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Ramblings about the Cambridge Half Marathon,The Ely Tri Duathlon, Brandon parkrun and The Oundle 20! The effects of Peddars are hanging on!

After the Marriott’s Way Half Marathon, I was left feeling I needed more rest, so, I have tried to do less between booked races.  Yet still, I am left feeling that the engine is strong, yet the body is weak.  Only yesterday, a very experienced runner and coach told me that I should expect to feel the effects of Peddars for a long time, especially given it was my first ultra!  This makes sense, as I have been able to take part in and complete all of my booked events, but they have felt really tough!

This year’s Cambridge Half Marathon was superb as usual, and this year I decided to worry less about time and more about enjoying the race and taking it in more!  This is why I jumped at the opportunity of running this amazing event with Pete and Lauren (Lauren – girl running late).  What I forgot, is that their easy run and pace is not mine!  Their easy pace is not at my maximum effort, but it is not at my easy pace!  This will explain why all the way around this race, Pete looked totally relaxed and smiley, and Lauren was grinning, laughing and chatting for the whole duration: they really enjoyed it! I did too, but I was busting a gut!  Plenty of Ely Runners laughed at the event photos, where Pete and Lauren were clearly having a ball, and I looked quite serious!  Despite me urging them to go off and get a better time, they refused and stuck with me to the end.  My time was OK, but slower than last year (a common theme for me in 2019).

Pete and Lauren, having a laugh at the 2019 Cambridge Half Marathon.

I love to cycle, and I signed up for the Ely Tri Club Duathlon ages ago.  I did not train for it properly, and knocked out just two brick sessions in the weeks leading up to the event. A few days before the duathlon, Kyle, known locally at ‘Sproketman,’ visited me at home and serviced my bike.  He did a superb job, sorting my surrealist gears and adjusting the seat as well as giving the bike an all over tune-up.  Do get Sproketman to look at your bike! Sproketman

The weather was dreadful on the morning of the duathlon, and I really didn’t know what I was doing;  I had no real idea how to approach the transitions, and I was a little worried about breaking any of the strict rules (like I was going to be slipstreaming anyone)!  This was another event Lauren was signed up for, and she showed up looking less than happy (cold, tired and generally cheesed off about being there).  Lauren went on to finish as first lady in her age category:  quite typical of her to arrive looking so fed up and then leave with a trophy!

The first 5K was fine, with me keeping at a steady pace through the village and around a disused airfield before getting back to the transition area;  it was here that I realised belting out 5K was not conducive to remembering what to do in the transition pen. Luckily, Ely Runner and Ely Tri Club member, Samantha was at hand and at about the same stage in the race as I was: she gave me some advice, and a marshal yelled at me to turn my bib number round as I ran my bike out to the road.  Physically, the 25K cycle felt fine, but mentally it was a huge challenge.  There was a gale and almost horizontal rain at some stages, and at Way Head and Coveney, the weather was so bad it almost got me blubbing.  It was as I pulled into the transition area back at the start that thing started to go pear-shaped.  My hands were frozen as I dismounted from the bike, and I was pretty much soaked through;  thinking was a struggle let alone getting ready for the final 5K run.  Consequently, my transition was around two minutes long!  Kyle and Nick (Ely Runner) both yelled lots of encouragement at me, and Nick had a bit of a laugh at my soaked and muddy backside!  I ditched my cycling jacket, turned my number round and then covered 5K again, but not really in a way that could accurately be described as running.  My legs were like two strands of cooked spaghetti, and the final leg of this event was really tough mentally.  I am fairly sure what I was feeling was not just the effects of the duathlon, but the remnants of Peddars Way!  Fun though!

Ely Tri Duathlon – the cycle bit.

Brandon parkrun said it was their birthday, and fancy dress would be welcome.  Two people turned up in fancy dress.  I must have lost a stone in weight from sweating, and the less said about the whole affair the better!

The Brandon parkrun birthday fancy dress massive. Pete and Lisa turned up as runners.

Having ran the inaugural Oundle 20 Mile race last year, I thought it would be worth giving it another bash.  Speedy Pete wanted to achieve his furthest distance to date and not go out too fast, so we agreed he would run with me for a while.  Pete and I had a good natter for the first seven miles, with him finding conversation a little easier than I did (again, his easy pace is not necessarily mine).  Pete seemed so relaxed at mile seven that I urged him to go off ahead at mile seven instead of the planned mile ten: off he went!

I was OK until about mile seventeen, when I had to strip down to my vest and endure the last part of the race, which seemed to be uphill and into a direct headwind!  This race is in a beautiful part of the world, so, despite it being tough I did my best to keep my head up and take it all in.  The final mile was uphill, with the wind making it a very challenging finish.  I managed a sprint finish of sorts given that Pete and Rob (Ely Runner) were there yelling encouragement.  Pete Rob, and another Ely Runner, Alex, all achieved superb times; I was happy enough, but in keeping with 2019’s theme, I was slower than last year.  Superb medal!

