Tuesday, 7 December 2010

A Touch of Frost

I thought I would post a couple of pics of my afternoon run... That is frost not snow on the trees!!

Snellsmore Common, Newbury, UK:

Monday, 6 December 2010

Portland - Coastal Trail Series - Race Report

Saturday morning, was up at 5am, knocked out some coffee an egg and bacon sandwich and threw in some malt loaf into the kit bag. With the way the weather has been in the UK I didn't know whether to expect snow, ice, rain or a Tsunami. In the end we got a touch of mist and about 1 degree. Not too bad.

Throwing the kit in the car I picked up my fellow club runner Sam and we headed off to the latest stage of the EnduraceLife Coastal Trail Series 2010. I had already participated in the previous race (See Gower race report below) and today would see us head off to Portland on the South Coast in Dorset. As ultra distance was not an option on this course, I had opted in for the trail marathon instead.

The starting point and check-in was in Weymouth an outstanding place if you are mad about boats and the like -as it will soon be hosting the sailing part of the London Olympics 2012. The schedule for the day is slower marathon runners heading off first followed by the other marathon runners shortly after. The half marathon and 10k runners head off an our and half or so after we shoot off.

With a good turn out we all head off out of the hanger for a quick briefing a look around to idenitfy anyone wearing road trainers (for a good laugh) a few words of encouragement and we were off. The marathon runners hit 2 laps of the island (although I am not entirely sure why it is called an island) with a basic line following the coastal line around Portland.

Checking out a few forums and blogs I heard that this was a reasonably quick course so I shot off at a sub 6mm pace only to hit a very large hill within the first mile or so. I usually use the first few miles to warm up and get settled in so this hill was certainly most unwelcome at such an early part of the race. That said, it certainly woke me up. After a very short time to recover from the hill(s) we were presented with another hill which was impossible to run up and we were forced to the 'hands on knee' manoeuvre to get up, a quick pose for the camera at the top and away.

After a couple of miles I had a comfortable lead hitting the first checkpoint just over 17 minutes. Now, getting lost appears to be a common occurrence for me on the coastal series - shortly after a quick decent after the checkpoint I was presented with a path leading left and right of me. The problem was that 1 arrow pointed right and the other left! As with all these kinds of events there is always the risk of someone moving the arrows and it appears that someone found it funny to point the arrow in the opposite direction. It was a 50/50 so I took the left path only to be presented with a dead end half a mile or so down the track (i.e. the sea!). I must admit I was pleased to see the other runners following suite who  had taken the left turn as well. It also meant that we all made the same mistake so it was an even field! There was a lot of time to make up -to put the diversion into perspective, the organisers estimate the mileage to be 26.9 miles - my Garmin recorded 28.17!

Anyway, after the little jolly we all dug in and got on with the race. The first lap went by quite quickly presenting some nice challenges, steep descents on wet rocks a few metres from the cliff edge and the sound of the sea smashing into the rocks and cliffs below. Some really beautiful scenes to be had. It wasn't long before the famous Portland Bill Lighthouse (do you remember the kid's cartoon!) came into sight which also indicated that checkpoint 2 was close by. A quick dab of the dabber and off for another long section across some grassland before hitting more cliff edge slowly bringing us down the the seafront.

It wasn't long before I went from tarmac to pebbles. Over a mile of pebbles in fact! I started the beach section quite promising with a sub 7.5mm on shingle / pebble beach but it wasn't long before the legs were struggling and I was down to 8.5mm for this section of the course. The worst bit is knowing that you have to do the section again another 13 or so miles later!

The Chesil Beach or Chesil Bank, Dorset, a general view northwestward from the Portland end

It wasn't long after the beach section that I was in the second lap of the route and about 10 mins behind the half marathoners. Up the hills again drop the pace to catch my breach and I was back into 6.5mm - I caught up with the half marathoners just before CP1 which was nice in a way that I had some company whist running but a little bit awkward when trying to run down the single lanes. Shouting "coming through" seemed to work in most cases but they were under no obligation to step aside if they didn't want to and some didn't - fair enough. This brought me down to a shuffle in some stages but it was probably a positive thing as it gave me time to recoup for a few seconds before hitting the coastal path again digging in and trying to complete the second lap.

Half way around the second lap the wind kicked in and it began to rain. The island is so exposed it wasn't long before I was soaked to the bone but I knew there was not far to go. A final MASSIVE slog across the pebble beach hit the final checkpoint and an attempt to push in a good time in the final section back to the HQ.

3 hours 23 minutes and 3323 calories later I passed the finish line.Job done. Although I was pleased with setting a new course record, this is by no means a quick time for a trail marathon - this is tough terrain and the pebbles make sure you know you have just completed a coastal trail run.

Top 3 men were:

1. Daniel Doherty - 3.23.01
2. David Spencer - 3.41.10
3. Mike Martin - 3.50.00

Full results for marathon, half and 10k can be found here.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Gower - Coastal Trail Series - Race Report

With a week of extreme weather - torrential rain, floods and wind that would knock you off your feet, I was expecting the worst driving to Wales on Saturday. Gower CTS is essentially a coastal run along sandy beaches and cliff edges in extremely exposed areas on the Welsh peninsula. Poor weather would seem extreme in this area making any kind of long distance run a real challenge. Thankfully, the morning turned out beautifully and it was not long before the sun was up and runners were ready to go. I could not have asked for better weather!

Standing at the start line I was wearing my Inov-8 talons (first time I had worn Talons for this kind of distance / terrain) a new Salomon XT Wings 5 running pack (I had only managed to get in 10 training miles wearing this) and 2 packs of Blocks (a bit like gels but more solid, edible and less sickly). I would be the first to say never try something new on race day, however all three worked out perfectly for me.

