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