Sunday, 3 December 2017

Winter gear

One of the things I like about this time of year is buying new winter gear.   And as it was my birthday I had the perfect excuse.  The boxes arrived and I was excited to try on my new high viz running jacket along with my new tights - but the weather turned mild and they were too warm!  The same happened today so I'll just have to wait till the rain, snow or frost arrives as it did the week before.
I added 2 additional shorter runs this week where I pushed the pace.  I don't enjoy doing that when I'm not back to fitness but it gets me there.  Both longer runs this weekend were quicker than last and I'll take that as a sign of progress.
I'm threatening to get back in the pool but have decided to use a pool boy so I can build my upper body while working on breathing exercises.  This in turn will improve my core and my running. Still haven't made it onto the turbo trainer but there will be plenty of time for that over the holidays.
My aim in December is to get more training sessions in per week and to avoid the excesses where possible. The real hard word starts in January and by then I will have confirmed by race schedule for 2018.  I'm excited just thinking about it.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Extreme training

The title of this post may be slightly misleading but you'll get the point quickly.  It feels like the season "to be jolly" but that's like Black Friday, a bit early.  This week has been really busy from a work point of view and I've had 5 days (well 4 but the fifth is just about to start) of socialising!
On Wednesday I was at a conference in Harrogate which involved a long day and too many liquid carbs.  Early train to London and a dinner with clients and those liquid carbs reappeared.  Early start to fly back hope and dinner with friends, and you guessed it, excessive liquid carbs.
Early start on Saturday then off to Chatelherault for the usual run with my pals.  I may have improved my time by 50 secs to complete the lap in 45 min dead, but I was in no fit state to hold a conversation for at least 5 minutes.  I had to dig really hard and that's the point of this extreme training.  An 8k run can feel like an ultra marathon because my body was wrecked from the previous three days.
You'd think I'd learn.
I cooked a delicious rib eye steak on Saturday night so that had to be accompanied by some red wine - it would have been a waste of a steak if there was no wine!  This morning I had a wee bit of a lie in, I needed it, but then headed out in a crispy cold morning for a 10k run.  My time was down on last week and in part this was down to the icy conditions - I was like bambie on ice and couldn't push off too hard without slipping.  But my physical condition also slowed me down but I battled through it.  Feeling crap and out of breath is something that normally happens on longer runs but I got to deal with this on a short run.
It's not a training schedule I'd recommend but at this time of year the social events can mount up.  I'm now just heading out for what will probably turn into another carb loading session with some pals.  But after this one I'll behave more like an athlete and limit the carb loading on consecutive days (5 in a row!).  Just goes to show I'm not always well behaved although as I've tried to justify above, I was only trying to improve my endurance!

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Life after grand 2 grand

I'm still trying to get over that something I'd planned for 2 years is over - but the "shockwaves continue".  I've never entered a major event before and managed to avoid the "after event blues" which you plummet into once the uphoria is over.  But G2G isn't your average event.
I crossed the finishline on 30th September and am still buzzing.  Facebook is a wonderful thing as the "family" are in touch on a regular basis.  Sharing the stories of what they have been up to and what the future holds. 2019 I hope to hook up with some of my running mates for another adventure.
But life back in the Scotland gets back to normal and having had my recovery period, training is starting.  But this is an interesting psychological phase.  Daylight hours are short.  The temperature has dropped and early morning is zero degrees at best so getting out of bed has proved difficult other than going to work.  My core strength is non-existent and I'm starting to put weight back on which was much needed - 5lbs on but the wrong type of weight.  I'll sort that over the next couple of months.
I've just started my core training and I can honestly say, my core is AWOL.  I'm being careful as my back gets twitchy - it really doesn't like core workouts!  But this is critical to my training and once I have a few sessions under my belt, I'll be ok.  Starting training is always a "ball ache" but I know that when I look back in three months time I'll be feeling the benefit of the core training.
On 2nd Dec I start back with my amazing coach Genevieve and she's already getting her ideas together.  We ran together on Saturday but with 3 km to go she dropped me and I had to dig in deep to finish.  My time was bang on target so I was happy although I'd had to work hard.
Today I went out for a 10km run in zero degrees and enjoyed every minute of it.  The pace was ok and I felt good after it.  I showered and then headed out to join some work colleagues in a 6 KM Santa Dash which was a laugh.  But the body and mind is holding up.
I've decided that the only way I am going to run in the morning is to drive into work early and then head out from the office for a run.  At least there are street lights so I don't have the problem of running in the dark and I have a shower back in the office before I start work.  A few weeks of that and I'll be back in the grove.
But what amazes me is that I have no post race blues and that is down to the fact I'm part of the G2G family and the feel good factor continues.  I'm happy to miss out the post race blues however am looking.forward to getting back in shape.  There is life after G2G but it's changed me, for the better.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Treading on thin ice

