Devil’s Dyke, the brilliant Bedford Running Festival, and the England Athletics award.

I have ultras to run soon: the Ely Tri Club Ultra this month and the Kings Forest and Stort 30 next month: plenty to focus the mind.  Things don’t always go well!  Read on!

When things go badly. 

I am the kind of person who doesn’t always learn from mistakes the first time round.  Once before I have ventured out on a longish run, seemingly well-prepared and equipped, only to realise that it has gone wrong due to heat, and poor hydration the day before.  I allowed this to happen again, in a big way over the recent bank holiday weekend.  The decision to run from Burwell to Woodditton and back along Devil’s Dyke was a little last-minute.  I am given to understand that we had record temperatures for an August Bank Holiday in the UK, and I decided to leave my run until late morning.  My thinking was that it is important to condition oneself to hot days, as you can’t choose the weather on the day of an ultra, so I ran it later on this baking day:  the reality is I am lazy and wanted to lay in bed a bit longer!

I adore the Devil’s Dyke run:  it is scenic, quiet, and I have never failed to see amazing wildlife.  The run to Woodditton was fine, although I was very hot, and had drank over half of the water I had in my ultra vest at this halfway point.  There is a garden with plum trees in Woodditton and the owners had left a sign out saying ‘help yourself’.  I ate three of the most sweet and watery out of season plums, and began to feel better almost right away.  This did not last long.

Burwell to Woodditton along Devil’s Dyke: very little shade!

The run back was starting to feel very difficult, and this surprised me a little, as I had only ran just over 6.5 miles, and I am used to greater distances.  I was drinking what was left of my water very quickly, and yet I could not satiate my thirst:  this, together with a slight stagger in my gait and a sense of dread I could not quite put my finger on started to really concern me.  It was at mile ten that I realised I might be in trouble, as I had water left, but was starting to feel quite unwell.  I was covered up enough from the sun and had applied sun cream and block where needed: but wow, it was hot!  The final three miles turned into a kind of run/ jog/ walk affair – and I hate to walk when out on a run.  Two miles out from where I had parked my car and I seriously thought about sitting in the shade of a bush and calling someone to come and rescue me; but, being a stubborn chap (or a fool), I decided to press on.  I was staggering like I was drunk when I got to the 13 mile point.

When I got to my car, I had already drank all of my water.  I started the engine and got the air conditioning going, and found a bottle of Lucozade in the boot that I had decanted and flattened and put back in the bottle for the Stour Valley path.  I didn’t care if it was off: it went straight down the hatch!  I then sat in the car and cooled down before driving into Burwell to purchase a lot of full-fat Coke!  I necked it all and sat in the car for another ten minutes before driving home.  I felt rough for the rest of the day, and I genuinely feel that were I further out than three miles from my car, I would have been in serious trouble.  It was an unusually hot day (proper hot), but I am sure it was down to poor hydration the day before.  Maybe I will learn this time!

The 2019 Bedford Running Festival.

I ran the 10K at this running event last year with top running buddy, Lauren girlrunninglate.  It is known for the superb atmosphere, pleasant route and amazing medals!  No different this year!  Sadly, Lauren was not able to make the 10K and Half Marathon she had booked, as she has been nursing an injury (which she was and is gutted about), but at least there were other Ely Runners to enjoy the weekend with.  I decided to treat the 10K as a tempo run, as I did not want to do anything silly given some important events I have coming up, but mainly as I was due to run the half marathon the next morning.  I really enjoyed the run and the route, and I was pleased enough with my time given what I wanted from the race.  Fellow Ely Runner, Chris and his wife did amazingly, as did the superb Charlotte, who posed with me to help Erdinger Alkoholfrei boost their sales!

Sarah and Chris Clowe, with a Charlotte photo bomber at the back!
Boosting sales of Erdinger Alkoholfrei.

The organisation, marshalling and race village was all superb for the 10K!  The next morning I made my way back to Bedford for the half marathon.  I simply could not face hammering it, and once I had gathered with Ely runners, Don; Shaun and Jon, we decided to have a steady run round the race in order to take it all in.  This half marathon turned out to be one I will never forget: we had huge fun and had great chats with people along the way.  The three of us were in awe of a few Ely Runners who lapped us early in the race and went on to get amazing times, and we all had a laugh and a show off for the photographers.  Just once in a while, I like to get round an event without doing it in anger: it is good for the soul!

Don, Shaun and Jon: amazing running buddies!

Do enter the 2020 Bedford Running Festival! It is amazing, and you get extra bling for running more than one race!

Multiple bling at the 2019 Bedford Running Festival!

The 2019 England Athletics Volunteer Awards

Due to a kind and thoughtful nomination by fellow Ely Runner, Natalie Andrews, and the fact that her nomination was shortlisted, I won the 2019 England Athletics Easter Region Volunteer award (Inclusion category).  This was for inclusive approaches around the Ely Runners Beginners’ course as well as my work promoting access to parkrun for people with a learning disability and/ or autism.  I was invited to the Bedford International Stadium to have lunch, meet the other category winners and some England Athletics Officials, including Neil Costello, who presented me with my award.  I was greeted by friendly staff, who looked after me, gave me food, showed me to the showers (I had just ran the Bedford Half Marathon) and talked me through the awards ceremony.  I watched the athletics event at the Stadium and was presented with my award.  It remains to be said that the stuff I have done to be nominated could not have happened without platforms such as my employer, Thera East Anglia Thera East Anglia and the amazing Ely Runners Ely Runners and its beginners’ coaches.

The 2019 England Athletics Volunteer Awards.

What next?  The Round Norfolk Relay and The Ely Tri Club Ultra!  I will post again after these and before the Kings Forest Ultra, the Flower of Suffolk 18 miler and the Kings Forest Ultra!

