Friday, 11 April 2014

My FIRST ULTRA - Well in nearly 2 years

I find as I write this Title there are a lot of emotions swirling around which I can't or actually don't want to control.

I think the biggest emotion I can't seem to get a handle on (but really want to) is the What If......

What if it all happens again, I really DO not want to spend 2 weeks in hospital again. More importantly I don't want to put my loved ones through the pain and suffering I ultimately caused them the first time round.

Well I suppose I should start back at the beginning only because I have not written on this blog for what seems the longest time. So I suspect I have lost all my avid readers who clutched at all my ramblings with outstretched arms. OK slight exaggeration I think my Mum read it at least I think she did, still one reader is better than no reader (Note to self must email the link to Mother)...

Ok I used to be an Ultra Runner who entered the odd race or 2 and quite enjoyed the experience. That's enough of that in order to tempt any future readers (maybe one of my brothers will join my dear old Mum) you will have to read some previous race reports.

This all came to an abrupt end in June 2012 during a 100 mile race. To cut a long story short (I really hate that statement but can't think of a better one, I should have tried harder at English GCSE) I ended up in hospital diagnosed with Rhabdomylosis. After I got out and had recovered I discovered I was actually scared of running, sounds really silly now but at the time I guess I was scared of a repeat leading to the same problems. To add to that it really hurt to run still, well again using the same short cutting technique, it transpired I had been running with a stress fracture in my hip for a fair while which in a knock on affect ultimately led to my hospitalisation.

I was lucky enough to get the all clear from the doctor at the end of January 2013. So I really got the bit between my teeth, I had plans to train smart and start racing again. All that happened in reality was I spent the whole of 2013 faffing and dithering when it came to running. I could not make any decisions whether I wanted to train seriously or not. Yes at the time all this faffing came out as potential obstacles that to the untrained eye could have been seen as valid reasons why I could not commit to a solid training plan. Who was I kidding though, all the obstacles were put there because I did not want to face the “What If” emotion.

So after my wasted year I quickly came to the conclusion that I had run out of excuses to NOT run an ultra again. I finally signed up for an Ultra that is local to where I used to live and subsequently train. I suspect an expert could and would analyse this as some sort of comfort thing that although I am taking the step back to Ultra’s  I am doing it in a way that is very tentative and the serious need to wrap myself up in cotton wool.

I don’t think I am though, the Ultra I have signed up to is the Evesham Ultra organised by Cotswold Running. Although it’s not the hilliest I could have chosen it certainly has a few spikes to test the old quads.

Let’s be fair I could of chosen a nice canal bimble as my come back not that I’m knocking canal Ultra’s I actually like them.

Going back to my original opening sentence, I am excited, respectful, scared and above all grateful of the opportunity to prove to myself that I can still run Ultras…..

So in a little over 2 weeks time whatever happens I will blog a warts and all race report.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Hip, Hop, Run a Jumble of Words

Having skilfully avoided writing a blog about the usual highlights of 2012 and the inevitable bucket list for 2013, well no skill really I just chose not to.

 I thought it was prime time to jumble a few words together.

OK here it is I AM BACK RUNING, I felt like shouting that bit as it really is a feel good factor.

Yes yes I know your wanting to know when my next Ultra is and what distance well actually when I say I am running again……

It’s only shorty little is it worth getting the kit on type runs and actually when I say runs well its running to me. If viewed from afar it’s a shuffle with a hop skip and a….. well more shuffling really. The hop and the skip are in there as I am so excited to be running again. There I said it again I wonder how many times I can get away with saying I am back Running in one entry…

So how can this be possible you might ask after my last entry where I actually hated running and frankly was a little scared of it. Simple really if running defines who you are then how can you walk away from it? By the same token if Ultra running IS who you are then equally how can you walk away? That said I really don’t have any plans to run an ultra soon, really I don’t….. How do you quantify soon well I haven’t decided that one yet.

Ok some facts:-

 Here are my medical facts:-

From when I first picked up my injury in Feb 2011 to basically yesterday when I had my results back from my latest MRI scan.

Feb 2011 – had right groin pain during a long training run (36miles).

Rested it for 2 weeks or so and it seemed fine.

Early March went and ran ULTRArace Grantham Day 1 just shy of 30miles a nice quick course I ran well no pain and placed well.

Continued training as planned with no pain.

May 2011 – Completed GUCR having a great experience. Obviously I was in pain at the end but I assumed it was muscle fatigue as is the norm in races of this length.
Tried 3 recovery runs of around 5miles or so in the next 3 weeks and they hurt like hell.

June 2011 – DNF’d on ULTRArace 100 at 32miles in lots of AB pain.
Gave myself a break through July to see if the injury would shift, it did not get better but got no worse. The Physio said if I could cope with the pain then running was fine.

Oct 2011 – Ran 2 day JOGLE tester 90 plus miles had no pain issues.
Then from Dec 2011 to June 2012 did not complete a run without some groin
pain of varying degrees. Within that time I completed the Capital Ring 80 miles, and various training and buddy runs of 20 – 50 miles.

In June 2012 I DNF’d yet again on the ULTRArace 100 this time I managed to get to 65miles. Went to hospitial due to having got Rhabdomyolysis (see previous post).

From that point until December I ran a handful of times and most of them ended up hurting.


So Yesterday I had the results of an MRI scan I had a week ago….

Scan – showed evidence of a healing stress fracture in the right
inferior pubic ramus (hip).

Doctor’s diagnosis - was I developed the fracture either in Feb 2011 but
most likely during the GUCRMay 2011. As it went un-diagnosed despite numerous doctors & physio appts, and I kept on running, the surrounding muscles overcompensated for the injury causing them to become inflamed. These then started to breakdown culminating in the perfect storm of events to develop in to Rhabdomyolysis.