The biggest change in the last two weeks since my last report has been the weather.  Autumn/winter has definitely set in.  I was going to do some turbo training in the last two weeks but couldn't muster the mental strength to go outside into my "man cave" where it would be freezing and start spinning my legs.  There was also a slightly delicate part of my anatomy, a result of G2G, which wouldn't have appreciated it but I'm glad to say that has cleared up so I've no excuses now!
My back is still getting treated although it is getting better.  I've managed 3 runs in the last 2 weeks.  Last weekend I ran 4.5km with a stop at half way for a cup of tea and a scone, jam and cream - my coach did say to break myself in gently.
Yesterday I went back to my favourite winter training ground, Chatelherault.  I ran around on a brilliant autumn day but kept it to one lap.  I was a couple of minutes behind my friends but my lungs were struggling towards the end of the 8k.  I had no aches and pains when I woke up today so I went out for a 7km run around my local streets.  It was freezing and the roads and pavements were covered in ice so I considered myself luck no to end up on my bum.  A good reminder to be careful out there and also to wear gloves!
I'm hoping this will be my last visit to the physio for my back and I will be starting my swimming, core training and turbo training - honest.  Just knowing that I will be reporting back in 2 weeks on this blog means I can't be lazy.  The clock is ticking and my "A race" next year gets closer as each day passes.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

What's next?

A month has passed since I crossed the line of the best staged race ever - Grand 2 Grand.  A day doesn't pass without me thinking about the race, the conditions, the daily challenges and the friends I made with the amazing volunteers and the competitors.  I've followed my coaches advice of no training for a month and during that time I've been to the chiropractor, physio and sports massage therapist.  My back has a couple of niggles but I expected that due to the weight of my rucksack (25lbs + 1.5 litres of water) and the fact I couldn't load my rucksack in training due to my foot injury.
The question I keep getting asked is what next?  Before the race I had deliberately not given any thought to the next race because with my foot injury, this could have been my last race!  However my foot was fine during the race and it obviously likes the heat - it's been grumbling since coming home.
But a competitor planted an idea in my head before leaving the USA.  He suggested a race in 2019, the Tahoe 200 (  205.5 miles in the mountains around Lake Tahoe. 35,117 ft of climbing and the same in descent.  The cut off is 100 hours which means very little sleep during the race which will be completely new to me both physically and mentally.  Registration isn't for a year and is limited to 250 competitors.  My training for this started today and once again it's about getting to the startline in the best shape possible for a race completely different to any I've done before.
Today I started my training with a light session in the pool.  1,100m was enough for me and I've got the physio tomorrow who will sort out the muscular discomfort in my back.  To help with my swimming I am going on a full day course on Saturday.  Robert Hamilton is running a Total Immersion course and I really want to become a more effecient swimmer as this will help me enjoy it more.  The strength and breathing benefit I get from swimming makes it an important part of my training.  It also takes some of the pressure off my body from my running.
As far as the 2018 season I've decided my "A race" will be the Great Glen Ultra which is a 71 mile ultra to be completed in 22 hours or less.  It's on 7 July and my training schedule will be designed around it.  71 miles will be my longest run in a single stage and ideal preparation for the Tahoe 200.  I'm looking for at least one 70.3 IM to encourage my cross training but will discuss the timing of it with my coach.
Looking forward to reintroducing my bum to the bike saddle as I will be starting some light turbo training.  I'll leave my running until my back is ok.
I have TRX bands arriving at the house tomorrow so that will be a key part to building my core strength.  I'm back and looking forward to some different training over the winter to set me up for 2018.  Remember a goal without a plan is just a wish.  I'm back and will be blogging on a fortnightly basis if you want to follow my journey.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Grand 2 Grand Ultra 2017 report