The Oundle 20 Mile 2019. Superb race.

This blog is generally ramblings when it comes to content as I am not training for an ultra at present (but I soon will be).  I am struck by how long after Peddars I am feeling its effects.  I lost a fair amount of weight and feel quite weak. I have more rest between events to do, more eating to enjoy, and some serious strength and conditioning work to plan.

I have some great events booked and on the calendar.  More another time.

Post-Peddars, The ER annual XC Championships, Brandon parkrun and The Marriotts Way Trail.

I have not known what direction to take the blog since I completed the Peddars Way Trail Ultra.  I felt a bit of  low mood settle in after the initial high of completing the event, but I soon snapped out of this, and, as predicted by several running colleagues, I signed up for more:  The Norfolk 100K and the Stour Valley Path 50K.  I must admit, I can’t wait! So, in terms of the blog; I’ll write about events that stand out for me, and stuff that leads up to ultras.

In terms of the initial recovery after Peddars, this went better than I thought it would.  I had some toenail issues (some are still black); I lost some weight (a stone overall since the training and the event itself), and I remained very hungry for three days.  I felt back to normal in just under a week.

I have ran and cycled a bit since Peddars, but the main events since then have been the Ely Runners Annual Cross Country Championships, Brandon parkrun (only because it is one of my favourites), and the Marriott’s Way Trial Half Marathon.

The 2019 Annual Ely Runners XC Championships.

I was pleased with my run at the XC Championships. The race got easier after the first two loops of Cherry Hill and The Deans Meadow, but it was slippery and tough enough to slow me down in places where I would have performed better had I got some spikes:  I’ll be investing in some. The less said about the swearing the better!  As tough as this race was, I was pleased in general, and especially with my sprint finish.  It’s a race I dread, but enjoy (weird).

With Andrew and Lauren before Brandon parkrun.

There has been the usual parkrun obsession, but a trip back to a favourite stands out. Brandon is a gorgeous course and it always has a great atmosphere.  Lauren (regular running buddy), and blogger (see below) always jumps at a chance to run Brandon, and it was good to see Andrew S turn up!  As usual, Lauren did her ‘make it look easy’ routine, and crossed the finish as first lady, with a time a little quicker than my 5K PB (not jealous).  That hill in the middle felt tough, and I realised that I might not have rested after Peddars in quite the way I should have.  It was maybe a bit silly to run this parkrun the day before a trail half marathon, but there you go.

Lauren’s blog

Reepham, and the start of the Marriott’s Way Trail Half Marathon.

Andrew S and I arrived at the start of the Marriott’s Way Trail Half Marathon nice and early (we both like to be dead early).  A coffee and a sausage rolled was necked, and we were soon ushered to the start and sent on our way.  I had debated long and hard about what to wear, and the Merino wool base layer had worked out so well for me at Peddars; I am so glad I went for the vest; it was hot!  Andrew and I ran together for most of the race, with me setting the pace for the first half, and him for the second.  However, things went wrong for me from mile 9, with my quads and hip really playing up.  I felt tired, heavy and sluggish. Andrew pulled off in the second half, and rightly so, as he was on form and running a superb pace.  The trail is gorgeous, and I actually took it in instead of staring at the ground.  The last two miles was tough, but I managed a decent time for the course, and I was very pleased to enter the Village Hall for a medal, shirt, full-fat Coke and food!

Even my knuckles were sweaty!

More rest is needed, so nothing for a week.  More soon!

The big day! The 48 mile Peddars Way Ultra Marathon 2019!

 

The big day arrived! I have described it, and I have used plenty of photographs, for which I don’t apologise!

Between the big day and the Ultra Marathon, I was as sensible as I could be given the ill-thought-out decision to participate in RED January!  In this time I ran no more than 11K in any one go, and used cycling to rest.  On reflection, I think I felt the benefits of distance training for the first time at the Snetterton Race Track 10K on the 20th of January: there was no PB for me, but, for the first time in ages I felt light, and running at close to maximum effort felt in some way easier than it has for a long time.  I was happy!

In short, the lead up to Peddars involved keeping the legs moving, eating well, and trying not to fret.

Very early on the big day; waiting for my lift!

The day before Peddars I took a day’s annual leave, rested and ate well (I ate a lot, but not so much as to get bloated).  I remained hydrated, and exchanged messages with Lisa (my running partner for the day) and Steve (lift/ race support).  A tip I would give to any one embarking on their first ultra is to check your kit, especially the mandatory contents for the race, and have it all ready the night before.  Mine was checked, double checked and laid out on the living room floor ready! I had my tailwind/ water solution in the collapsible bottles and stuck in the fridge ready too. I am not a ‘bed early person’ and I resent going to sleep at the best of times: it’s a waste of time, but I turned in ‘early’ all the same.  It was a fitful night’s sleep, but I didn’t feel too bad in the morning. I went for a breakfast I am used to (Weetabix, milk, a bit of sugar and a banana) and a pint of tea! Before I knew it, Steve had picked me up and we were off to collect Lisa from Newmarket.