With a short briefing, a cup of tea and a quick laugh at the chap who decided to turn up wearing road trainers, we were off. The event was organised with ultra and slower marathon runners leaving first thing in the morning followed by the marathon runners, 1/2 marathon and finally 10k at various intervals (in the hope that we all turn up at the same time ish). As soon as I dabbed my dabber (an electronic device to provide more accurate timing) I decided to push off reasonably hard at just over 6 minute miles for the first few miles. Not really knowing the terrain or properly reviewing the elevation this can always be a risky move.

The Gower CTS course provides a good challenge for the trail runner with a variety of terrain to tackle. One minute I am running on slippery trail of mud and wet leaves, next on a sandy beach, followed by wet grassy fields, bogs, marsh, road, woodland, rock and anything else you can find on the Welsh coast. The ultra route takes the standard marathon course around the National Trust coastal trail (c. 27+ miles) with an added 7 or so miles at the end forming part of the 10k and half marathon route. For those of you that know the area, the CPs require you to run through:

1.     CP1 Hillend
2.     CP2 Cheriston Wood
3.     CP3 Nicholaston
4.     CP4 Horton
5.     CP5 Seatown
6.     CP6 Middleton Rhosilli (start and finish)

It was kind for the organisers to mention that the ultra runners had the option of calling it a day at 27 miles and completing the marathon instead. It was probably a very tempting compromise for most runners on the day with the “finish” sign pointing towards home and the “ultra” sign leading them around the route for another 7+ miles of mixed terrain. Great stuff and good for moral fibre!

Remaining upright was a challenge and I ended up on my arse and face several times along the course. At one point coming down an extremely large hill, I fell on my backside and slid down uncontrollable until I hit a large clump only to stand up and do it again. That said, I can't complain, I got down the hill a lot quicker and was neatly delivered to CP1 with a smiley volunteer handing out water and food.

With the organisers only providing 'estimated' mileage (the marathon is about 27+ miles) I was not sure whether I was going to be running 33 or 37 miles. This always proves to be a mental challenge when running the last few miles. I wanted to keep my running bag light so kept to the minimum compulsory kit (first aid kit, space blanket, waterproof jacket, whistle, hat, phone, water and food) and using my new Salomon 3D water bottle I filled half a bottle with water and the other with a Nuun tablet diluted in water. I made sure that each bottle was half full at each CP and made the most of the nutrition that was available - usually sugary sweets, Blocks or cookies.

Despite taking in electrolytes and using the Nuun tablets I managed to get cramp in my left hamstring from about 16 miles and it lasted all the way to the finish line. I managed to prevent the cramp from turning the run into a living nightmare by static stretches each time I had a couple of seconds to open a gate or actively stretching it by lengthening my stride on the down hills. But you can’t complain too much when you have such stunning scenery to take in and extremely difficult terrain to focus on.

I was feeling quite strong to about 27 miles passing the marathon route “finish” sign at about 3.32ish (in fact the sign is about 5 minutes away from the finish line). My pace had dropped a little with the cramp now in both hamstrings (I was having a little difficulty with my hamstrings in training) but decided not to take the easier option and push on with the ultra course. It is at this stage its very easy to forget about hydration and nutrition when you think you are so close to the end, but with 7+ miles to go its vital that you maintain the discipline to follow my 30 minute top-up routine.

Disaster struck when I was about half a mile before the penultimate checkpoint (which was originally CP 1 during the beginning of the ultra and as we loop back around would also serve as a CP for the later stages). The signage pointed the 10k runners to the path leading off to the right and the ultra and marathon runners to continue straight ahead. I stood there staring at the sign for some time, I knew that we were to join the 10k route at some point but was this it? If I took the ultra sign could I actually be doing the original route again and end up doing another 27 miles? I was confused. In the end I decided to take the 10k route and charged down a large hill to a watering station. It wasn’t long before I found out that I needed to dab my dabber in what was CP 1 again. SHIT! Due to my own stupidity in not following the clearly marked signage properly I had added a reasonable large hill into my run which worked out to be an additional 7 to 8 minutes on to my final finish time! I must stress that this was due to me trying to be clever and thinking too much rather than following the sign which clearly said” ultra”. I have learnt my lesson the hard way.

After running down another large hill (the one which I uncontrollably slid/rolled/dived down a couple of hours earlier) I looped back round to catch the 10k and half marathon runners finishing the last few miles of their run. This was a welcome sight as I used these runners to pick up my pace always trying to catch up with the next person in front. Ultras can be lonely affairs because of their distance and it was nice to see people again! I must point out that one guy was carrying his compulsory kit in a record / messenger bag which is a first for me! He did look a little awkward / uncomfortable though.  

With a short road section through a local village I pushed up a large hill not too far from Worms Head watching the half marathon runners and 10k runners feeling the pain of getting up this large hill – little did they know that this would be the second time the ultra runners would run up this hill in one day! Running through an extremely muddy field towards Rhossili the sound of local support nearby indicated I was close. With one final push and the thought of a cup of tea I let rip with one final burst of energy to take me past the finish line. Job done.

In the end, the route for me (with my own added mileage) turned out to be just over 36 miles with the results as follows:

1st Daniel Doherty 5hr 01min
2nd Oliver Sinclair 5hr 38 mins
3rd Neil Bryant 5hr 56 mins

Although it does appear that Oliver is running an ultra nearly every weekend. Not sure how he does that!

The CTS is a really well organised event with some dedicated runners organising each of the events which form part of the series. Like most ultra trail running events you really wouldn’t get around to seeing some of the county’s most beautiful spots unless you entered. If you ever wondered why ultra runners run these kind of events you only really need experience the routes and atmosphere at events like this one to get your answer. Check out the upcoming events in the series here.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Coastal Trail Series - Gower Ultra Training Plan

I have entered the ultra running event forming part of the Coastal Trail Series. If you have not heard of this series it is definitely worth taking a look here.

