Tuesday, 31 December 2013

So how was 2013?

2013 for me was a big year.
I completed my first ultra marathon, The North Downs Way 50 in May (original report here NDW50) then in July pushed it up to 100k with Race to the Stones (original report here Race to the Stones) I ran with Scott Jurek (click here) and ran my first unofficial self supported ultra for my birthday (click here for the story) its been a pretty crazy year.

Personal accomplishments aside I would like to take a moment to explain what has inspired me this year. This year for me was amazing due to the knock on effects of my running. I have been a pretty active member of a beginners running forum since I started and we have all pushed each other along all the way. I may be able to call myself an ultra runner now but I have never forgotten those first miles. The effort, the pain, the burning lungs! Talking to people who are just starting out or who are coming back to running after a while is a big deal to me. I love watching people progress and grow to love this movement we call running.

You may find it strange to read that one of my biggest personal accomplishments this year is inspiring my Mum to start running. Just watching the change in her gives me a bigger sense of joy than crossing any finishing line.
Yeah it might sound a little hippie or mushy but I don't care! This year has been far more about the others that I seem to have inspired rather than what I have actually achieved and I would like to take this moment to thank each and every one of you for being part of my running life. You guys keep me going with all of your efforts just as much as I may help you and long may it continue!

I think I will keep this short and sweet and end with wishing you all the best of luck for 2014, lets make it a great one!

Keep smiling folks!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

34 for 34

So what is the normal thing to do for your birthday? Have a nice lay in? Breakfast in bed? A nice pub lunch perhaps?
I was up and out of the door by 6am to run 34 miles.

The idea for this kind of madness started a little while back just after I read a book by Dean Karnazes. Long story short, he got drunk as a skunk on his birthday and upon getting home decided to run 30 miles to celebrate his 30 years on the planet.
I really liked the idea back then and pondered doing it myself but never really had the cojones to give it a go....until now!
Maybe I should have just tried it back then as I could have knocked a few miles off!

The route in mind was to trot from Borehamwood over to Watford where I could pick up the river path, then up to Rickmansworth, jump onto the Grand Union Canal to Uxbridge, spin around and come back.

The morning started damp and a little chilly so I had all my gear on for a cold journey. Hat, gloves, jacket, trousers, my new Injinji trail socks and my good old trusty Luna Leadville. I started off with 2 full 650ml water bottles in my Ultimate Direction AK vest and a 500ml plastic bottle with a mix of chia seeds, half water, half Dr Pepper. I had some Clif bars, peanuts and some dark chocolate on board as well.

I had a rough target in my head of about 7 hours but in reality I would just be happy to finish as I haven't actually trained over 10 miles since Race to the Stones back in July! Water was the only real thing I might have to stop for but I have noticed in my training that my need for water has lessened and I seem to be fine on not a lot. With this in mind I gave myself about 5 or so hours on what I was carrying.

6am and off we go!
I was quite surprised how quickly I got into Watford and decided to slow it down a little as I still had a looooooong way to go. I turned under a bridge and into the......WHAT?! The entrance to the park was boarded off! Out with the phone to try and work out a way to get back on track. A few minutes later I was on my way again trying to pick up another path to the river. I found a nice little pathway leading me back to where I needed to be and headed on to the dark scary path along the river. I put my Petzl Tikka XP2 head torch on and apart from it bouncing around a little as I have a head like a pea it works really well, giving me a lovely flat distribution.
Everything seems to be going pretty well and I`m right on my target pace. A nice friendly dog walker finds me checking out a sign post and points me onto the path for the Grand Union Canal.
Glad that I haven't got lost yet I set off down the path. I've not really run along a canal before and so far it feels pretty good. 3 miles later however...
Now 13 miles in I started to feel like a boil in the bag fish. The temperature had come up a little bit and it was now time to lose the layers and pack them away.
I added some Elete drops to my water and started munching away on some peanuts till I felt I could pick up the pace again.
I started to feel much better and trotted along quite nicely passed some very pretty canal boats, taking in the scenery as I made my way towards Uxbridge. It must be noted that not all of the scenery was quite so nice on this section of the Grand Union canal, some of it was pretty untidy with rubbish dumped at the sides. Why do people do this?! They take a perfectly nice place and trash it! Moving on...

Eventually I looked down at my watch to see it tick over to 17 miles. I say eventually because that last part felt like a million miles and has made my hamstring a very grumpy beast. A nice stretch and a switch of bottles and its time to head back.
Mr Hamstring is not happy with being up at this time in the morning and is making a point of telling me that I am an arse. I am an arse for not really building up to this. I am an arse for not staying in bed. I am an arse for listening to my arse.
The canal is not ending. Never before have I just wanted a hill, hell I would just take a corner at this stage, anything to break up the monotony of this straight, flat, stony canal path.
Finally I can see the turning back onto the cycle path and see the sign for Watford again. 3 1/2 miles.
I run and shuffle for what feels like an age. Another sign post. Watford 3 miles. WHAT?! Half a mile?! This is getting silly now!
This continues for a few millennia until the watch ticks over to 26.2 miles. Marathon done! 6 hours. Not so great but I`m still alive and not feeling so bad now. I pick up the pace a little just to make sure I still have my legs on. 28 miles in I found a little shop and they sell coconut water! Oh rapture! Its the little things.....

Now with 2 cans of coconut water on board things are looking up and I start to move along a little quicker, sipping away as I try and keep up with the passing snails.

Mr Hamstring is starting to get very vocal again so I employ the old trusty technique of  "shuffle a bit, run a bit, walk a lot, repeat" anything to just keep moving.

32 miles in and in a moment of clarity I suddenly realise that I am doing something strange. I am running. Not only am I running but I am now running quicker than I have been all day! Quick look at the watch to see 8:45 minute mile!!! OK then?!! I gradually slow it down again and walk some more over the next mile.

Finally into Borehamwood now and on the home stretch! Unfortunately the home stretch entails a lot of pretty steep hills but at this stage I just want to get it done.

I come to the brow of the last hill and start making my way down the other side and I can see someone near the bottom standing with a phone, no way? Is that? It is! Its my Mum! She cheers me to the bottom then starts running with me over the last mile!
It really lifted my spirits and we chatted along until my watch finally read 34 miles.
Final time was just a little under 8:10, a lot longer than I had bargained for but that all faded away when my Mum handed me this!!

Such an amazing gift! She then added that there is room on there for a lot more tags....

Same time next year then folks! :)


EDIT - It must also be noted that I came home to the most amazing risotto from my wonderful, beautiful and very patient (have I crawled enough yet?) Fiancee! Great recovery meal!!