Two days ago I completed the G2G ultra and although I gave short daily updates, I thought a more detailed description was required to capture the essence of this unbelievable and unique event.  You may not run, or run 5/10k or a marathon or even complete ironman events, but a multi stage self supported race is very different.  Let me explain what I went through and then describe some of the heroic efforts I withnessed in this race.
Like any "race" there are different type of competitors; the pro's who do this for a living, the extremely fit runners who are going to push the limits and those where completion is what it's all about.  I certainly fitted into the last category due to my injuries over the last year and was fortunate to be making the start line but with no guarantee that I'd finish.
The event was at altitude and normally you need three weeks to adapt but I went out 5 days before to at least lose the jet lag and get used to the heat.  I stayed in Kanab (little Hollywood) and had a ball.  The locals were so friendly and welcoming.  I met competitors as they started to arrive from all over the world and despite going out on my own, before I left the airport I had met Frank from Chicago and then Dirk from South Africa (who came 6th overall).  We then met Steve from California and Kelsey Hogan a 22 year old ball of energy from Canada who was attempting a staged race for the first time - and came 2nd woman - all within the first 2 days.  Then there was the JAR of Hope team raising money and awareness for Jim's terminally ill son.  They inspired all the competitors during the race.
On Saturday 23rd we travelled out to the starting camp on the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  The views were breath taking - literally!  Our first night under canvas was cold and windy and this would continue throught the week with temperatures as low as -4.  My rucksack weighed 25 lbs (too heavy) and this was partly due to my heavy duty sleeping bag which was essential.  You sleep in an 8 person tent and the ground was uneven, rocky in places and covered in vegetation which meant there wasn't  one night where I was lying flat!  Getting a good sleep and not spending the night shivering impacts on your race.  You also have the "people dynamic" but I'm glad to say the Comanche tent had no
issues as we all worked together.
My stage 1 race strategy was simple.  Start slow and avoid blisters if possible - in MdS I had 7 blisters in the first 2 days.  We were all excited by the long pink mountain range we followed however 5 miles short of the 31 miles distance (73% hard packed dirt) our eyes were drawn to the campsite that didn't seem to get closer, while avoiding the cacti that were threatening a painful injury (27% of the stage was cacti) - I snagged one but managed to get the thorns out without too much pain.  When I got back to my tent, decided which lumpy spot I wanted, treated my feet, had a recovery protein drink plus a salt drink then I headed to the cyber tent to send my blog for publishing to my wife.  Back to the tent to prepare some freeze dried food and then it was 7pm and time to relax.  Most nights I'd be in my sleeping bag by 8am and asleep for 9.30.  This was my daily process.
Stage 2 was "only" 27 miles but it was harder due to the highest point being at nearly 7,000 ft.  We were woken by the music at 6am (as we were every morning except the last) and had to have fed ourselves, been to the loo and be packed and ready by 7.30 - this was our daily ritual. Granola with nuts and raisins was my chosen breakfast but we all soon became sick of what we brought and swapping/trading was going on.  You don't get a meal during the day so you snacked on nuts, raisins, cliff bars, power bars, gels and sports beans.  Not the healthiest diet but it's all about the calories.  Stage 2 is about making it to the long day And I came through without any injury - Ian Dalton on the other hand came in doubled over and slumped to the side with an injured back.  But he made it.
Stage 3 had the most casualties including Andy Salamone who had run with me the day before. It was 53 miles but if you wanted you could get a tent to sleep in at check point 6, 39.7 miles or checkpoint 7, 45.5 miles.  Had Mark Davids and I known what was coming after CP 6 we'd have camped for the night.  Just over 3 miles of sand dunes in the dark and these were no ordinary sand dunes. Some were 4 stories high where footprints were immediately covered with the drifting sand.  At times we were on all fours gasping for breath - my poles were sinking 2/3 feet deep.  At the foot of the biggest dune I wondered what would happen if I couldn't get to the top and was contemplating pulling out my sleeping bag and going to sleep.  We also had to navigate our way in the dark looking for the small pink flags with a strip that lit up when your headlight caught it.  This was the hardest leg workout ever and I'd already been going for 14 hours.  The section after it was horrible.  We were trying to plot our way in the dark through scrub land which we called "the devils garden".  Trying not to get lost by spotting the pink ribbons  while trying not to step on a cactus or worse a snake and my gators were shredded by the end of this stage meaning the dreaded sand was filling my shoes.  Mark and I pressed on and finished the stage at 4.20am having been on the go for over 20 hours - straight to bed  for 4 hours sleep.