So, I have just finished a 10 mile road race today and have until 13 November to train for a coastal ultra of around 32+ miles (the organiser does not say how many miles it will actually be). I thought it may be worth posting my daily training leading up to this event to hopefully get some feedback on suggestions, experiences and see how you may have tackled this. Please note that most of my runs during the working week are in the dark using a head torch so what I mean by "tempo", "recovery" etc are slightly different to what I would mean if I was running during daylight hours...

Please do drop me a post and let me know what you think....

WEEK 4 (Race Week / TAPER) Monday 08th November to Sunday 14th November
Total Mileage: 28.62
Total Runs: 4

Monday 08th
AM - Rest

Lunch - X trainer / balance and joint strengthening / core work - Gym.

PM - 7.12 miles - steady - (48.27) - very muddy and wet forest trail

Tuesday 09th
AM - 6 miles - steady - (38.43) - road

Lunch - Rest

PM - 6 miles - steady - (39.46) - road

Wednesday 10th
AM - Rest

Lunch - X trainer / balance and joint strengthening / core work - Gym

PM - 9.5 miles - easy / steady - (1hr 02) - Road

Thursday 11th
AM - Rest

Lunch - X trainer / balance and joint strengthening / core work - Gym

PM - Rest

Friday 12th
Rest All day.

WEEK 3: (FIRST WEEK TAPER) Monday 01st November to Sunday 7th November
Total Mileage: 88.86
Total Runs: 12

Summary: I managed to drop my mileage down by 40 miles or so to 89 miles this week. Lots of easy / steady 6-8 milers during the week. A mid distance 16 miler on the Saturday to keep the legs working but I am happy I maintained the discipline to taper down a little. Race week coming up next week so I will keep my daily routine to 1 run and 1 gym session (where possible) with perhaps a light 5k on the Thursday to keep the blood circulation going and a rest day on Friday.

Monday 01st
AM - 6 miles - recovery - (45.25) - road

Lunch - X trainer / balance and joint strengthening / core work - Gym

PM - 6 miles - struggle - (43.19) - road
Wow - struggled a little but tonight. Legs were not having any of it. I will focus on the foam roller and early night tonight!

Tuesday 02nd
AM - 6 miles - recovery (43.15) - road
Feeling a little better this morning. Nice to see the sun comes up half way around the run so not in complete darkness. Treated to some beautiful sun rises in the morning at the end of the runs.

Lunch - X trainer / balance and joint strengthening / core work - Gym.

PM - 6.5 miles - steady (43) - trail
Tried out a new Inov8 waist pack for the race today. Not too bad as it didn't rub although I am not sure whether I prefer the weight distributed over the hydration pack or on the waist. The buckle did dig into my side after a while so will need to work out how to pad that out.

Wednesday 03rd
AM - 6 miles - recovery (41) - road

Lunch - X trainer / balance and joint strengthening / core work - Gym.

PM - 7.5 miles - steady (? watch died) - trail

Thursday 04th
AM - 6 miles - recovery (41.59) - road

Lunch - X trainer / balance and joint strengthening / core work - Gym

PM - 6 miles - steady (38.54) - road

Friday 05th
AM - 6 miles - steady (36.21) - road

PM - 8.51 miles - steady (58.19) - multi terrain

Saturday 06th
Lunch - 16 miles - steady (1hr 52) - v muddy trail

Sunday 07th
PM - 8.35 miles - steady - (54.50) - multi terrain

WEEK 2: Monday 25th October to Sunday 31st October
Total mileage: 124.23
Total runs: 13

Summary: Not too displeased with this week's mileage. Although most runs were carried out at a 'steady' pace I have managed to get in some good mileage especially over the weekend and still feeling strong at the end of it. I have managed to rack-up 250.08 miles in 14 days which is not bad with 4 weeks training between events. I aim to do the same kind of working weekday mileage next week and ease off the big weekend mileage as part of a taper down hitting just under the 100 mile mark.

Monday 25th
AM: 6 miles slow / recovery (43.37) - Road
A new week! Crisp early morning run... clocks go back this week so can't remember if that will afford me a little more light in the morning. I think it is the other way around :(

Lunch - X trainer / balance and joint strengthening / core work - Gym.

PM - 6 miles steady / mixed (37.46) - Road

Tuesday 26th
AM - 6 miles slow / recovery (43.58) - Road

Lunch - X trainer / balance and joint strengthening / core work - Gym.

PM - 8.44 miles steady (1hr 03) - Trail
Very muddy ground slipping around a little. Raining quite hard this evening making visibility quite difficult with the head torch

Wednesday 27th
AM - 6 miles slow / recovery (41.51) - Road

Lunch - X trainer / balance and joint strengthening / core work - Gym.

PM - 10.11 - mixed pace (1hr 10) - Trail
Very muddy and wet trail around Bramley and Pamber Forest.

Thursday 28th
AM - 6 miles slow / recovery (41.17) - Road

Lunch - X trainer / balance and joint strengthening / core work - Gym.

PM - 12.17 miles mixed pace (NA) - Road and Trail
Good night run around the Vyne at various pace.

Friday 29th
AM - 6 miles - steady (36.51) - Road (daylight run)

PM- Rest

Saturday 30th
AM - 29 miles - steady (3hr 48) - trail
Lovely trail run through Basingstoke

PM - 6.01 miles - steady (38.28) - Road

Sunday 31st
Lunch - 12.5 miles - mix (no watch) - Trail
Could not find my Garmin so ran without a watch. Was  quite a nice experience not to rely on time and focus on breathing and generally enjoying the run.

PM - 10 miles - steady (1hr 04) - Road
Nice steady road run to finish off the weekly mileage. Feeling quite strong even though had a tough week.

WEEK 1: Monday 18th October to Sunday 24th October
Total mileage: 125.85
Total runs: 14

Summary: Not a bad week of running. Although my calves are a little sore, I am feeling quite strong. I am not running as fast as I like due to 80% of my running being in the dark and I am trying to avoid twisted ankles and broken legs! I am not too concerned about speed at this stage as this is training for an ultra which has quite difficult terrain where endurance will be more important (sand, rock etc). I will drop my mileage down a little next week (c. 100) and then ease into a taper week on race week.