Always hydrate well the day before a run!

trail running, ultra running

Wibbly Wobbly Log Jog; RunNorwich 10K; Plogging; a couple of awards and the Stour Valley Path 50K ultra!

A lot has occurred since the last blog!  Parkruns;  a couple of Kevin League Races; coaching the amazing Ely Runners Beginners and general training.  Among all of this, two awards for work around inclusive approaches on the beginners’ course as well as promotion of access to parkrun for people with a learning disability and/ or autism.  The first was the Ely Heroes ‘Sporting Hero’, which I won having been nominated by the amazing Lauren girlrunninglate and then, winner of the Eastern Region of the England Athletics Inclusion Awards; nominated by the amazing Natalie Andrews.  All very flattering and a little surprising!  One of the most touching aspects of these awards was the Ely Runners Coaches and current beginners rocking up to the awards to surprise me!

Resplendent in sash with my nominator, Lauren, and surprised by the Ely Runners Coaches and current beginners!

Back to running!  The Wibbly Wobbly Log Jog might be THE event of the year!  The race is hugely popular and takes runners through winding and undulating forest trail at High Lodge.  It’s so much fun that it’s hard to describe!  Just do it some day!

Ely Runners at the annual Wibbly Wobbly Log Jog. Note the double rabbit ear.

I had my fourth stab at RunNorwich 10K, it’s another favourite of mine, and a big event.  There’s a tough hill in this one, with amazing crowd support and a great medal!  Do try this one!

I was introduced to plogging recently.  I feel guilty that I hadn’t heard of it before.  Fellow Ely Runner, Shaun grabbed a few Ely Runners and we ran/ jogged a brief route on the outskirts of Ely whilst picking up litter, which Shaun then went on to recycle.  This was a satisfying experience, we had a laugh and managed to clear a lot of litter!  It is rather a shame that plogging is necessary, but I did win the strangest item of the plog having discovered a peeled boiled egg!  We will be plogging again soon!

Ely Runners after a plogging session.

I had been so looking forward to the Stour Vally Path 50K Ultra marathon as it was due to be the first ultra for fellow Ely Runners, Jon and Emily.  I had arranged to run it with them:  they have both trained so hard and shown pure determination in their approach.  So there now follows an account of the event, with plenty of pics!  With permission from Jon and Emily, it is ‘warts and all’!

It was quite a journey to get to the start having dropped a car off at the end of the route, and it was great to see Ely Runner, Charlotte at registration.  Having registered and as we waited to start I sensed some nerves and anticipation from Jon, while Emily organised herself, clearly uncomfortable at having to do so really close to the off!  Eventually we were all herded off to the start.

Emily, Daz, Charlotte, Jon and me.

From the offset it was clear how stunning the Suffolk countryside is along the Stour Valley Path; being a Suffolk boy, I know some of the area, and it being hilly was no surprise to me.  Jon and Emily did not expect the hills to be as sudden and steep as they were!  We hit a good few climbs, and we used the perfectly acceptable ultra approach of power walking them, often adopting the hands pushing on quads and knees technique.

Coach Emily demonstrating the hands pushing on quads approach to powering up hills. Perfect! The cow to the right approves!

It would be fair to say that although Emily and Jon enjoyed their first ultra, it was a strange kind of ‘enjoyed’:  both of them longed for the first aid station, and there was much grumbling about the hills.  As I was there in the capacity of support and encouragement, I had to read them both carefully to judge when pushing just became annoying:  Jon only insulted me and told me to ++++ off a few times, and as for Emily, I was more wary of her, and took silence as a sign to ease off a bit.  Later in the event, they both told me that they had appreciated the approach, which I was really pleased to hear.  The first aid station was at mile 11, and it really was the most amazing oasis!  I have to say that the food was the best I have encountered at an event:  they laid on boiled new potatoes rolled in crushed rock salt!  We all ate a little too much at this point!  Emily clearly felt better at having reached this milestone, and her mood visibly lifted.  Off we went!

The Stour Vally Path crews laid on very friendly aid stations, with amazing food! They could not do enough for us! I avoided the eggs, as much as I wanted them!

Leaving the first aid station was tough, and we faffed about a bit too much to avoid the inevitable, but we were rewarded with even more beautiful countryside as we progressed.  It was during this stage that Jon rather poetically commented “I think it was round here that Constable painted all his sh*t”:  beautiful.

Moving on to section leading to the aid station at around mile 26, Emily started to struggle mentally:  she was a little tearful and could not see this particular check point soon enough.  I had been encouraging them to run on the flats and downhill, and leading slow runs where it was favourable.  Mood-wise, Emily really picked up at the aid station, as she knew it was only a matter of 4.5 to 5 miles to go!

 

A certain amount of relief, with Jon wanting it to be over, and Emily close to meltdown before the final aid station: this pic is deceiving!

The final push saw a total change in Emily, who took the lead in initiating the run sections, so I backed off a bit.  Jon became more chatty and less resentful at my pushing, and we covered this final section pretty rapidly: the dark had set in and we used head torches to work our way through the final sheep-filled fields and onto the finish, which was marked out with ribbons and glow sticks.

There was a short run into Cattawade before we spotted Charlotte, who had ran amazingly!  She trotted along with us to the finish, which was emotional given how relieved and happy Jon and Emily looked.  There was an amazing women handing out the medals, who administered hugs, whether they were wanted or not: this was superb!  Emily was visibly moved, whereas Jon was more reserved, until things sank in on the way home, when he admitted to feeling a little emotional.  It was a joy to see them finish what was a tough 31 miles of trial.

Ultra events make you think; they put you through a range of emotions, and they test you much more mentally than they do physically.  So what next?  The Kings Forest Ultra in October!

Emily and Jon, well done, and Charlotte, thank you!

More later.

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