It was good to have a natter with Lisa on the way to the start, as she is pretty relaxed, and crucially, she has a good few ultras and marathons under her belt.  We did struggle a little to find the start (which was in the middle of nowhere and it was still dark), but it wasn’t long before we saw flags, people in Hi Vis, and car headlights.  It was at this point that I realised that I should have warned Lisa about Steve (lovely bloke, great friend, but at times he blurts stuff out).  As we pulled up alongside the event start, Steve said “well, this is either the start, or it’s the most organised dogging site in the UK”. Brilliant.

I registered quickly.  The system for the mandatory kit check was to pick a numbered ping pong ball from a bag; the numbers were coded to a list of items – I was asked to show my head torch: job done!  Lisa and I got ready with pinned bib numbers and ankle tag chips, and then Andy and Caroline arrived! I have to say, I was touched that these two excellent Ely Runners showed up!  They are training for their own ultra, they were smiling and full of encouragement!

Caroline and Andy, who rocked up to give us some support!

After a trip into the bushes for a nervous emptying of the bladder, I found that things suddenly moved very quickly, for which I am thankful!  We got a quick photo taken with fellow Ely Runners, Kyle and David, and then, after a briefing from Kevin of ‘Positive Steps, there was a count down, and we were off!

Positive Steps

David and Kyle!

Lisa and I set off at a relaxed pace, and I felt happy and full of anticipation.  I decided that I would actually look around and take this event in, as I do have a habit of becoming very introspective on long runs, with a lot of time spent looking at the ground a few feet in front of me.  The countryside was beautiful this early on in the day, and the weather was perfect: cool, with just a slight breeze.

Lisa: amazing running buddy, who looked this happy throughout the whole race!

The pack thinned out surprisingly quickly, and soon, after the odd natter with other runners, Lisa and I had time to settle down and have a chat.  I’ll get this bit out of the way now: Lisa is very laid back and cheerful, she is an experienced ultra runner and has given me lots of advice in the lead up to the event.  If my experience of Peddars is anything to go by, if you decide to run with someone you know (but not so well) at a tough event such as an ultra, you will get to know them surprisingly well – and quickly!  You can’t adhere to the usual social niceties in situations like this, and before long, we had provided look out and cover for each other, facing away from the forest as one of us legged it into undergrowth to do things we much prefer to do in the comfort of our own bathrooms!  We shared potted histories of our lives, and covered subjects such as: musical tastes; medical histories; family; food preferences; where we have lived; work; and our thoughts on running.  I could not have wished for a more cheerful, down to earth, funny and clever running companion!

The first quarter of the event was a bit of a bit of a blur to me.  I noticed something I had heard of though: many ultra runners walk up hills, and that includes the runners who are experienced.  I have always had a problem with walking during races, but this made sense. So, we like many other runners power-walked up hills and used the flat sections and down hill to run at a good and comfortable pace: it makes huge sense!

Soon we arrived at the first aid station at about 13 miles.  I had been drinking as my friends at tailwind and my fellow-runner Kyle had advised: little and often.  I had however struggled to eat.  I simply wasn’t hungry, and just like during training runs, I could only eat once stationary!  This aid station, although small, and on the side of a track was full of goodies, and staffed by friendly and encouraging volunteers!  I am not a fan of full-fat coke at all, but it is superb when distance running (for me any way), I got the collapsible cup out and got plenty of this unhealthy rubbish down me, as well as some amazing ‘powerballs’ made by one of the ladies at the station.  These tasted like Rice Crispies, peanut butter and desiccated coconut (perhaps because that was what they were made of).  Amazing!  I necked four!  Soon we were off again!

tailwind nutrition

Things got a little tougher as we edged into the second quarter of the race.  The trail became a little more challenging here and there, and the course was straight but undulating.  The Peddars Way Trail is very well-marked out, but, I would advise anyone who runs Peddars for the first time to keep an eye on the signs, as you can miss a slight deviation on the route easily.  Lisa and I did this twice, but, each time, other runners advised us, or the amazing GPS maps on our phones got us back on course quickly.

As I had trained up to the 30 mile distance, I still felt strong as we got nearer to the 26 mile aid station at Castle Acre.  I had also taken on board a few nutrition tips from Lisa, one of which was chicken Fridge Raiders: watery and easy to eat, we stopped and availed ourselves of them a few times. I also managed to nibble a few Chai Charge energy and endurance bars.  I know this all helped.