She said if my then GP had asked for a simple x-ray in July 2011 it would have shown up. The physio appts could well have flagged it especially when they diagnosed pelvic misalignment. At the very least they should have said no running. All of them said if the pain was manageable then it was ok to run.


I am not knocking the NHS as a whole (can’t anyway my girlfriend is part of this great establishment) to be fair I do think they do a fantastic job. I think my case does highlight the simple failing in the system when you are seen by lots of different departments in different building and hospitals. The communication can be somewhat lax and this can lead to misdiagnosis or a case of just being left to your own devices.


That said I am over the moon I have finally been given a diagnosis that makes sense and when I look back over my training notes etc all the little pieces of the puzzle seem to fit together. This means that it is likely that I have run over 3000 miles with a stress fracture in my hip. I believe that I have been lucky that I have not done any more damage, well apart from having a life threatening (Docs words not mine) illness.


Well my Running plan for now

I started running again (that’s 5 if you’re not counting) early December. I am doing 3 runs a week total mileage per week does not exceed 25miles.

My plan is to introduce more cycling and swimming and no I do not have plans to migrate to the other side of the tracks, I am merely using them for cross training purposes. One thought is go for a long bike ride and then run the next day on tired legs, there by feeding the endurance junkie side but keeping the impact levels to a minimum whilst training.

What am I going to train for you might ask, well nothing really I just want the consistency back of running regular. 2013 for me will be about getting some form of endurance back so we will see where that takes me.

I do know that I need to watch my running with great care and try to keep the impact of running to minimum. I guess that means I need to plan carefully in the future which races I choose to do and allow plenty of time to recover from them, something I have failed to do in the past…..

I am back running, I am back running, I am back running, I need to quit this post now……

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Ultrarace 100 2012 & the aftermath

Sitting in a hospital bed contemplating the real possibility of permanent dialysis, was certainly not on the agenda when I set out on my latest 100mile race. Not in my wildest dreams had I seen what was coming.

Ok the Ultrarace 100 experience started for me the night before as I had the pleasure of entertaining Rory & Jen plus Fluff Ball (dog). They did not arrive until late, having spent most of the day driving the course ensuring that all the markings were in place as they should be. No small feat, and to be fair they looked like it had been a long day when they arrived.

Still suitably fed and watered (thanks mum for your input, well actually for producing all the food, it went down a storm), after a quick catch up it was to bed for an earlish start to the day.

I came down the next morning to be greeted with the sight of Jen asleep on the sofa with ball of fluff practically lying on her face, it did make me chuckle. Well within half an hour my kitchen had become a production line, as the well-oiled Ultrarace team went into action producing the quantities of food required for the check points.

Suddenly it was approaching 10am and I had arranged to meet Tom at the local train station.  When I arrived he was already making plans on how he could move to this part of the world and still commute, impulsive as ever. It was good to catch up as I had not seen him for a while, having missed the chance to run a leg of the Jogle with him by 1 day.

Once back at mine people were arriving to go to the start, my parents who were following for a bit and then manning CP8, and my girlfriend Sarah who was to be my crew for the first day, then Gerry my brother was taking over for the night section while Sarah slept before resuming her duties for the next day.

Well with all the planning done it was just a question of getting to the start line on time, which was fun as we only had 10mins to spare. So much changing in the car was required, much to the amusement of Sarah.

Stratford was reached, and some quick hellos & introductions were said to various people, and bang we were off.  Having had to curtail my training due to my on-going abdominal issues, I was going into this race having probably done the least amount of training ever, before entering a long ultra race. That said I had still been averaging 40miles a week with a couple of 40milers thrown in 8-10 weeks before, just not my usual 50-70mile per week training schedule.

I settled down into a nice rhythm looking at averaging 5miles an hour which was comfortable and manageable on this course, which to be fair had some nice hills to contend with throughout the course.

Tom seemed happy with the pace and we bumbled along nicely chatting utter rubbish as is the norm. Oh and looking for the inevitable push into the hedge photo moment which seems to have become the norm now….

We were joined on our jolly outing by Chris Whistler who I had met briefly in various events last year. I had the dubious privilege of sharing accommodation with him earlier this year before running a very cold snowy marathon. This turned out to be great fun and he was great company. So our duo became a trio and to be fair we worked really well as a team, when one of us was down the others pulled him through. Chris had to endure various shorty jokes being 5ft nothing (or around that); it was amusing when we walked the hills seeing Chris having to trot now and then to keep up with our fast walking pace.

Well 5 miles was reached and there to greet us was Sarah with a car full of goodies.  It quickly became apparent that my crew was going to be shared with the other two, which is what the ultra-running community is all about.

Well we pushed on happy in our task running through sections that to were very familiar to both Tom and I, as it was the third time of running this event for both of us - yes I did have to endure the banter of my DNF last year. However I did have to point out to Tom that I was the one with a sub 24hr in the bag on this event…..

Check point 1 soon came into sight and somehow Tom and I without any communication both broke into a sprint for the line.  We were told that it was a dead heat but I still maintain I just took him…..

A brief stop to replenish and trade banter so to speak, and we were off running.  At this point I was feeling very good, and although my inevitable ab pain was there, it was just rumbling away in the backgrounb  - nothing serious as yet.

Once we were through Mickleton, then it was onto the start of the bigger hills.  This was when we started to see some runners start to come back to us as inevitably the flatness of the first 10miles or so can lure some runners into starting too quickly. Soon we were through Chipping Camden and as we were half way up the hill, we saw Sarah drive slowly past us - she had got lost in Chipping Camden, but she did very well to get back on track.  She stopped about 200 yards further on, where we once again raided the supplies.