Monday 18th
AM - 6 miles slow / recovery run (43.04) - Road
Bramley Country Roads - Starting to get a bit chilly! Gloves and hat out

Lunch - X trainer / balance and joint strengthening / core work - Gym

PM - 7 miles Slow / Steady (49.03) - Trail
Pamber forest - looks a lot different in the dark and have to keep stopping to avoid taking the wrong turn!

Tuesday 19th
AM - 6.58 miles steady (43.47) - Undulating trail
Nice crisp morning around Snellsmore Common

Lunch - core work - Gym

PM - 14.48 miles (NA) - Steady / Brisk Circuit training - Road and Trail
3Mile road warm up, circuit training at The Vyne at a reasonable pace, followed by 3 miles road warm down

Wednesday 20th
AM - 6 miles slow / recovery (44.11) - Road
Now it really is getting chilly in the morning. My lips were frozen solid this morning. Thankfully I didn't have to smile at anyone!

Lunch - X trainer / balance and joint strengthening / core work - Gym

PM - 11.03 miles Steady / Hill Reps - Road and Trail
3 miles road warm up, hill reps at The Vyne, followed by 3 miles road warm down

Thursday 21st
AM - 6 miles slow / recovery (45.03) - Road
-2 in October. What is that about? Gore gloves were struggling to keep the hands warm this morning. Wanted to go for a pee but thought something may drop off in this temp!

Lunch - X trainer / balance and joint strengthening / core work - Gym

PM - 10 miles mixed pace (1hr.05) - road
Warm up, steady and tempo mixed around Bramley countryside roads.

Friday 22nd
AM - 6 miles steady (37.46) - Road
Steady run today as have long mileage at weekend

PM - 6 miles slow (40.23) - Road
Had far too much to eat at lunch and felt very heavy and bloated.

Saturday 23rd
AM - 6 miles steady (42.26) - Road

PM 23.53 miles - mixed pace (2hr 56) - mixed terrain
Ran with a heavy Camelback today - heavier than its going to be on race day but wanted to get some endurance in those legs. Mixed terrain running through Pamber Forest, road then The Vyne. Legs really felt the added weight today.

Sunday 24th
AM - 11.22 miles (NA) - run with club - Trail
Nice early morning run with the Club this morning around various trail routes through Bramley.

PM - 6.01 miles (40.54) - Steady - Road

Monday, 1 November 2010

To Eat or Not to Eat?

One of the things I am a little obsessive about at the moment is my weight and ensuring it is acceptable for racing. I am about 5.10' and seem to swing between 69-71kg depending on the kind of mileage I am doing. I still need to lose a bit of weight as I would ideally like to be around the 67kg mark but one other thing I suffer from is constantly feeling hungry. I also tend to put a bit too much weight on when I am tapering (forgetting that I am not burning as many calories).

I have just purchased Matt Fitzgerald's book Racing Weight in the hope to get some tips on by diet. But before I read the book in detail I thought I would detail a couple of days of my diet so that I can review what I am eating and drinking and hopefully identify where it can be improved. Please feel free to let me know what you think...



2 x Sweet Cinnamon Porridge with a handful of raisins, dry blueberries, banana, coconut etc. Honey
1 x 500ml Pomegranate, Blueberries and Acai Smoothie
1 x Large Skinny Latte (Costa)
1 x 1.5L Volvic bottled water (consumed throughout the day)

1 x Banana
1 x apple
1 x Jordans Frusli (Raisin & Hazelnut)

1 x Banana
1 x 1.5 handful of mixed nuts and raisins
1 x tuna and baked beans jacket potato
1 x raisin and sultana slice of bread with Flora margarine
1 x Tutti Frutti mixed fresh fruit (300g) (pineapple, orange, blueberries, kiwi and grapes)

2 x large handful of mixed nuts and raising (didn't really need this but can't keep off the nuts!)
2 x fruit loaf with peanut butter

5 x Roti
1 x bowl of dahl
1 x large portion of mixed fresh fruit, low fat yogurt and granola
1 x grapefruit

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Tadley 10 Race Report

I thought I would give a local 10 mile road race a go today. I rarely enter road races but given that it was a local event I thought I could use this to see where I am in my training and how much work is needed for the London Marathon.

Tadley 10 is a fast course with very little hills to tackle. It is quite a beautiful run as it is takes various country roads in and around the local countryside in Hampshire. The weather was close to perfect - no wind and although it started off a little cold by the time we kicked off the sun was in the sky.

A good field turned out today with plenty of local teams entered - Reading, Tadley, Chineham, Winchester and of course my own team, Basingstoke and Mid Hants AC.

I think the best way to describe how my race went is by looking at my mile splits for the event:

Mile 1 - 5.08 (Min Mile)
Mile 2 - 5.02
Mile 3 - 5.20
Mile 4 - 5.29
Mile 5 - 5.39
Mile 6 - 5.34
Mile 7 - 5.48
Mile 8 - 5.27
Mile 9 - 5.49
Mile 10 - 5.49

Total: 10 Miles 55.34

Can you see the pattern? Although I am generally happy with the time, I am not at all happy with those splits. I could throw the usual complaints into the pot to explain the drop in form going through the race such as it being my first time on this course and I had ran a 93 mile training week last week, however I feel this these points had probably not made too much of a difference.

At this stage I think it is probably down to a) a lack of race experience; and b) a lack of interval / speed training in my weekly training schedule. Ideally, I need to be at a place by Spring next year to be able to maintain 5mm -5.10mm over a 26 mile stretch. I certainly have the base training and will start to focus on speed from December onwards.