Soon we arrived at the Village Hall at Castle Acre.  Having reassured myself so far by mentally breaking the event up into sections, with 24 miles being a major stage for me, this aid station was a most welcome point!  Over half way!  Lisa had told me about her experience of hallucinations during ultras, I was reminded of this as I saw Kyle sitting in the Village Hall.  I wondered in what parallel universe could I ever hope to find Kyle still at an aid station when I arrived at it?   I went over for a chat and it turned out that despite having led the field for the first half, Kyle had felt really unwell and particularly nauseous: he had had to bail, and his lift home was on its way.  Despite looking as pale as Casper the Ghost, Kyle hid his disappointment well, and he even topped up my water bottles with tailwind for me.  Having clogged up my funnel and perhaps joked too loudly about white powder, Kyle helped me no end while I went and discovered the joys of soup and a cup of tea during an ultra!  Usually if someone hands me a cup of tea that is less than hot and of the wrong strength/ colour, I will politely refuse it: I am a snob when it comes to how tea should be presented.  The milky, sweet and less than hot tea I drank tasted like nectar, handed to me by a God rather than a small lady with a concerned and yet cheerful smile.  As for the soup, I don’t know what it was (it was amazing), but I suspect the Caste Acre aid station soup has ruined all future soup experiences for me: how will I ever derive any joy from soup again?  All of this happened whilst Lisa continued smiling and chatting to fellow runners!

kyle
Kyle: leader of the pack until he had to bail at Castle Acre. I owe a lot to this chap!

As we left the 26 mile aid station, I could feel the first signs of fatigue; almost certainly due to having sat down as much as it was from having covered 26 miles of trail in a reasonably decent time.  My lower back, hips and the toes on my left foot were all letting me know they were not happy.  A little way into the second half it had occurred to me that I had been dictating an almost fartlek approach: trying to identify nearby landmarks to walk to on hills, and then making sure we ran on ‘smooth’, flatter trail and down hill at a decent pace.  Was I being bossy? Would Lisa come to hate me for my unreasonable approach, like the troops of Easy Company hated Captain Sobel?  I decided to check with Lisa if she was OK with what I had been doing.  It turns out that she really appreciated and needed this structured way of tackling things!  Good!  But I tried to be way more consultative from thereon.

The trail was lovely, with only 8 miles to the third aid station, which felt like not such a big deal to me.  Our conversation started to get a bit weird at times in the second half, with Lisa admitting that she can ramble and go off course depending on how her blood sugars are!  We starting seeing ever more elaborate shapes in trees and clouds.  I claim the tin man from The Wizard of Oz as one of the best sightings of the second half.

The Tin Man Tree.

Things got a little bit tougher for me as we approached the third aid station, and I started to entertain just a few dark thoughts.  That being said, Lisa and I had both agreed that running Peddars together had helped so far in terms of remaining positive.  Even during periods of running a long way without talking, it helped knowing that your running buddy was right next to you.

The third and final aid station was laid on by Bungay Black Dog Running club.  Seeing their flag in the distance bolstered me up no end.  Lisa had told me that they provide tea and warm snacks!  The lady and gentleman at this station were full of cheer and gave me more coke, tea, and warm sausage rolls!  Pure joy!  Lisa sat in a deck chair and caned mini Battenburg cakes!

Starting to flag a bit at aid station 3.
Lisa, not having the common decency  to look knackered at the third aid station.

Off we went for the final push. We had 14 miles to go.  As we ran, refreshed from the aid station, Lisa tried to described 14 miles to me in ways she felt might sound more positive. We laughed about this: it was 14 miles!  I very much appreciated her efforts at bolstering me along!

By the way, Lisa had a made a big deal of us passing the 30 mile mark, as that distance was the furthest I had ever ran before Peddars!  I appreciated this also!

It is hard to describe from the third aid station to about 4 miles from the finish.  I do recall consulting the GPS map and being reassured by the little cursor!  It looked so close to the coast.  The run leading to 40 miles is a blur to me, as we settled into our routine, paused quickly to eat and drink, and repeated this regularly in order to remain focussed. Things started to feel hard!  I am mentally stronger than I am physically, and I maintain that without mental strength, things will go wrong at these kinds of stages, no matter how tough you are physically.  Despite Lisa’s presence, the duel in my head began, with ‘positive Justin’ and ‘negative Justin’ trying to get the upper hand over each other.  I was just an observer.  Darkness crept up on us, and before long, we needed torches.  I was glad of this, as I felt the need to blub a bit at around 41 miles.  I did so for a while, keeping just in front of Lisa.  I answered some messages: my Mother, who was worrying all day; Steve, who I had tried to keep appraised of how far were were from the finish;  my long-suffering wife and to Lauren, who had kept sending encouraging messages in capitals (hero).

Torches time.

