At the end of 2010, which was a very good year as I had finished and won the JOGLE, completed the Lakeland 100 and ran pretty good all year, I took on the Spartathlon and it annihilated me. I knew I could do it, but just had to have good preparation in the proceeding months and get the fluid intake spot on, as this is what broke me. So as soon as I had failed in Greece in 2010, I was itching to enter the 2011 edition. My sights would be aimed at Spartathlon. Everything else would be just stepping stones that would ultimately lead me to the toes of the statue of King Leonidas in Sparta. My opening race for the year was the Thames Trot, a 50 miler held during winter which I was quite looking forward to. I had a really good run with Rob Treadwell, which is great for the pace. We finished together in 6:53. A massive improvement for me. Shortly after this was the Endurancelife Coastal Trail Series Ultra. 33 miles along the incredible coast of the Westcountry. The finest trails in the country I think! I had a great day even if I had turned up over twenty minutes late! I ran hard and even though I had overcooked it near the end I had a good result. Next up was the Wye valley Ultra. Again I had a good race. I wasn’t overly happy with my pacing and nutrition, but I still finished pretty strong and came in joint 4th place. Next up was the Endurancelife Exmoor ultra. This ranks up there as some of the finest scenery and trails to run on. I was very happy to finish in 3rd place seeing as the week leading up to it was a very sickly one for me. The following week was the opening day of Endurancelifes new concept event, Trailblaze. I decided to run the whole thing and was the only person to complete it. In fact as I write this, I am still the only one. I had an amazing day where my parents followed me in the car, and I had support from the Endurancelife team who paddled me across the estuary mouths in a kayak. Awesome! The following week I was in Scotland for the Highland Fling. This amazing event was blessed with incredible weather, which actually became a bit of a hindrance causing dehydration making the end a real struggle. I was happy though to come in the top 40 as the race was a national trail race amongst others so had pulled in a real quality field. My next challenge was to run on the Cotswold Way solo to try and get a black band as this was another Trailblaze course. It was an incredibly tough day but hugely satisfying and successful. I managed over 100km with no support. Then it was the Grand Union Canal Race. I was happy with my preparation and calmness compared to last time and was really chuffed when I finished a whopping 8.5 hrs quicker than the first time I’d done it! A real boost for the ever-looming Spartathlon. Next up was my long awaited success at running the entire 103 miles of the Cotswold Way in one go. I did take just over 24hrs, which is a little frustrating and means I will have to do it again. Drew and I did a decent length run up on the Pennine Way a few weeks after which was awesome. Then maybe my best performance of the year, the North Downs Way. I really enjoyed the day and was very happy with my time and position even though my experimental fast start possibly cost me the win. Then it was Spartathlon. Even though quite a lot of the route is far from inspiring, the whole experience is second to none. I of course made it and had a really emotional finish in Sparta. I can’t wait to return. Last week I received the entry forms for this years race. I will be running across Europe at the time so can’t do it. It’s pretty tough as the race is so special. After this I had the Brecons Ultra. Had a tough day due to dehydration but thoroughly enjoyed it. Then recently there was the Tour de Helvellyn, which was a truly stunning day in the Winter Mountains with my good friend Dave. And my final day was possibly the toughest of them all. My Trailblaze on the Offa’s Dyke was epic and never to be forgotten. I could never have completed it without the tireless support from Lou. Listing out my year of running has made me realise that 2011 was almost certainly my most successful to date. 2010 wasn’t exactly a bad year with my scratch at Sparta being the only blemish on a year that I had my biggest, toughest and most satisfying event yet, my win at the JOGLE. I feel that I have matured as a runner a lot last year. I am in far more control with my training and this in turn feeds my ever-growing confidence to take on the next challenge with a positive outlook. I don’t know where my limits lie, but it has become far clearer over the year (though it will never be clear!). I look forward to gaining a little more wisdom and gaining another year of running under my belt making me a stronger competitor. The year saw me take on not just the races but the personal challenges that I set my self such as the Trailblaze events which have been immensely satisfying. Covering 100 miles alone with support is really tough but with the knowledge that I will recover pretty quickly has enabled me to shoehorn a few of these in wherever there was a gap in my racing schedule. One of these was the Cotswold Way, which was an incredible day. The other 100 was on the Offa’s Dyke just a few weeks ago. There have also been the shorter races I have done which have been loads of fun, and have taught me that doing no speed work for 6 years and just running long and slow hasn’t dulled my speed to much. I also ran in my first two fell races, which were incredible experiences and have added another fantastic dimension to my running. I will be travelling up north more I think! I have also begun to realise just how much running has added to my life and what a positive effect it has had on me. I want to give something back. I will aim to do some race support this year. At the beginning of December I started a lunchtime running group at work that was purely intended to hopefully motivate people to come out for a short run. There is a nice little group who turn up on Tuesdays and Thursdays now. It’s really good seeing these people getting out and enjoying it then coming back for more. I also really enjoy it as it pulls me away from my desk when I would normally mindlessly surf the web. Who knows how it will grow as the seasons change! That brings me nicely onto the year ahead. 