Having completed the long stage I had a day off.  A day to eat, sleep, stretch and repair my feet.  I had both feet taped on day 2 due to a hotspot and also a possible blister.  Once the cut off was reached we found out there had been 20 drop out of the race including an amazing 76 year old who had survived the first two days.  Some heroes started to emerge - Ian Dalton was still going with  his back problem, Alexandre Marion had twisted his ankle on day 2 and despite being up like a balloon he had managed through the stage.  Yori Lewis had a bad knee and a hamstring problem and I wouldn't believe he'd even started the stage but he crawled in early morning.  This stage (76% soft sand)
had almost broken me but there were competitors who had serious issues getting through it which inspired us all.
By Stage 4 , a 26 mile marathon, I couldn't face my food.  Fortunately I had brought some freeze dried deserts but that didn't offer any protein.  I ran with another competitor Richard Revell who was suffering a serious amount of pain below his knee so we spurred each other on.  My pinkie toe was starting to throb but I could hardly complain based on the other more serious injuries.  However when I got back to camp the nail was almost off and it was very tender so the medical staff patched it up.  That night it was -4 during the night so waking up having had a disturbed nights sleep and getting ready for another Mathathon didn't make me happy.
The course on stage 5 was interesting at the beginning as we went trough "Peek-a-boo" slot canyon which was fun and I'm looking forward to seeing the photos but thereafter it was a tedious stage and a drag.  Richard and I slogged it out together and it made such a difference having someone to help when you reached the enevitable dark/low points.  We crossed the line together and a few tears were shed as we realised we were going to finish the job tomorrow but that didn't prepare us for what we'd witness hours later.
Word had got back to the tent that Brian Bartaby (known as Bart) was raising money for the "walking with the wounded" and he was in trouble and might not make the cut off.  The whole campsite was waiting for him at the finish and he was going at a snails pace.  The organisers had sent a medic out to walk with him but he might not make the cut off.   When his head torch came round the corner the camp erupted.  Cowbells ringing and "we are the champions" baring out of the speakers.  When he crossed the line everyone must have had sand in their eyes as there were tears everywhere .  But obviously his race was over - or was it? Alexandre and Yori were both back safely although the pain in the faces told you it hadn't been easy.
The race was effectively over for most people unless they could make up some places on Stage 6 which was only 12km - and 836m of ascent!  Unbelievably they sent Bart out at 7am with the slower competitors, I went off with Richard at 8am and the fast ones at 9am.  We went as fast as we could on the flattish section while the temperature was low.  30  minutes in we came across Bart who'd been going for 1.5 hours and he was been held up and fed by Mark Davids.  We offered some  encouragement and headed off thinking the medics would be picking him up soon.  As we weren't trying for a place we took in what turned out to be the best scenery coming up the hoodoos that make up the Pink Cliffs.  The finish line was amazing and my long suffering wife was there to greet me with all the competitors making as much noise as possible.  Immediately I was eating pizza and drinking coke, hugging my wife and the world was good.
Yori Lewis made it across the line  - when I asked him how he coped with the sand dunes he said he'd walked up them sideways!  Alexandre had made it and caught us all by surprise as he proposed to his girlfriend at the finishline - this is what had driven him on with what could be a fractured ankle at best.  Ian had made it getting through it with determination - a common trait amongst ultra runners. But everyone was waiting for Bart.  Word came back he was 1 mile away - it took him an hour before he approached the finishline (15 minutes for the last 400 yards) which had been lined by all the competitors to welcome home home.  Mark Davids and Mark Cox had given up their chance of a good time to assist their tent mate.  The competitors went mental as he crossed the line with, once again, "we are the champions" blasting out and was given a chair, a beer and some pizza.  These people were strangers a week ago!
Everyone was at the awards ceremony and Bart got to present two special prizes to Mark Davids and Mark Cox  who had sacrificed their time to help Bart complete G2G for his charity - not a dry eye in the 'house". Tess and Colin had brought together a bunch of strangers  and we'd  grown into an extended family.  I should of course mention the secret ingredient- the volunteers.  They were unbelievable.  Nothing was too much trouble and always done with a smile.  Thanks guys.
I started this blog to give you an insight into the different aspects of a multi day race and an insight into a very special one - G2G.  How waking up every day having slept, or not, under canvas with 7 other people who haven't washed or had a change of clothes so the smell gets unbearable yet you still race. There are no hot showers, comfy bed or change of clothes and doing 6 marathons in 7 days is hard on anyone's body.  You're carrying everything you need to survive in your rucksack.The freeze dried food presents a  challenge and despite all of this I think this is the ultimate style of race as you are "stripped naked" bringing out the real you.  Grand 2 Grand had a real family feel to it and with only 120 competitors you leave at the end of the week with lifetime friends.  My finishing place of 45th is almost irrelevant, although I am proud of it, but I  am more proud to have survived this epic event while raising money for Maggie's Cancer Centres and meeting the most amazing people who I can call my friends. Now for a rest and to put at least 10 lbs on!