The weather upto at this point had been fairly kind to us just a couple of showers with a mixture of sunny spells. Once we had climbed into the hills though it certainly seemed to turn noticeably colder and the rain showers became heavier, nothing we could not handle though and it did not dampen our spirits, we had the mentality - well it certainly could not get as bad as last year could it….

The second check point was reached in good time I forgot the exact time!  We carried on our way knowing the next 20+ miles were more undulating than other parts on the course. We soon hit what we thought was the biggest hill of this 10mile section, only to turn the corner and see a monster!  It gets you like that when running a course you have run before.   You think you have remembered the course correctly only to find something your mind has conveniently blocked out, due to it being nasty.

Well having safely negotiated the large hill we started running again, and soon found ourselves at the 25mile point, with Sarah waiting in a very windswept and fairly cold spot, which was a good incentive to keep moving.

The next 5 miles to the 3rd check point seemed to give me fairly painful flash backs to last year’s race. It was during this section that I came to the decision to pull out. So I was glad when CP3 came into sight and I could put that section behind me.

The next 10miles were a bit of a blur, things happened which I can remember, but not necessarily in the right order.

Chris informed us quite specifically where he had got to last year when the rain started to fall heavily. Tom continued with his vain attempts at communicating with the various animals we passed on the way. For me this section was when the niggling AB pain I had been suffering from about 5miles decided to make its presence known in a stronger manner. The pain level notched itself up fairly dramatically in this 10mile stretch, but I decided to ignore it, as it seemed to be worse in the transition from walking to running. Once I was running again the level of pain plateaued, and was manageable.  I remember the supply stop, Sarah sent me on my way with a kiss and a hug as she had been doing throughout, so Tom decided that he had earned the right for the same treatment, share the love so to speak…

We finally saw the 4th check point come into view over the hedge line, and Tom and I broke into another sprint for the line, much to the amusement of Ian Berry who was manning the check point. It was great to see him as I had not seen Ian since our Capital Ring adventure.  However, suddenly remembering we were in a race, we soon raced off into the distance (well actually I think it was more of a walk because we were demolishing the goodies we had picked up).

Ok I have to admit I have no idea on the next 10miles apart from the race was on to try and get to the half-way point without needing head torches!  (We failed with around half a mile to go so not bad). It was during this section that Sarah handed over to my brother Gerry at the 50mile point so she could get some sleep before the Saturday stint started.

So when we reached Farmington I was greeted by the ever encouraging words “What took you so long”!   A quick change into warmer clothes as it had got noticeably colder with the onset of the dark and we were off. I had decided to plug myself into some music for a bit to try and take my mind off the pain I was in which to be fair seemed to work very well.

We were bumbling along quite nicely when we suddenly noticed Gerry’s van on the side of the road which was always nice when you weren’t expecting it. So 55miles reached, I went to see what food I wanted and it was at this point that I realised I was feeling very nauseous, so I decided to not have any food.   I just grabbed some extra water and carried on hoping that the feeling would go.

Well the next 5 miles was a battle of pain and sickness and trying to hold it together so I did not let the other 2 down, but it was all I could do to keep up with them. When we reached the 60mile point I did let on that I was feeling sick to Gerry and to the guys. I got some extra fluid on board, and took a chocolate bar with me to munch on.

I battled on, but I was falling off the back of the other two, although to be fair to them they did keep me in sight. I noticed  someone coming up fairly quickly, and when he drew alongside it was Dave Fawkner. He seemed to give me a boost as we chatted away, and we quickly caught the others up. For me though it was short lived, as within a mile or so I was finding myself further and further back.  It was at this point that I realised that something was clearly not right. I got to the point where I could not run or even walk in a straight line.   I was meandering from one side of the road to the other, and was struggling to even process decisions on when to run, walk and drink.  I battled like this for around 2 miles, until I saw my brother walking towards me. I said to him this was race end for me.

He replied “Let’s get to the van and get some food in, you might feel different. We got there and I knew it was over for me so I said I wanted to get in the van. Gerry knew though if I did that, it was race over, as it is very difficult to get going once you sit down.   To his credit he wanted to make sure that I was not making the decision lightly.

I knew that for me I would not be able to continue, so for me it was an easy decision to make. My brother took me down the road to the other guys so I could let them know I was pulling out. Then we went to the 80mile point to let my parents know and to drop the guys drop bags off.

Gerry soon got me home (around 3am) where Sarah was waiting, to be fair I don’t really remember much.  I know I was cold I guess the last few miles I was slowing down so the cold affected me. I also remember going to the toilet and realising that I was peeing a rusty red colour, which was worrying.  I have been told I had a bath and got into bed (well collapsed probably).

The next morning I awoke and I was still peeing a rusty colour, I was hydrating well but it did not seem to make any difference. I really wanted to get to Stratford to see the guys finish.  As it happened we missed their finish by about half an hour or so, but they were still there. We had a good chat before they made their way wearily off for a much deserved sleep I guess. They had all managed to get the sub 24hrs they were after, which was cracking..

I was still feeling pretty rubbish but I just put it down to normal post-race fatigue etc.  On the plus side I was hydrated and the colour was normal again.

On Saturday evening Sarah had cooked a lovely meal, but I simply could not eat any of it. I knew that something was wrong then, as normally I would be ravenous after a long ultra and be devouring anything and everything in sight. Not long after I started vomiting (which although I did not know it at the time was going to last for 10days), then it was a fight to ensure that I hydrated well in order to compensate for the vomiting.