Anyway, back to the race. I pushed out quite hard for the first couple of miles keeping up a steady pace of about 5mm. It was not long before I heard the footsteps of someone behind me and I knew they were going a lot quicker than mine! In fact, it turned out to be the event winner Matt King who went on to finish with a course record of just over 54 minutes. After about mile 6 he was at least a minute or so ahead of me. An amazing runner. What was funny a guy manning a cross road at about mile 9 said in a serious fashion 'the guy ahead is only about a minute away...' I am not entirely sure what he wanted me to try, but trying to knock out a 4 minute mile on the 10th was not really going to happen!

The race did not really pose too many problems from a technical perspective and I felt strong enough to ignore the first 2 water stations (at a bout mile 3 and 6) while taking some water (generally in the face, chest and everywhere other than my mouth) at about 8 and half miles in.

I finished feeling quite strong an ended up as second man about a minute or so after Matt (Sorry I don't have the exact times at this stage).

Reading Road runners won the team event.

Basingstoke and Mid Hants AC did well with John Biggs coming in as the second Basingstoke male and Katie as first Basingstoke lady.

All in all a really enjoyable race and definitely worth doing if you need to add some speed into your training or looking for a 10 mile PB. A Great atmosphere and brilliantly organised.

Course website is here.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Which month is it?

So I am back in the city of Delhi and had the awful experience of running on this kind of machine called a dreadmill or treadmill or something. Jesus! I was running on that thing for 45 mins non stop at what felt like at least a 6mm pace - yet at the end it told me I only knocked out about 9.5k. That said, I was in a very dodgy looking Delhi gym with machines that looked like they were made during the war - but there is something very wrong with those stats.

I have experienced this in U.K gyms as well and have received similar complaints from other runners who destroyed themselves on the dreadmill only to be told that they have completed a couple of km. What is it with those things?

I will be flying back to the U.K and can't wait to get back into my normal weekly training. India has certainly provided me with a good workout and although I have only managed between 55 to 60 miles during each week, those runs have been in temperatures of around 37 degrees. I have actually boiled my skin using my own sweat - I look like I have leprosy. It has been a new experience and I hope to be able to take something away from it. There are plenty of ultras that call out to me (Badwater and Jungle Marathon to name two) which are set in extremely hot or humid locations, so hopefully the past couple of weeks have given me a little taster of what to expect.

I am limited to my iPad at the moment so I will provide a final version of the running in India blog and add some additional material, photos and experiences once I am back in the U.K.

On a final note, thanks to Warwick for pointing out that I probably meant 'September' rather than 'October' in my running blog! It seems like I am in a different time zone and month!!!!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Running in India

So, I have safely arrived in Delhi after several hours on a plane. I will not be able to put in my usual weekly mileage (I am on holiday after all) but I do hope to be able to put in a reasonable amount of mileage during my two week holiday.

I will keep you posted on my adventures of running in India and will try and post some pictures. For those who have not had the luck of visiting India it certainly offers a unique experience on all terrains!

Tuesday 28th September
(10 miles)

Monday 27th September
(15.44 miles)

I am starting to really miss my foam roller. Unfortunately, I forgot to pack it and I am now paying for that mistake. I heavily rely on the roller and use it twice a day shortly after each run and focus on rolling my legs for about 15 mins while watching tv. Since I started using a foam roller I have found that I have less niggles when I run. Certainly worth a go if you have not tried it before and they are relatively cheap at about fifteen pounds.

Went for a 15 mile trail run today mainly on sand. I took my bladder pack but it only holds 1 litre of water which doesn't last long out in the heat. Made a big mistake today and misjudged everything. I was about 11 miles in when I started feeling dizzy and was having thoughts that I was not going to make it back to the main road! Thankfully, I came across a water pump that is used by the locals. I had been warned not to drink from these pumps as the water is not exactly clean and an English boy like me would probably not fair well. However, I did have the opportunity to cool down by splashing cold water over my head, neck and core for a while which gave me a massive boost enough for me to stumble / jog the remaining few miles back home.

Monday 27th September
(15.44 miles)

I am starting to really miss my foam roller. Unfortunately, I forgot to pack it and I am now paying for that mistake. I heavily rely on the roller and use it twice a day shortly after each run and focus on rolling my legs for about 15 mins while watching tv. Since I started using a foam roller I have found that I have less niggles when I run. Certainly worth a go if you have not tried it before and they are relatively cheap at about fifteen pounds.

Went for a 15 mile trail run today mainly on sand. I took my bladder pack but it only holds 1 litre of water which doesn't last long out in the heat. Made a big mistake today and misjudged everything. I was about 11 miles in when I started feeling dizzy and was having thoughts that I was not going to make it back to the main road! Thankfully, I came across a water pump that is used by the locals. I had been warned not to drink from these pumps as the water is not exactly clean and an English boy like me would probably not fair well. However, I did have the opportunity to cool down by splashing cold water over my head, neck and core for a while which gave me a massive boost and enough for min me to stumble / jog the remaining few miles back home.

Sunday 26th September
(10 miles)

A comfortable 10 miles today. A gentle run through the trail - this did lead me to a railway crossing. After spending at least 10 minutes waiting for the train, I plucked up the courage to follow the locals by ducking under the gates and making a dash to the other side. It is about 100 metres gate to gate with several tracks to jump over. I had no clue which direction the train was coming, what track it would be on and how fast. Focusing on the other side I make a quick sprint (good interval training) and covered the 100 metres in a time Bolt would be proud of.

Saturday 25th September
(20k 2 x 10k)

The rain has finally given way and today is the hottest it has been since our arrival. A quick look at the BBC website tells me it is around 36 - 37 degrees. The humidity has dropped a little and I am faced with a different kind of heat. There is not a bit of wind in sight and I am faced with a clear blue sky.