Monday, 2 October 2017

Bloody Snake!

  1. It’s amazing how quickly the body recovers from heat, altitude and a couple of blisters. Yesterday after writing the blog the camp was entertained by cowboys demonstrating lassoing and then one sat round the camp fire and sang – fantastic helped by an ice cold can of coke.
    Felt good this morning except for a few muscular pains in my back and shoulder but did some stretches and popped some pills. It only 26 miles today but the terrain dictated the pace with a total time around 7hrs 40 mins. I ran all day with Richard who I’d met in camp a few times and we made sure we got through it together.
    When we were going through the shrubs I spotted a rattler! It just cut in front of me making me stop in my tracks. I think the smell of me put it off. At one stage we had to use as rope to climb up a rock face and today did involve a number of climbs which at this altitude takes it out of you. I am so inspired by the runners out here. There are a number of injuries that would stop most people from walking never mind running including Richard who had great difficulty walking down hill – picture it! We’re down to 89 runners now from the original 125 and backs up how tough it is.
    One more marathon tomorrow then a short 7miles, all uphill on Saturday where Fiona will be at the finish line. That’s going to be special. I can’t wait for some decent real food and a beer….and a bottle of red wine……and a massage! The list could go on but I’m sure you get it. All the best to my friends that are doing or supporting IM Barcelona on Saturday.