The final 4 miles was tough, but for some reason we got a bit of a second wind!  We went through a village and glow sticks were strung up in strategic places to mark the way for runners.  Then came a long section, which felt like a gentle decline on trial with trees and bushes very close on both sides;  Lisa and I hit this section at what felt like a fair pace.  We did not stop!  I was down to just the Merino Wool base layer at this stage, and the coastal wind and start of rain was not bothering me;  we just kept focussing on the trail and running.  We hit a final bit of village, until groups of people yelled encouragement and we headed down towards the beach.  Lisa led the way to where the infamous book was hanging from a sign.  We could hear the sea, and knew it was very near but we couldn’t see it.  We ripped out our pages and headed back to the Village Hall at Holme-next-the Sea.  I wanted Lisa to cross the chip line inside the hall first, but she was having none of it, so, we legged it across the line hand in hand.  I was given a medal and a shirt and everyone inside burst into applause, with lots of shouts of ‘well done!’

This was an emotional moment for me, and on seeing Steve I had a little blub and went to sit down and request a baked potato!  An amazing cup of tea was placed in front of me, and Lisa and I were given baked potatoes with cheese and beans.  Another runner came and sat opposite us and burst into tears.  I told her I had done the same and Lisa went around the table to hug and comfort the sobbing lady.  Many people crossed the line crying!

The infamous book on the beach!

I fear Lisa and Steve might be emotionally damaged at having witnessed me strip off, complete with black KT tape on each nipple!  I chatted with Glyn Manton, a Norfolk runner I sometimes bump into.  We made our way to the car.

Steamed up, post-blubbing pic.

Steve is a hero! Inside the car was a glass and bottle of beer for each of us (not Steve)!

While Steve drove us home, we drank beer and reflected on the race! I felt very happy!

Final thoughts.

  1. I hope that this record goes some way towards helping any runner who thinks of embarking on their first ultra.
  2. I will be running another!
  3. Other people are vital in the lead up to, during and after such events.  The support and advice has been amazing, Lisa got me through it, and I am amazed at the comments and congratulations I have received.  If I leave anyone out I am sorry, but in terms of ultra advice, I feel I must offer my total gratitude to Kyle, David, Charlotte and Lisa of Ely Runners.
  4. Diet and training is everything.
  5. Sports massage helps! Thanks, Becky!
  6. I still don’t know why I did it.
  7. I love my family for putting up with it all!

I will leave this blog for a while. I want to continue it, but with a new focus after a break and a bit of a think.  I hope you have enjoyed it.   Do comment!

peddars medal

More session, the loooooong run, food and shoe laces!

There has been a lot of learning since the last blog entry, and a lot of running! The runs have been mixed: Littleport Parkrun, various club runs, some long runs, The Ely Runners New Year’s Eve 10K, Bury St Edmunds Parkrun, King Lynn Parkrun. I am only going to focus on errors, what went well and discoveries.

Run Every Day January (RED). I really enjoyed this last year, but it was an error to embark on it in 2019 given I am training for the Peddars Way ultra. As a Coach, and as someone surrounded by runners who know their stuff, I know I should have left it this year: but I didn’t, and once I start something I can’t really leave it. So, on rest days, I go for the briefest of gentle cycles: it counts!

Parkruns. I know that some speed work can be a legitimate and important part of training for un ultra marathon, but I have made the same mistake TWICE in recent weeks. Before Christmas, I gave Littleport Parkrun enough stick (in muddy conditions) to knacker my left foot. I tend not to slow down much on muddy parts, and I am sure this is how I did the damage. This led to me taking a break in the lead up to Christmas. I rested enough, and the foot problem seems to have gone away. More recently, I tried King Lynn Parkrun, which is a course known for fast times. To cut a long story short, I tried to hammer it; I couldn’t run it as fast as I wanted to, and I felt some very scary twinges in my left hamstring, which I know slowed me down. Luckily I don’t think I have done much harm. But the hamstring and foot issue forced to me to take breaks and even abandon a long run. Hitting Parkruns hard, for me at least, is not wise in the lead up to an ultra event.

Kings Lynn Parkrun. I will be back for my PB in the Spring!

I was really pleased with my performance at The Ely Runners New Years Eve 10K. I did not get a PB, and my time was a tad slower than it was for the same race in 2018. But, I had two personal goals for this race (which I will keep to myself): I achieved them both. I put this down to the training I have been doing, but also, due to thinking about the race, attacking the hill and applying a bit of strategy for a change. In short, I felt strong.

I have been plagued with a problem where I get pins and needles in both feet during the early stages of runs. In the past, I have been advised to look at how I lace my running shoes: apparently, it can make a difference. I did nothing about it, until the morning of Sunday 5th January 2019 (my longest run yet). I re-laced the running shoes I will be using for Peddars way, loosening the laces all the way across the top of each foot. During my long run, although I still experienced some pins and needles, it was nowhere near as acute, and it didn’t last as long. I am loosening the laces on all of my trainers!

The long run! I have got to the stage in my training where I can run the marathon distance (not at race pace) any time. I felt the need to extend the distance, even if only to boost my confidence. I had a plan, and this involved two big loops, and a shorter ‘out and back’, resulting in a 30 mile run. This went well. Now for the detail.