I have picked 1pm to do my first 10k (without water) to see how my body responds to this kind of heat. I did not take water as I have limited the run to 10k and will do anything to avoid carrying to carry a bottle - Obviously it wont help my training if I injure myself through stupidity hence I have ensured that this is a controlled run by limiting it to 10k and a nice 7mm pace. There can be some benefit in doing things like this so that you familiarise your body with such weather and conditions. I  prefer this to happen in training and use the time to work out how my body copes with the added pressure and how best I can deal with it with  the limited resources available.

Coming out of an air conditioned house I was immediately hit with a wall of heat across the body and face. Breathing was instantly a struggle. I synced the Garmin and started at a steady pace, I had not gone far before my t-shirt was soaked, sweat was streaming into my eyes, chaffing was kicking-in around the usual places and my legs felt a little heavy.

Although this route is mainly trail, the first mile is on a sandy road and there are places where I need to hold my breath because I am either passing a dead dog / other creature lying on the side of the road or a particularly large lorry shoots by bringing with it a storm of dust and sand in my face. My body was working so much harder today to keep itself cool (increased heart rate etc) and holding my breath even for a few seconds was a challenge. I calculated it wrong and got a nose full of stench and a mouth full of sand. The conditions can really be unforgiving at times.

I eventually hit the trail and the humidity increased but it also felt a lot hotter. I had ran the first 5k in reasonably comfort, however it was not long before dehydration was noticeable. It is amazing how quickly performance drops. I am used to running 10k every day as part of my morning run followed by a longer run in the evening. Today my pace slowed, my mouth became increasingly dry, my body was quite burnt from the heat - my general motivation had dropped - the 10k seemed a lot further than usual!

It is this kind of physical and mental reaction that I wanted to pick up on and experience. As I have mentioned below, the best thing to do is to focus on running economy and ensure that you get to the next check point (if it were a race) in a reasonable condition so that once you have benefited from the CP you can pick yourself up and try and make up on lost time.

Although I was not dangerously dehydrated, my brain was telling my legs to stop or at least walk! It is at this stage that I simply focused on a point several feet ahead of me and tried to let myself drift off a little thinking of anything other than run (family, work etc). The key is to always remain positive in my thinking. Making a point of recognising landmarks I passed on the way out helps to create a general feeling of running back and getting closer to the checkpoint (or in this case home) thinking that it will only be x minutes before I have access to water, food, AC and perhaps a massage. Before long I heard the beep on the Garmin which indicated that I was only a mile or so away from completing the 10k. Although I probably would not do this in a race (unless the next CP was the finish) I brought my pace down to 5.45 / 6mm which was a major shock to the system that was already overworked. It was not long before I could see the house which immediately gave me that added lift I needed to keep going at that pace. Job done.

I don't think I could ever have made a 10k sound so dramatic given that its quite a short distance and not much usually happens in training, however it is amazing to experience the added difficulties that can be placed in any kind of race when the weather takes a dramatic turn. Running in temperatures in the UK at around 15 degrees and then shooting over to India which boasts temperatures of 35+ degrees certainly provides a shock to the system. Another point I noted was the time it took for me to recover from that run. I could feel the strain several hours later when I hit the road for my second 10k, which in usual training, I would not have felt at all.

Friday 24th September
(0 miles)

Much travelling in Delhi today, places to go, people to see... One thing that has caught my interest is a new Ultra run which was featured in October's edition of Running Fitness and that is La Ultra, The High. A very difficult 222KM road/trail run at the foothills of the Himalayas. Check it out here:


This ultra is by invitation only and boasts some amazing stats on its altitude. The entry is limited to 40 so better get in your CV now! One worth thinking about in the future.

Thursday 23rd September
6.2 Miles

Duty calls in India and the functions have started which means most of the day is consumed by traveling, eating and general being social. This means I could only fit in a quick 10k in the morning while everyone was getting ready. I am now in central Delhi for 2 days so running is going to be very limited.

Wednesday 22nd September
(16 miles)
My usual training requires 2 runs a day, 7 days a week ranging from 85 to 125 miles per week. I try and fit in gym sessions, where possible. One thing is certain, my body certainly doesn't feel like it has reduced the mileage this week. The heat is an unbelievable strain on the body, dehydration kicks in quick which reduced performance substantially and the humidity really plays on the mind. The added stress of local wildlife (when running in the farmland) such as wild boar, snakes, spiders and other creepy bugs adds to stress. Tracks are quite narrow with vegetation on both sides. A constant shaking in the vegetation trips the alarm prevents me from relaxing. I like to hit my preferred pace and sit back and relax. This is certainly unachievable in this kind of terrain.

Today's running was interesting, a mile or so in I was faced with an extremely large eagle swooping down no more than 10ft in front of me to pick up something off the floor. It is amazing how quick you can stop and how high you can jump when surprised like that.

I did my usual head in any direction and get lost for a bit turn around and head in the same direction. I came across a very small village which appeared to house the very poor farmers who work on the local land. This was a Muslim community (presumably as the central feature appeared to be a mosque) where most lived mud huts. The 'streets' were extremely narrow which forced me to run in very deep mud (caused by the farming carts). With many spectators coming out of their huts to see what the hell was going on, I managed to entertain a couple of youngsters by slipping and falling sideways into what can only be described as the biggest pile of bull shit you have ever seen. I tried to take it on with some dignity pushed myself back up and kept running through the community. I think the kids were still laughing when I returned 10 minutes later!

News quickly spreads of some white man running through the local streets which, I am sure, has never been done before, which attracted at least 20 kids between 3 to 8 years old. They all started to scream and get over excited. When they realised that I was simply some mad guy running through their community they relaxed and formed a long line behind me and started to run - it was like a scene out of Children in Need! Shortly after some elderly chap shouted at the kids, and that was the end of my (their) fun.

Running is extremely difficult in this areas because the terrain is a mix of mud, sand, clay, manure and a host of other bits. Mix this with the massive downpour that India has received and you are essentially running in something like treacle. Good training for the x-country season coming up!