2012 promises to be by far my most challenging yet. At the beginning of March (soon!) I have the Trans-Gran Canaria which is a 125km run that takes you in a meandering route across the island. The challenging part about this one is the 8000 metres of ascent that has been squeezed in. Then there is the Viking Way Ultra. This is a new race that has been designed by my friend and fellow JOGLE finisher Mark Cockbain. And in true Cockbain style this promises to be an incredible sufferfest! We’re talking about a ‘British Spartathlon’ type of event that will be similar in length and pressure due to tight time cut-offs. But with the added difficulty of being on a trail which means the possibility of getting lost! I don’t think there will be a very high finish rate on this one! Next is the historical Fellsman. This is the 50th holding of the event that is over 60 miles on the Yorkshire Dales. Really looking forward to this one. At the start of June I have the Hardmoors 110. I have heard great things about how hard this race is so can’t wait to get stuck into it, especially as I have recce’d the first 40 miles of it with Drew. Three weeks later I have the Ultra Trail South West. The UTSW is a 100-mile trail run on the South West coast path. I have been waiting for a 100 miler on the dramatic and absolutely brutal coastal path for a number of years so I was very excited when I heard that Endurancelife were going to put one on. Shame it’s not North Devon and Cornwall so I would be near my parents place, but still it will be an incredible experience. A few weeks later I have another Endurancelife event. This time it’s a little different for me, being a triathlon. It is long distance (Ironman) and off-road. So the 2.4-mile swim is in the sea followed by the 112-mile mountain bike ride through the night and finishing off with a nice marathon trail run. Should be quite a mad experience for me seeing as I’ll be doing it for fun and will not be able to really train for the other two disciplines. Then I will rest for 5 weeks before flying out to Denmark where my Trans-Europe race begins. The race is over 4000km long and is spread over 64 days. There are no rest days. The route takes you all the way through Denmark, Germany, France, Spain and finishes on Gibraltar. This of course is my target for the year. Nothing else matters in comparison. Not to say that I won’t put everything I’ve got into my races, as I find it difficult not too, but TE can not, and will not be taken lightly. The race has only been held twice before, in 2003 and 2009. I have heard that Ingo, the race director say that this will be the last. This is taking a lot to finance. I have the race fee, the shoes, then of course the fact that I won’t be working for around 70 days! I need financial support so please excuse me for putting this on my blog, but it’s worth a punt. If there is anyone who could support me in any way, then please contact me. As I say, shoes and money is what I need. I can wear logos if necessary. Anyway, that’s enough of that. Also, I am currently developing (in the loosest sense of the word) my blog. I have already added a shoe review and plan to add more as time goes on, maybe a gallery etc. I’m kind of enjoying it, as I don’t really know anything so it’s a steep learning curve. So, check out my shoe review. There will be another one soonish. I will write again soon. Happy running.
Not bad for a steady day out in the hills. I felt pretty good and was met by Lou who was waiting for us. The soup was as good as I had imagined. What a stunning day it had been.
I was booked into the Beacons Ultra for a few reasons. It was relatively close to home which is pretty unusual. It was at a suitable date for an end of season race. It wasn’t too long at 45 miles. The fact that this race seems to fill really fast also attracted me. People were obviously pretty keen to be in this race. Months ago I had set up a reminder on my computer to tell me when the race was opened for entries to make sure I got my place. I got my place then pretty much forgot about it till after Spartathlon. I then realised that I would be needing a car to get there as there was no nearby train station. Luckily, Louise came to the rescue by borrowing a car from a friend of hers. Phew! The race started at 0730 and I of course needed to be there before to register, which meant another very early morning! 0430 I believe. We got there with plenty of time to register which made a nice change to my almost standard seat of the pants timing! How relaxing! We sat in the hall and watched the place slowly fill. During the briefing that followed, Martin the race director, informed us of some of the people who were racing. There was some real talent here! Today was going to be a fast day. Well, fast for some, I on the other hand was not going to take it easy, but was not expecting anything as I was here for my end of year bash!