Quick sarnie on the long run (fish paste is my friend)!

I have discovered three foods that really work for me: fish paste sandwiches (white bread); dates; cashew nuts; Love Hearts (the sweets). My plan for this run was to run two 11 mile loops and then an 8 mile out and back run. I treated my house as an aid/ food station, thus trying to replicate the Peddars Way experience in some way. The plan was to eat and drink something after mile 11, something more substantial (soup) at mile 22 (there is soup at mile 26 at Peddars), and then go and finish the 30 miler. I took with me two collapsible bottles of water with tailwind in them, along with some nuts, two sandwiches, and some Love Hearts. This worked well, as did the aid station approach. I spent as little time as possible at home: the first stop was about 5 minutes and the second (at mile 22 was around 7 to 9 minutes). I did not get hungry at all on this run and I felt well-hydrated. The tailwind and the food has got me where I want to be!

The run itself was tough in that it was dull but I did not want to stray too far from home. I listened to some more of an Audible book : ‘A History of Western Philosophy – Bertrand Russell’, which is pretty heavy going, but it did help with blocking the negative thoughts I often experience on longer runs.

I also tried out my power pack set up, which involves charging my Garmin watch from a lead threaded through my running jacket sleeve to a power pack in my running belt. This worked perfectly.

I was heading out of Ely and along a river bank when I hit 26.2 miles. I was hit by a wave of emotion at this stage. 1. It dawned on me that technically, I was now an ultra runner. 2. I knew I was able to run the 30 miles, and this was going to be the furthest I had ever ran. 3. My confidence had been boosted no end. I have to confess, I blubbed for a few minutes.

30 miler.

The final four miles was tough but enjoyable, purely because I knew I was about to hit the 30 mile mark. I arrived home, to my sons and wife, none of whom looked away from the TV when I walked through the door, elated!

Today, the wonderful Becky worked her magic with a sports massage to my legs: they feel great now.

Ely Sports Massage

What has really surprised me about the 30 miler is how little I have suffered in the few days after it: I am hoping this is a sign of increased fitness and conditioning for distance running. That being said, I have replaced runs with short cycles for a few days in order to satisfy my RED commitments. Now I can take it easy in the lead up to Peddars (and just keep the legs turning over). This whole experience has been a big deal to me.

More soon!

Sessions 19 and 20, and some other stuff!

Since my last post, I have been resting more; this is a good thing, as I have been showing some classic signs of being over-trained: general fatigue, waking in the night, and continuous aches and pains! This means I have skipped sessions on my plan, and focussed on some faster stuff (as well as distance).

Continuing with the theme of making myself do stuff I don’t want to, this week I ran a steady 5K around Thetford with Sophie (a superb work colleague and even better runner), very early the morning after a heavy Christmas works do! I have little to say about this other than I wish I had more opportunities to run with Sophie, and 5K is a superb hangover cure!

Thursday’s club run composed of pretty straightforward loops around Ely; but this week, a beginners’ course graduate turned up for a taster session, and seemed a little apprehensive. I decided to go for the open-level option (four laps), having offered to run lap one with the beginner lady. I enjoyed the steady loop one, and once the beginner lady and I exchanged farewells, I decided to speed things up for the lonely three loops. As per previous club sessions, my thinking was to do the fourth loop: even though I didn’t want to. I am realising more and more that when preparing for an ultra, you are training the mind as well as the body.

Each December, Ely Runners lay on a coach to ferry us to Woodditton (Suffolk), so that we can enjoy the gorgeous trail back to Ely. I went for the full 18.5 mile option, which takes in Devil’s Dyke, mud, and parts of the Fen Rivers Way. I LOVE this run, which happened today! Arranging to run with Charlotte, Nick and Andrew was all quite last-minute (and I wanted run with each of them for different reasons). Although the pace of this small group was a tad faster than I should have run, I enjoyed every minute. I actually managed to eat, as well as drink all of the water (with Tailwind) in my collapsible bottles.

Superb trail and excellent training.

At one point during the run, fellow Ely Runners, Claire and Emily had laid on a mini-bar! The Rolo Vodka, although in no way recommended as an aid to ultra training, was sublime! Claire and Emily are bloody heroes!

Ely Runners, about to set off on their Christmas run from Woodditton to Ely.

I have been eating non-stop since today’s Christmas run! More soon!

Sessions 17 and 18 (run to and from Parkrun, and a muddy half marathon).

After the marathon training run at the weekend, I have not run at all during the week: this is almost unheard of for me, but a combination of work, and just needing to rest led me to this course of action. I was due to marshal at Littleport Parkrun on the 8th December 2018, and my superb running buddy, Lauren, agreed to trot along the river bank to Littleport with me. Lauren is one of the very best people to run with, as she always sets a steady pace, she is so encouraging, and always funny! Lauren’s blog is well worth following; she covers all aspects of her own running.