Hitting the 12 mile mark today I was seriously dehydrated and smelly - I had sand everywhere, in my eyes, ears and doing its job in adding to the chafing. With the relentless sun beaming down and baking me, I must have looked like something which came out of the swamp. The last 4 miles were quite hard and it simply required the usual approach to this situation which may occur during an ultra, which is to dig in, focus on economy of running and try and move your mind away from the running and focus on other things. Being in India that is very easy to do!

Tuesday 21st September
(10 miles)

Will the rain ever stop? When it rains in India, it rains! The rain was coming down so hard and fast visibility was quite limited which is a dangerous thing on the Indian highway. Still, I managed to put in 10 miles steady on the road.

Local areas are now beginning to flood. There was a risk overnight that we could be trapped if the Ganges burst its banks. Fingers crossed, we should be ok.

Monday 20th September
20km (2 x 10k)

Wow, the weather has changed today and the heat is almost unbearable the humidity is making life very difficult. It is so hot that by the time you get out of the shower you need to jump back in to wash the sweat off again! Not exactly ideal running weather but good training.

As I am not keen on taking a water bottle with me (I like to have my hands empty) I decided to split today's training down to two sessions. A recovery session in the morning followed by a tempo run in the evening.
I decided to move onto trail and run through the local farming community which was an eye opener. Children farming the crops with sickles half their size, shifty movements in the long grass (a snake, monkey or bird?!) and being challenged by some goats to a race. Interesting.

My initial plan of splitting my race pace was instantly set back as although I managed to hit around 6.20mm to 6.30mm for the first few miles the intense heat and humidity slowed my pace right down. In the end I could only manage a disappointing 7mm average over both 10ks but I hope my body will slowly accept this heat...

I will try and venture back on the road tomorrow although I am a little concerned that the locals stare at me so hard, they come close to driving straight into me!

Sunday 19th September
15 Miles

Naturally inspired by the various Commonwealth Games shenanigans which Delhi is preparing for, I decided to slip on a pair of Talons and do a steady 15 miles today. My legs are a little sore today following very long periods of sitting down on a plane and car, so I want to take it easy to avoid any niggles or worst still, injuries.

I was going to ask if they needed an extra marathon runner in the Commonwealth Games, but decided against it for risk of being put on a plane back to London and banned from entering India again.

I decided to brave a 15 mile stretch on road, mud, sand and other bits and pieces found on the side of Indian roads on a relatively calm Sunday just north of Delhi in Gajroula, Uttar Pradesh. This happens to be one of the most accident prone sections of the road, however I have limited options I must run. Things were going well albeit receiving some very strange looks by the locals who were probably not used to seeing some white boy running through their village and especially in such heavy rain.

Breathing was quite difficult (in contrast to Switzerland) because of the car fumes and trying to slip in to a relaxed state of running was proving quite difficult - anyone who has visited India will know that the rule of the road is to beep the horn as hard as possible and play 'chicken'. Survival of the fastest!

It was about 8 miles in with very little terrain other than road that I decided Inov-8 Talons were probably not the best trainers to be wearing. I knew I should have put on the Adios. It was a reasonably eventful run with every other guy on a bike shouting out "Commonwealth?" naturally presuming that I must be VERY lost or participating in the Games.

I think I have even made the local newspaper as some guy armed with a motorbike and camera refused to believe that I was not participating. After taking a few snaps of me running alongside a rather boring stretch of road he shouted back 'you're going to be in the newspaper'! So, apologies to anyone out there going to the Games expecting to see me! Hmmmm

Various words were shouted at me during my run, most of which was in Hindi. One word I did recognise (because my wife shouts it at me quite often) was 'Pagal' meaning 'mad'! Enough said.

This was followed by an encounter with a stray dog. Usually stray dogs decide to run as far as way as possible, however this particular dog stood its ground. As I approached it, I was not entirely sure who was more scared, me or the dog. I shuffled past him (I didn't check the sex, so I will take a guess) and he slowly shuffled by me. We went our separate ways...

Other than that it was a normal steady road run, you know the kind.


Thursday, 16 September 2010

Hopp Hopp - Jungfrau Marathon 2010 Race Report

After a 3 hour picturesque train journey from Geneva Airport, my wife and I were standing at the train station at Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. I had completely forgotten about the race coming up a few days later. The views were magnificent boasting snow topped mountains, waterfalls gushing off the canyon falls, bell jangling mountain cows and fresh air. You know, the kind of postcard style pictures you see of Switzerland. In fact, the place was so clean you could have eaten off the restaurant urinals!

This is a place that is not short of adventure. On our way to the chalet we could not make out this ripping sound high in the air. Having squinted up towards the mountains we could see it was a bat-shape base jumper, jumping of the canyons into a field. Mad!

A couple of days before the race I had decided to recce the Lauterbrunnen to Wengen part of the course (around 8 miles there and back) which later turned out to be both a good and bad decision. Good because I knew what was coming up at about 25km into the course, bad because I had destroyed my hamstrings on what the club later called “zig zag” - a relentless zig zagged path up from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen. This ultimately meant I was standing at the start line feeling a little sore. Hey Ho!

The Jungfrau Marathon is an extremely popular mountain marathon attracting around 3500 to 4000 competitors each year. It is not hard to see why; any marathon which heads up towards a the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountain range is bound to be spectacular. Thankfully, on this occasion the snow had decided to stay on top of the mountains rather than under our feet!

Anyway, I digress from the important stuff. The Jungfrau Marathon starts at Interlaken where you take full advantage of the spectator support with a nice 5k flat start. This is followed by a steady climb of about 15km up to Lauterbrunnen, doing a horse-shoe style shape through the valley and the river which flows through it. I had started off reasonably well with a pace ranging from 5.3 to 5.4 minute mile hitting 10 miles in around 56 minutes. All was going well. I had decided to hold back a little to save what I may have left for what may be above Wengen.