I still did not think there was anything seriously wrong just a bug or a viral infection maybe. Throughout Sunday I spent a lot of time in and out of sleep, I don’t really remember much. I know Sarah and my Mum were concerned.  Apparently I sounded confused and incoherent on the phone.

Well Monday came and I went to the doctors in the morning to be told I had a urine infection, and they took some blood samples  (incidentally the first time I had ever had bloods taken). That evening I had a call from the doctor to say I needed to go to Worcester Hospital to be checked out. At the time I am not sure how,  but Sarah appeared at the door.  She was supposed to be working ( I found out later she was so concerned that she told them she had to come over).

Dutifully we arrived at the hospital; I was feeling very much a fraud thinking I was not that bad to warrant a hospital visit. However after having various instruments and devices strapped to me for monitoring purposes, I was shown to a bed where they started pumping me with Saline solution.

Well for me the next 7 days was a very confusing time, I remember parts of it and I have been told afterwards of events that happened. I saw many doctors and consultants while they tried to diagnose and treat me. Family and friends were fantastic throughout this period, with their support and concern and I wish to thank them all.  It really helped me get through it.

So what was the diagnosis well I had a condition called Rhabdomyolsis…..

Here is a brief meaning of the condition and causes.

Approximately 40 percent of our total body mass consists of skeletal muscle. Unaccustomed and especially eccentric (muscle lengthening while contracting) exercise can damage muscle cells, causing them to disrupt and release potentially toxic substances into the bloodstream. The term “rhabdomyolysis” literally means the dissolution of skeletal muscle and is a common and well-known consequence of strenuous physical activity. Since ultra-marathon running - and racing in particular - requires heavy skeletal muscle recruitment and places demands on the body that are well above and beyond what is typically encountered during daily training, rhabdomyolysis is a common post-race biochemical finding.

A diagnosis of rhabdomyolysis is generally made when creatine phosphokinase (CPK) levels rise above 10,000 U/L, well above the upper limit (200 U/L) of the normal range. CPK is an enzyme found inside muscle cells, so when muscle cells are damaged, this enzyme is released into the bloodstream in relative proportion to the degree of muscle breakdown. The CPK enzyme itself is not particularly harmful, but is commonly used as a surrogate marker of myoglobin release. Myoglobin is a big, red, protein that can potentially block and/or crystallize within the kidney tubules. Thus, rhabdomyolysis can lead to acute kidney injury – and renal failure in severe cases – when these massive myoglobin proteins get stuck within the filtering system of the kidney as the body is trying to excrete these substances into the urine. So, dark-colored urine (looks like coca cola) is a unmistakable sign that there is a large amount of myoglobin being released into the bloodstream and, therefore, kidney function must be monitored carefully.

Unlike non-exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis (crush injuries, infections, drugs and toxins, for example) where the progression from rhabdomyolysis to acute renal failure is between 17 – 40 percent of cases, exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis only very rarely progresses to acute renal failure. The reason for this curious but clear difference in the progression to renal failure is not known. However, in those very rare instances where rhabdomyolysis leads to renal failure in ultramarathon runners, it appears that a “perfect storm” of factors seems to be present (extremes of hydration, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and analgesic use, heat stress, recent viral/bacterial infection, low fitness).

Ok to clear up a few pointers, I was not dehydrated during the race this was carefully monitiored, and I was consuming around half a litre an hour which was the normal intake for me. I was not taking anti inflammatory drugs on a regular basis (although I had done in the past); on this occasion during the 15hrs I was racing I consumed 4 neurofen.

I did have a viral infection leading up to the race and maybe my fitness was a tad low but that’s debatable.

My CPK level when admitted to hospital was 76000.

Once I was through the first 7 days in hospital I was taken off the saline solution after having 31litres pumped into me. My urine output was still low so all that fluid was just sitting in my body where ever it could; I had put on 3stone in 7 days. Gradually my urine output went up culminating in an output of around 10litres a day; consequently my weight loss over the next 5 days was just as dramatic.

I came out of hospital after 2 weeks, I know it’s a cliché to use the phrase it was a life changing experience, but I firmly believe it was very much up there as a major event in my life. To be told that you might have to face permanent dialysis is a very sobering thought, coupled with that fact seeing the effect of what  my actions was having on my family and loved ones, was very thought provoking.

I had a follow up appointment with my GP later that week and he informed me that my kidney function had gone down to less than 8% output, 15% is survivable anything less is not.

So what now -  Well having had much time to reflect and recover, well the recovery is on-going just walking long distances is still beyond my reach at the moment let alone running. For me I am hanging up my Ultra running shoes, it has been an easy decision to make. For me I see this as a second chance, as I was so very close to requiring permanent dialysis which would have been a massive life change. Thankfully I don’t require that so for me this is a second chance, so why would I jeopardise that by pursuing the sport that caused my condition in the first place.

Having said that I won’t give up running I will just curtail the distance I run, I will certainly be looking at other sports to fill the void though, who knows maybe the dark side will beckon and I will venture into Triathlon.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Running a RACE for the enjoyment .of running

How time flies, I can’t believe we are almost half way through the year already…..

Well that means it must be my local race oh and it also happens to be one of my favourites….

Ultra Race 100…

This will be my 3rd year of running it and to be fair this race well and truly gets my running juices going, I love it for lots of reasons – the views, dare I say it the challenge of the HILLS, the fact that it is navigable without a map (once you’re tuned into the stickers). Ultimately though for me it’s enjoying the whole ultra-running community and the banter that goes with the territory.  It’s great to discuss running plans with likeminded people who are not going to stare at you like you are from Mars; they will just nod and then tell you about there just as equally SENSIBLE running plans….