The next day, Lou, James and I were entered into the Bath Skyline 10km, an off-road course that was just down the road. I was pretty stiff, but thought I’d just turn up and jog around. As soon as it started I found myself near the front and just went for it. It was an excellent cross-country course that was really muddy in places. Again, it was a two lap race that really was quite testing, pushing me to the limit at every second. So much for the recovery run! Who was I kidding! I finished in 7thplace in just over 44mins. I felt pretty good at the end too! James came in 9 minutes later and Lou just missing out on breaking the hour mark. This was the first of a new series which I’d say was a real success and it’s a shame that I won’t be able to make the next one. Then again the reason I can’t make it is because I’m doing a race in the Lake District.
The next weekend I had a go at something that caught my eye quite a while ago. The Green Man Challenge is the completion of the Community Forest Path in 24hrs. The CFP is a loop that circles the whole of Bristol totalling 45 miles in length. It is named the Green Man Challenge as it begins within Ashton Court at a large stone carving of the Green Man. The whole idea is designed and governed by the Gaveller, otherwise known as Chris Bloor. He came and met me at my chosen start time of 0630 to see me off. We chatted briefly before I ran off into the darkness through the deer park.
We chatted with Chris for a few minutes in the dark at the Green Man stone Carving I had left early that same morning. Chris had already offered me a lift back but I wanted to run. It only felt right for this to be a true door to door venture. I will of course run the CFP again and probably many times as it is on my doorstep and is a great distance for a long day out. I’m not sure that it will ever be quite the mad adventure that this was though!
I next had plans with Drew again to do a recce. This time the recce would take us to the North York Moors, on the Cleveland Wayto prepare for the Hardmoors 110 we are both entered into next year. The race is the Cleveland Way in it’s entirety. All 110 miles of it. I’ve heard some good stuff about this race. It is supposed to be really tough. I like to if possible recce any route that will be long enough to take you through the night so to take up this opportunity with Drew was valuable for race confidence. I got the train to Coventry where Drew picked me up and we drove on up to the edge of the North York Moors where Drew had booked a room for two nights at a hotel. We didn’t get there till after 10 so just chilled out in our room and sorted out our kit for the next days early start. We had booked breakfast for 0515 and the cook serving us looked like he wasn’t going to wake up for at least another two hours. We had our breakfast then drove to Thirsk where we left the car and got into a taxi and directed it to Helmsley. This is where the end of the Cleveland Way is situated, and where Drew and I spent 5 minutes hunting for it! The weather was atrocious with very strong winds which would be a lot stronger when we got up onto the exposed moorland. We ran off up the path skirting a woodland in complete darkness. We decided to start in the dark so that we could have every bit of daylight we could get. The path was really easy to follow and for around the first 30km, although it is actually slowly climbing for a lot of it, is actually really pretty easy running. We were going well and I was feeling great. Drew had mentioned that he hadn’t felt great on the drive up but seemed to be going well at the moment. Our target for the day was Saltburn by the sea, which would take us onto the coastal section and the half way point at 55 miles. I was carrying the map, and as I looked ahead to what lay ahead, I noticed that it got a little lumpier up ahead which would slow us down considerably. No problem. I get a bit bored with to much flat running!
We arrived at the tiny village of Kildale and found the really nice and cosy family run tea shop. I had a couple bowls of soup and some coffee, whilst we waited for the train. After much waiting and a couple train rides later, we arrived back at the car and Drew drove us back to the hotel.
We had checked to see what fell races were on the Sunday and discovered that the Eskdale Eureka was. It was 8 miles with not too much climbing. I felt pretty good but Drew sensibly decided to spectate as the weather was pretty harsh being very windy and only 2 degrees Celsius. I had a great race, really enjoying the madness of it. I of course did not know the route at all, but had some runners ahead of me who clearly did, and chose to follow them as they would just turn off the path and begin leaping through knee deep bracken and gorse as they tried to find the fastest route! Fell racing is just so intense physically and mentally. I never imagined that running could be so exciting! I felt strong to the end and managed 9th place. 8 minutes behind the winner. My descending is definitely improving, and stuff like this will really push it to a different level. Overall a great weekend again. Shame Drew wasn’t feeling up to it, but I would say 40 miles is pretty good for feeling under the weather!