Lauren’s superb blog.

Five whole days of no running had clearly done me no harm, and it felt like we had got to Littleport pretty swiftly, and I felt great! Maybe the break had done me some good? After Parkrun, I ran back along the old Ely Road. The wind was in my face the whole way, and it was nowhere near as much fun as the run in! I’ll call this session 17 as it is close to what was expected in my plan, and I was playing catch up after those few days off.

Session 18. The plan said I had to run a half marathon and push the pace a bit. I took this to mean a bit faster than ultra pace, and given I have been struggling to slow down, it almost felt a relief to not have to as much for this run.

It feels crazy to be running in a shirt in December!

I decided on a run through Ely, along the river and then up towards Barway (and back). The trail heading towards Barway was more challenging than I thought it would be. At times, the muddy puddles tried to suck my trail shows off. I nearly fell several times. Once I was through the quagmire, I headed through Barway to the main road that leads into Ely, I turned around to head back the way I came. Despite the conditions, the trail bit was huge fun, and the Marino wool socks once again worked wonders: the feet felt damp, but warm!

Fun heading towards Barway!

I am still struggling with nutrition: I won’t get into it this time, but needless to say, it’s not an issue for the half marathon distance. I managed on a bowl of porridge and pack of Love Hearts today; as I popped the first into my mouth on the trail, I could have sworn it had ‘IDIOT’ written on it: I must have imagined it.

More soon!

Session 16. Trail marathon.

Yesterday was my long run, and thoroughly enjoyable it was too, but it was not without its problems afterwards!

On the Saturday, I tried Haverhill Parkrun with two fellow Ely Runners. I decided not to flog myself to death as I had the planned long run the next day. Haverhill turned out to be wet and muddy: just my kind of thing.

I ate well the day before the long run, and made sure I was properly hydrated; I also ate a sizeable bowl of porridge the next morning. Both collapsible water bottles were filled with the right amount of Tailwind, and two pouches of baby food as well as some Haribo were packed into the ultra vest.

Preparations

I decided to head out along the River Cam towards, and hopefully as far as Waterbeach. It was a gorgeous day for a run, and a shirt was plenty warm enough for the whole session. I stopped at just after mile 6 for a pouch of the baby food, which I really enjoyed despite it being cold. I might have imagined it, but the food seemed to give me a real boost, and I stomached it well. I kept well-hydrated on the run, even managing to drink whilst running (something I do not find at all easy). I spread out the Haribo along the whole run, and I had another pouch of food at around mile 15.

The route was particularly beautiful.

Stunning views of a Cathedral that never seems to get any nearer!

I need to use more gorgeous routes like this for the long runs, as I think it helps keep the mental battle more in favour of the positive voices in my head. I think I managed to slow things down, and I was forced to reduce the pace beyond mile 20 anyway. It was quite a technical and muddy run in places, and thinking about where I placed my feet with every step was necessary in order to avoid turning an ankle; so, in parts, quite a demanding run.

The interesting thing about today’s marathon distance is my reaction afterwards. I have run a few marathons as races, and once before as a training run, as well as a few 18 and 20 mile distances. My reaction after them is mixed, but I was pretty much fine after the last marathon distance training run. This time, once I got home, I drank a pint of squash and got in the bath, once out, I started to feel quite unwell, and went to bed for three hours: I slept solidly, and then got up and started the usual ‘eat everything that I could’ routine. I am puzzled by this reaction, as I had slept well the night before, I have ran this distance before and I was sure I had got the nutrition and hydration right. Perhaps I am a little over-trained? Maybe there is no real rhyme or reason and the next one will be fine? Maybe it was just a tough 26 miles due to the state of the trail? What I am reassured by is that, although a little bit stiff here and there, I feel pretty good today considering what I did yesterday!

Onwards….

Cycling, sports massage and session 15!

I told myself when I embarked on this crazy journey that I would replace a session a week from my ultra plan with a cycle. I love to cycle, and a few running colleagues reassured me that this is a sensible and reasonable adaption to my plan. I have only just got round to getting back on the bike for the first time since this year’s RideLondon 100. It was great to do this on Wednesday! I enjoyed catching up with a couple of cycling friends and I had a rest from running whilst still giving the heart a bit of a workout! The Fens are windy! It’s hard work!

My weekly sports massage with Becky. What can I say? Amazing! I have the odd problem due to an injury from my 20s (tibial plateau fracture). I have metalwork in my left leg, and although it is not a major problem, as I age it aches now and then – and these days more often. The left legs feels somewhat weaker than the right and it feels like a bit of a passenger at times. Becky said she would give this some thought and do some work comparing strength and mobility on both sides. It appears that the difference between each leg is pretty much negligible, and we agree that we would continue with the usual rolling program of stretching, massage and release work. This week Becky worked on the quads, hamstrings and glutes. I left feeling lighter and she was left with chocolate! What a star Becky is! See Becky’s Facebook page below.