Well to my preparation for this year’s attempt, ok confession time my training has most defiantly not gone to plan. Often I have had to miss key training sessions due to my on-going injury saga. It has at times got me down but right now, I know I’m not as fit as I was last year but my head is in the right place.

 I am focused determined and I will be finishing the race come what may – I know it’s gonna hurt more than normal but right now I need this finish more, so the pain will be overcome……

Another boost to this quest is finding out that Tom my running buddy is coming along, coupled with the fact he wants his sub 24hr I now have a focus to help him achieve his goal and hopefully in the process maybe better my time from 2 years ago……

It has a bit of a family feel to it again this year, last year Anna and the boys helped out on CP’s. Even my parents came out to help Anna on the night CP.

My parents  enjoyed it that much (eh Mum) that they are back running another night check point. My Brother Gerry is coming out to help support me through the night section (not sure if it will be more verbal abuse though).

 Amongst it all my girlfriend Sarah is having her baptism of fire into the Ultra world; I’m not sure what she is going to make of it all. As a runner herself she has experienced races up to half marathon both as a spectator and as a competitor. I guess though nothing prepares you for the laid back start of long Ultra’s where the majority of the field will start at a very relaxed sedate pace..

Coupled with that she is going to experience the highs and lows of ultras first hand as she is crewing for me.  I just hope I don’t become too demanding, I like to think that I am fairly easy going to look after as a runner (although my GUCR crew team might disagree).

What ever happens my main aim is to enjoy every aspect of the race, even the weather – lets face it the conditions have got to be better than last year  DON’T THEY???????

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Quarterly report

Well this is an interesting conundrum, I thought I would be writing this blog saying how well my preparation had gone for what would be my greatest challenge to date the JOGLE 2012, oh well I will write it in a years’ time instead.

However…….. My rebuilding both in terms of running and my life has been going very well.

OK life first  Well what can I say life is very good I said 2012 was the year for discovery, well so far my discoveries have been fantastic if a little over whelming, suffice to say there looks to be exciting times ahead…

To my running – Well in mid Jan I could not run 10k without my lower ab pain rearing its ugly head, it is not a run stopping pain just an ache that gets progressively worse to a point and then just stays with me until I stop running.

Since then I have gradually been building up my stock mileage keeping good posture to the point now when I can run on average 15miles before the pain kicks in, so things are improving..

One thing that has changed this year is I am trying to do as many runs with other runners. This has made a huge difference for me as I find it keeps my pace at the level that was agreed, I always find if I run alone I set a pace in my head but this has generally gone out the window with in the first few miles, as I just tend to go faster and faster.

I seemed to have found my zest for running again which I defiantly lost in the summer last year, the sheer enjoyment I am getting from going out and just running is fantastic.  I don’t care about times, I don’t care about pace & I don’t care about terrain.
I just love going out and just running for the sake of running, this time of year is my favourite time, everything is bursting out into new life. I have had the opportunity to run in a few places I have never run before so far this year and that in itself is refreshing..

Although I said I don’t care about mileage right now I still log my runs down as I have always done, the mileage might be slightly out I guess it will be a little light if anything. That said in 12 weeks I have averaged 50miles / week, which is surprising as it feels a lot less than that, this bodes well as potentially i am fitter than I thought I was.

So my aim for April & May is to slowly increase the mileage while trying to build my posture running up to maybe 20miles pain free running.

I still have no races booked up, as I don’t want to overdo my rehabilitation; suffice to say I might look at a shortish race in May along with my plan to Buddy run on the night section of the GUCR.
Followed hopefully by the Ultra100 in June (unfinished business there), I potentially have a crew for this year so this should make the logistics of running easier, just the small matter of a fit body now to gice a good account of myself. I already have a sub 24hr on this race so I will be looking for something a bit more challenging timewise, a sub 20hr is a massive challenge but one that is not unrealistic with the right planning, and good level of fitness..

Finally a huge good luck to the Guys and Girls undertaking the JOGLE 2012, I am a tad jealous that I won’t be on the Rock & roll Bus. I will be following your progress with much interest and if you make it to Day 10 & 11 I will be joining you on the road….

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Capital Ring Run - Feb 2012

Rucking up to the start of a race having been running all night was a surreal feeling, seeing all the other folks limbering up and looking fresh. All I wanted to do was find a corner and curl up and go to sleep satisfied I had completed a good distance…

This little jolly jaunt started when I wrote a comment on Face book stating that I might ruck up and run the Tribesport London Ultra 50k, around 2 weeks prior to the event. Ian Berry replied inviting me along to a “nice 42miler prior to the event”. I thought yeah a nice 42miler on the Sat followed by 50k on the Sun would be good weekend of running. We exchanged messages and what Ian meant ‘prior to the event’, was immediately prior to the event i.e. a continuous run. This made it more interesting and certainly got my juices flowing. I had not done a single stage run over 50 miles for a few months so was probably due one. 

This one was the Capital Ring 74miles in a single stage.

My main fear was I would hold Ian back as I knew this run was an essential run for his JOGLE training, but I figured if I bonked then I could just catch a tube back (doh pants planning tubes don’t run through the night! Oh well I know that now just not prior to the event)

So happily armed with my dodgy info I readily agreed to the adventure. For me it was easy leave all the planning to Ian knowing he would have the route meticulously planned on his Garmin and probably with a backup plan. The Guy is very organised to his credit and I am in awe of his planning skills.