We set down as a group of 3 which took us close to Lauterbrunnen. However, I found myself running alone by the time we passed the half marathon mark and had unknowingly dropped my pace down to 6.2 – 6.4 minute miles. Disaster! This lack of concentration cost me as this was the stage where you really make up your time and I was unlikely to be able to make it up in the second half - most of the second half of the course was unknown to me but in any event was simply UP!

I had managed to pick up a group of 3 in the valley who were pushing out a decent pace so I stuck with these guys until we hit zig zag. I didn’t really have a plan for the second part of the course other than to get up it as fast as possible and avoid walking too much. I knew that this is really where the race begins for some and many would have an advantage over me on this kind of terrain and ascent (I live in Bramley which, in comparison, is extremely flat!). Zig Zag boasts approximately 1500ft of ascent in an extremely short distance. I focused on the guy in front (as 2 of the runners I was running with simply drilled it straight up zig zag like they were on a Sunday stroll). The aim was to walk when the guy in front walked and run when he started running. We set a decent pattern of running and then walking for 3 – 5 strides, hands on knees to catch a breath and then plough on with the running business.

It was a relief and a much needed morale boost to hit Wengen with the extremely friendly and loud supporters shouting for me to Hopp Hopp (I could hardly run let alone Hopp!) there was a wave of spectators, flags, horns, bells, food, colours and noise. A young lad got a bit of a shock when he held out his hand for a high five and was met with my clammy and somewhat gel encrusted hands. I don’t think he will be doing that again!

The checkpoints were around every 5k and the checkpoint was much needed at this point of the race. Many of the checkpoints had several volunteers offering water, sports drink (I think called ‘Sponsor’), bananas, biscuits and gel. It was a reasonably hot day so I made the most of drinking as much as I could hold down and even slowing down to walk through the stations to make sure the sports drink went in the mouth rather than the eyes, nose and hair.

A couple of kilometres outside Wengen I met with Anjali (my wife) which gave me a massive boost and learnt that I was in 34th place. I had comfortably kept up with the pace of the guy in front and we were both knocking out between 8 minute to 12 minute miles! Not exactly lightning speed but a reasonable effort up this kind of ascent. Looking behind me I could see that Simona Staicu (first elite lady – see picture above) and (what I think was) her pacer catching up with me quite quickly on the mountains. I had passed her at the 10k mark so she was really drilling it up this section of the course. I continued to push.

I had heard at the start when the organisers announced the elite runners that the ‘horse beating (as in race) UK runner Lobb Huw had entered. It was at this stage that I had reconsidered the prospect of coming in as first Brit! However, there was still a chance to come in the top 3 Brits.

My body had slightly recovered in Wengen with the reasonably flat and soft footing, however the pleasure was short lived. Coming out of Wengen we were met with more UP and a variety of terrain. My ears had started to pop. There were various villages which I ran past without much notice and a few pine forests to enjoy along the way. The shade of the trees the various stages was much appreciated by most of the runners.

After (what felt like a slow) winding trail up to about 37 / 38 km we hit what was to be the hardest (but not steepest) part of the course. This part was attacked with more walk / run rationale (in fact probably more walk than run). At this point I was neck and neck with Simona and her pacer who appeared to be shouting at her in a language I did not understand. It got generally more aggressive (I think) when she decided to walk instead of running. I was seriously flagging at this stage as the ascent had taken its toll on my hamstrings – with a lack of salt intake cramp was certainly imminent. I tried not to focus at this point and look at the positive fact that we only had a few km to go. I decided that despite the language barrier, to tag on to Simona and her pacer and attempt to follow their approach to this part of the marathon. Good decision.

With my views generally being Simona’s back I could not take in the beautiful views of the mountain range to my right and in fact the extremely aggressive drop (although I later sat back with a beer and a sausage and took it all in). You know you are reasonably high up when the helicopter is hovering at the same height as your feet. Importantly, I could hear what sounded like bagpipes above my and Simona’s extremely loud breathing – we were close.

The final section is defined by the bagpipe player and once passed the competitors are faced with an extremely fast downhill section to the finish. My legs were like jelly babies at this stage so although downhill was welcome the speed that followed was not! The sharp downhill needed to be tackled in the right way – just let go and enjoy the ride.

With a quick run (but thankfully I was not forced into a sprint finish) towards Kleine Sheidegg and under the finish sign, I was finally greeted by Anjali. I was only a few minutes behind the Kenyans. Great!

Position: 36th 3 hours 34 (3rd Brit).

Top 3 Male

1st Marco De Gaspi (Italy) – 2.56
2nd Marc Lauenstein (Peseux) – 3.03
3rd Huw Lobb (GB) – 3.04

I was reasonably happy with this time given that I have little to no mountain training and had never competed in a mountain marathon like this. I had finished the Lakeland 100 a month or so beforehand which would have provided some solid base training however the two are approached at a completely different pace (unless you are Stuart Mills!).

I would highly recommend the Jungfrau Marathon which is a challenging, enjoyable and extremely satisfying race. I had the advantage of running with several other Basingstoke Club members who all said the same and did amazingly well. I would strongly recommend that you reach Switzerland a couple of days before and after the marathon and spend some time around Lauderbrunnen and experience the mountain range and various challenging walks available. In particular, the views of the glaciers on The Top of Europe are breathtaking and add to the sense of achievement. You may also want to check out the course beforehand!

From the start, it took me a while for me to settle down in a comfortable pace and find the right group of runners running at a pace I was looking for.

Things went a little pear shaped when I ran past a group of runners looking strong however a few of which decided to use me to set the pace. This is not what I was looking for! I was a little uncomfortable with this and could not shake them off. If I slowed down to allow someone to move forward, they may in turn slow which I need to avoid but I was also uncomfortable with having to set the pace with people on my shoulder.

That said, I would not recommend walking around the mountain range in shorts and t-shirt. Yes! You know who you are!!!