Becky’s reflexology and sports massage.

It is well-established that I cannot eat whilst running. I have to stop and eat, and I have worked out the kinds of foods I can stomach eating and running right away on. Someone had the idea of baby food pouches. I will be trying this next week! I hope it works, as the pouches are so convenient to carry!

Great idea! Let’s see how it goes!

On Thursday of this week I mixed it up a bit for the club session. One of the most experienced club members we have (if not the most experienced) told me that when he ran ultras he did not spend excessive time on long runs, he just got himself ‘race fit’ and then rocked up at ultras and took it easy, enjoying the day out! I will be balancing things a bit now: slow slow stuff and faster fast stuff! Back to the club session: I ran two long loops steady with a full ultra vest on; the third lap I sped things up having ditched the vest, and I finished with a steady fourth lap (four laps being the open option for the session). It all went well, and to be honest, I enjoyed the varied company that came with varying my speed over a session training.

Steady, steady, a bit faster, steady.

Tomorrow should be Haverhill Parkrun. Long run on Sunday! More soon!

A run with my boys and session 14.

We have established that family time is vital. When family want to run with you, it’s a bonus! Today was the 2018 Ely Festive 5K, which my twin boys and I were signed up for. I have run this a few times, and I have always fancied a pop at it in anger, but the boys have always wanted to run it, as much for medals as for any other reason. My ultra plan said that I had to run a steady 18 miles today, so, my thinking was to run this with the boys and then knock out another 15 miles elsewhere!

The boys did good!

In short, I loved running with my boys, and it was fabulous to see many people I know in the crowd, especially Ely Runners. Both lads got great times! The icing on the cake was seeing Lauren on the stage as we left, and knowing right away that she had got first lady!

Home, for soup and bread. Tinned chunky veg and chicken soup is really working for me: I can stomach the stuff, so I am sticking with what works. I packed the ultra vest and filled the water bottles along with a few snacks and I hopped in the car to get to the Burwell part of Devil’s Dyke. This is a favourite run of mine, and if I am getting bored, it works for me. I have always been absorbed by the beauty of this stretch: Burwell to Woodditton along Devil’s Dyke and back. In some parts of the run, the bank is around 30 feet high, and the sight of a buzzard swooping along the ditch below is incredible (this happened twice today). I have never ran this stretch without seeing something memorable. Some might find it strange that I don’t combine the sights with the sounds, but I have so many podcasts to catch up on, and this time I listened to a few episodes of Radio 4’s ‘In Our Time’: Pure joy.

I was able to slow the pace down a bit (at last), eat a little (at last) and drink enough: things are starting to work better on the longer runs, and I really must find more beautiful places to complete them – it seems to stop the mental battles! The Festive 5K and my Devil’s Dyke run equalled 18 miles. That’ll do.

One of the best parts of the Devil’s Dyke run to Woodditton.

I have longer runs ahead of me. I don’t care really, as my recovery from them is getting easier. I am enjoying the eating! Maybe this is just a particularly positive day!

More soon.

Ultra training is intrusive – session 13

Like marathon training, with ultra training comes guilt. It can be quite intrusive on family time. It is something I feel aware of most of the time, and it has made me a little selfish and disciplined! More on that in a moment.

There are some things I won’t stop for ultra training, and Parkrun is one of them. Parkrun doesn’t always fit in with my training programme, and often I should be doing a longer run, back to back with the same on Sundays. I get round this by doing another run after Parkruns. Some of The Ely Runners Beginners graduates took part at Littleport Parkrun today; this was a total joy for me as I am sure it was for some of the other coaches. It was brilliant to see such superb performances, and more importantly, people smiling, and clearly hooked!

When I got home I went straight out with the ultra vest, complete with the new collapsible water bottles with straws: these were recommended to me, and they are superb! On pulling the straw up a fraction, you bite the end and take a suck of water. Simple! This is why I look so happy in the pic out at Roswell Pits! Anything that makes the whole effort simple and efficient makes me feel more relaxed.

Roswell Pits. Happy and relaxed.

It is important not to allow the family to be casualty of ultra training: off we all went for a huge lunch together, which was superb, followed by a rest, to let things settle, and then a swim with the boys. Back to the training being intrusive on family life; this is negated somewhat by making every effort to do family stuff, no matter how tired you are, and not letting children know how tired you are. I have to become as disciplined and selfish around making sure I do family stuff as I do around training. It’s not easy. Ultra training and family life are not good bedfellows, but it can be made to work. We had a superb swim, and my lads surprised me with their progress in the pool: we all cracked out a good few lengths before heading home. Then I fell asleep on the sofa for two hours: very rare for me!

Tomorrow is the Ely Festive 5K, which I can treat as training and family time as the boys want to run it. I will have to head out on my own afterwards! More on that soon!

Family time!