My plans consisted of throwing some clothes in a bag, grabbing some food and my trusty first aid kit and heading down to London to the rendezvous point that’s it…

So this was the plan:-Meet Ian at the finish point of the Tribesport 50k Ultra – Perivale Park. Start running at 9pm (loose pace 5mph) so 42miles plus 1hr for general stops should see us at the start point of the race at 6.30am. Plenty of time to get breakfast and change clothes etc. Ok I know you’re all thinking these things never go to plan, but let’s be fair I had absolute faith in Mr Berry’s forward planning so what could possibly go wrong.

Anyhow I dutifully arrived at the Premier Inn in Perivale; we were meeting Rory & Jen who had kindly agreed to carry our bags to the start so we could change. It was quite funny as we met up in their room - I swear the lady on reception thought there was an orgy going on! Any how it was great seeing the guys again its always great banter and mickey taking sessions. Ian and I did our pre run faffing - well I did, Ian just looked like he was going through the motions as his stuff was sorted.

Going back through the reception was even funnier seeing the lady now looking very nonplussed as we were dressed in suitable running attire!  Rory saw us off and we cantered off into the night.

It was great catching up with Ian and quizzing him on his JOGLE training and seeing what info I could glean for my now deferred attempt next year. We soon started comfortably clocking up the miles, to be fair Ian had his watch and had already tuned himself into spotting the capital ring signs. Me I was lazy and just let him do all the navigation. I had however tuned myself into them by about 1am I think.

Ian came out with a classic about half an hour into the run; he informed me that this part of the course was in fact towards the end of the Ultra 50k on last year’s old route. He then said from here its downhill from now until Wembley. Within 5 mins of coming out with that pearler we were faced with our first major hill, but the trouble was it was the wrong way round - it was up hill. These uphill sections seemed to appear with regular intervals until Ian was forced to concede that maybe he was wrong on the downhill comment..!

The idea of the route itself is to encompass and link as many of the green areas of London whilst keeping a loose ring to it. Obviously in order to do this there are plenty of twists and turns to link the points up. The area we were running in was really nice especially through Harrow. The route took you up some really nice hills which gave you some lovely sights of the London sky line. The only drawback was at times it left us fairly exposed on the hills; there was a keen wind and frosty conditions so it was pretty cold in the elevated positions. It quickly became apparent that the route purposely took you up on to the summit of the hills so you could appreciate what this particular part of London had to offer. Subsequently it had you running loops around the park again to showcase each element of the park. It was definitely a well thought out route, if you were running it during the day. Our problem was we weren’t, so consequently a lot of the viewpoints were wasted on us. One which did stand out on this section was seeing Wembly from Barn Hill. It was a picture postcard moment.
We were bumbling along nicely and the miles were ticking along nicely, when we entered the NOW infamous Finchely Borough. This particular borough stood out for 2 reasons, The first was we were confronted with the path taking us into a tube station. How cool was that a public footpath straight through the station naturally it was a photo moment.

 We came out of there laughing and very jolly;  this was short lived when we encountered a locked gate, directly on the path we required. Not just any old locked gate but a fort Knox style locked gate.

Well we thought, oh well we will take the next street and skirt round, only to find short of clambering through someone’s garden there was no way through (we did contemplate this for a few secs). Well Ian was then able to demonstrate his true planning skills he reverted to his plan B, which was basically all the OS maps of the route downloaded to his phone. The guy knows no limits, it proved invaluable, and we soon worked out the best solution (well I say we-  to be fair Ian did I just agreed!)

We were soon off and running again and it was then we encountered the other reason Finchley stood out this was the complete absence of signage for the capital ring. Had  Ian not got the route on his Garmin we would have been seriously in the brown stuff in terms of navigating. So Finchley Council get and put your signs up, stiff letter of complaint is being penned.

The next borough we entered seemed to do signage so we were back on track and happily going on our merry way. We were met at some point on our travels by 3 youths out for the crack so to speak (their words). They chatted for a bit and told us of a new strength exercise for helping with the art of dart throwing (suffice to say it probably involved tissues and certain magazines). Ian in fear of his Garmin decided we were heading off left, so we hastily made our retreat while they went right. Once clear Ian then checked the route, and was very upset to learn we needed to have gone right. So sheepishly we headed back into the clutches of these lads.  When the next turn did come up we did manage to shake them off. Much to Ian's relief he was really worried about his Garmin, not for monetary value the fact that without it he would not be able to complete the run…

Well by this time we had completed nearly 3hrs running so the topic of conversation seemed to naturally move to food and when do we eat. So it was decided that we would try and find a garage or something at around 1am… Well it’s obvious isn’t it, 1am came and we were in the middle of a long path (a disused railway line. ) Where on earth were we going to find a reputable establishment to buy food from down here?   So we did what any sensible person would do, we speeded up to get to civilisation quicker thus compounding the low energy issue.  (to be fair we kind of got a little spooked on this section as it was fairly eerie-  I think this was the reason for the increase in pace)

We soon got back into civilisation and navigated our way round to what looked like somewhere with some night life.

 We turned the corner and were greeted by the giant yellow M sign, no words were required the deviation from the route was automatic, coke and chicken was on the menu. 

Once we had got our goodies from a takeaway window, we realised that we needed to keep moving as we were both getting very cold just standing for 5 mins. We ate on the go - all too quickly the food was eaten, so suitably full and content we broke out into a run (little did we know that it would be over 6hrs before we saw proper food again. Eating bars are ok but they do get boring and it’s only a short lived sugar hit).

The next section was a bit scary, we were running by the side of a canal where the path actually sloped towards the canal, obviously to make it more interesting the terrain was wet grass and slippy mud, oh and some lovely tree branches set to trip you up! At one point I was on my knees crying (with laughter) as Ian tried to free himself from a particular branch that seemed to have him in his clutches and would not let go, I was too weak to help from laughing so much…

At this point in the run my memory gets a little hazy there are a few miles where things happened and we saw stuff, but I am unsure as to the order of these events, so I will just detail them. There was an area where it was quite built up and I guess we happened to coincide it with club throwing out time (great timing) Consequently we had to run in the road a fair bit to avoid being bear hugged by some interesting sights so to speak! At one point Ian shouted at me and barged me towards a group of ladies (used in a loose form) I thought he had gone mad until I saw the Double Decker bearing down on us. We witnessed the aftermath of an RTA which seemed to have involved a car and a pizza delivery bike. All I could think of was how inconsiderate that the police cordon made us go at least 50 yards out of our way.

Another thing I remember was the fact Ian had been saying he needed a toilet stop for a number 2 (sorry Ian ). Well how cool was it that the next street we saw a portaloo stuck on the street and it was open! So while Ian helped himself I decided to take the opportunity to rearrange my bag as it was digging in a tad. Whilst doing this I heard a car approach and stop, so I looked up to see a large person looking at me suspiciously.  It was then I realised I was knelt down on the pavement rummaging in a bag right next to the front door of a rather expensive Merc, So I stood up, he took one look at me in my shorts, shook his head and drove off..

Well after such fun we were soon heading into Hackney area, both Ian and I commented on the fact that the area seemed really nice. Its funny how you get a pre conceived idea of somewhere - we both thought it was going to be fairly run down, so it was a pleasant surprise.

Sub consciously we began to notice a rather large chain link fence that had appeared to the left of us.  On investigating the signage we realised we were heading for the Olympic park region. It had been a topic of conversation earlier in the night as to how much we would see. We carried on with the anticipation growing, then we rounded a slight bend and there we saw the Olympic stadium in all its glory. It was lit up and seemed to glow from within.  It was truly a stunning sight and one that took your breath away. We continued to run by the side of it for what appeared an age.  It finally disappeared from view and we concentrated on our next bit of navigation.

We needed to get on the Greenway - Ian had informed me that the greenway was basically an old Victorian sewer and we were going to be running on top of the mound. After much deliberation and working the diversion signage out, we got on to the Greenway, and we soon realised that we were going to get even closer to the stadium, so the camera had to come out for this tourist moment! 

Another diversion took us off the greenway, and we had to run through the middle of the Olympic construction site - we were waved through by a couple of security guards, it was very cool but a bit surreal.

Finally we got back onto the greenway and settled back into a comfortable run. This was short lived however when we came across a gate across the greenway and it was locked. There are several roads which cross the greenway, at these intersections there were gates so for each road there was a gate either side. You get the picture we had 4 of these roads to contend with (I think I might have lost count, there could of been more) so in all 8 gates to climb. The gates themselves were fine it was the fact that they had spikes on the top which gave it the added interest. We did manage to negotiate them safely apart from one where my shorts got caught, safe to say I now have a pair of shorts which are good for the rag bin…

I was glad to see the back of the greenway although in a strange way it was fun as it was our bit of night time law breaking in the capital! We carried on and the next section was a bit tricky as we encountered another locked gate into a park (not one we could climb over). Ian’s maps came to the rescue and after a bit of a debate Ian figured on the best possible route round, and we were off running again. I must admit the next half hour or so was a bit of a blur for me as I was experiencing my first real Bonk of the run. I can remember thinking we had reached the Thames for Ian to inform me it was some kings Dock, which we had to run around in order to reach the Thames.  How inconsiderate of them, they could have built it the other side of the Thames!

Well we reached the Thames and it gave me a huge lift and I was back on the game again. We ran along thankful in the knowledge that we would soon be reaching the Woolwich Foot tunnel - this was our driving force all night (how many miles to the tunnel). We safely negotiated 2 locks on subsidiary waterways, I'm used to locks from the GUCR but these were serious monsters and the drop on the one looked pretty scary. We were soon back on the Thames following the path, until we encountered another locked gate. Again this was not one you could climb over safely, it was really frustrating as we could not see the point of the gate, let alone why it was locked, it’s a public footpath at the end of the day. So we worked our way round and with a few detours we finally made it to the tunnel, a defining moment in the run.

It was great in the tunnel it felt really warm, I don’t think it was it just highlighted the fact it was cold outside. Ian informed me that it was illegal to take photos in the tunnel, whilst getting his phone out in order to take said illegal photos! 

He also informed me that some mad runner had decided to try and get a licence to run a marathon in the tunnel, it sounds daft but then again strangely appealing hmmmm!

Well after our nice warm feeling it was a shock to step back out into the night air again, although it was close to morning by now. We ran by the side of the Thames for a while, and it was with some gladness when we headed away from the river as there was a keen wind whipping across the open water.

At the tunnel we had completed 38miles so by our calculations we had 4miles (maybe 7 max allowing for errors and detours) to go, so with high spirits we shot off running fairly easily still. We hit a fairly big hill in the next mile or 2, at which point we both thought pffft this is hard. For me it was the start of a downward spiral, I just wanted to get this section completed now, so I could get some food in me and think about the next 30+ miles. We had to negotiate another locked gate which kind of knocked me again, as we had to do a fair detour to skirt round it.

Once negotiated we had some nice off road section which culminated in a fairly large climb through some trees . It was at this time that I then realised that I was probably feeling a bit low as we had steadily been climbing since we left the river so I just put it down to low energy (I needed food).

When we came out of the tree line we were greeted with a superb view of the London skyline in the Pre dawn light. 

We savoured the moment then pushed on both eager to see the end of this section now. I lost count of the times I asked Ian “Are we there yet?” and equally his reply of “Cant be more than a mile and bit left” (I never did get clarification on how far ‘a bit’ was!)

We finally found ourselves at 47miles at 7.40am thinking we need FOOD now. We saw a garage and ran for it to find it closed. We trudged back to the route and then spotted a couple out walking, Ian asked if they knew of a Cafe to which we heard the magic words “Its just round the corner”. We sprinted to the cafe (well it felt like it) and finally we could sit down and eat. To be fair I did not taste any of it but it was doing the job it needed to do.

By the time we finished it was around 8.15am, the race was due to start at 9am so we figured we need to get a wriggle on if we were to get any faff time. Ian dutifully informed me we had just over a mile and a bit to go.  I just smiled and donned my running pack. To be fair once I had ironed out the stiffness I started running quite nicely, and was just bumbling happily knowing that very soon I could ditch my now some what stinky running clothes and clad myself in some fresh clothes.

We were running down a road and saw a guy running in skinny jeans and a back pack. It turned out to be Robbie, who could not find the start. Ian led the way with his trusty watch, and we rucked up to the start at 8.45am (15mins to go). It was a bit strange turning up to a race feeling battered, dirty but strangely elated that 50miles was in the bag, yes Ian 50miles not 42miles hmmmm logistics.

ULTRArace Tribe Sport London 50K

Anyhow Faff time was used to get changed, briefly meet some old friends, then Rory said the race time had been delayed to 9.15am. This was great as I could now relax a little and compose myself for the task ahead. It was not that it appeared daunting it was more the fact that things were aching now, so it was going to be more a case of managing the pain levels and controlling the mental games.

Ian and I had agreed at the start of our adventure that as we started this together, we going to finish it together, so suitably armed with a water bottle only, (I had had enough of my running pack as it was starting to dig in and cause some sores) we headed for the start. Of course it was natural for both Ian and I to make our way to the front, as we felt we could both go for the win at this stage.

Rory gave Ian the honour of starting the race and I believe that was our undoing as by the time we got running the front runners had a good 20 – 30mtrs on us, just too much to claw back on this race I'm afraid.

In all seriousness we started off and I guess we both got pulled along by the fact we were in a race, I think the first 2-3 miles we were 9min miling, which is not JOGLE pace and was quickly reined in.

To be fair the first few miles I was bumbling along just happy to be running further than I had run in a single stage for well over 6 months. The first CP came and went fairly quickly and we carried on our merry way. The capital ring signposts were more than adequate, and if they were slightly confusing you always had the reassurance that there were red arrows spray painted on the ground.

There was one point when Ian and I were chatting and not concentrating and I turned the corner left as I had subconsciously seen a runner go that way. Ian soon reined me in and said “No, wrong way”.  We went back to the junction looked at the signage, and I realised I had made a school boy error of following the person in front - not to be repeated I hasten to add.

I think it was at around mile 8 where I started to seriously flag my body was at a point where it was screaming “No enough, now you have had your piece of me, now leave me alone to hide”. However it was a question of playing the mind games and taking each mile as it came, forget the total. I had to endure this ballsing out (so to speak) method for the next 8 miles, It was tough but it was a very valuable lesson for me. Ian was very supportive through this section and I felt very grateful that he stuck with me.  It’s not that I complained about it, but I think he knew I was suffering a bit. I guess that’s the advantage of running with someone, you help each other through the tough patches.

Any way it was just after 16miles that we came across a bar that sold coffee so we dived in and sat there while the guy made up some very nice strong coffee. I think we both contemplated getting a beer at this stage but decided against it. Some runners went past and saw us in the shop.  They probably thought we were mad, but needs must. So suitably armed with our takeaway energy drink we carried on our merry way.

This next part for me was the high light of the race itself.  There were some lovely views and some really nice areas that we were running through be it parks or commons, and even the road sections had lots to look at and admire.

We soon came upon the next CP after running through a lovely park with lakes, with lots of children feeding the ducks it looked really attractive. I met up with Andy there - I had run with him 2 weeks prior at Rory’s birthday bash. He had pulled out as he wasn’t feeling fit, he looked very blue with cold. We chatted briefly, but I knew I had to keep moving otherwise I would start to go blue with cold.

So off we went heading our way to Wimbledon common, this was very nice running on trails which were through woody areas, I loved this section.  I think Ian was enduring them as he is by default a road runner - oh and a FLAT road runner, hills and trails are not his bag, not that I was reminded of that too often.

We soon came upon Richmond Park, I must say Ian had been filling me in on this particular section since we started the night before. He ran the London Ultra last year and this was the section he hated the most, he just remembered it as one huge hill. So as we approached it I was a little apprehensive of what to expect. For me though I loved this part, the views were fantastic, there were deer grazing in the park and did not seem spooked by people in close proximity. We passed some lakes which were picturesque and there were lots of folks out just enjoying the sun and walking in a great park. The route itself was lovely and even Ian concurred after we left the park that it was not as bad as he had remembered it.  He decided he must have been bonking badly last year at that point.

We left the park knowing that yet again we were approaching the Thames to cross back over, it was nice to see it again. I was pleased that the route allowed us run by the side of it for around a mile or so, there is always something calming running by water that’s flowing, and to see the hustle and bustle that goes with the river is always nice to see. Well the crossing this time was just a simple road bridge so we made our way across and headed down the other side and into the arms of the final CP (so to speak) It was good to see Dan Mullins there, I had spoken to him briefly at the start , we had a chat and a bit of banter as you do.

Well it was nice to know we had 10k to go. At this point I had the chance to repay Ian for his support of me through mile 8 – 16 as he was suffering a bit. I didn’t do a lot but I guess just the fact of controlling the  when to walk, when to run always helps. That way the person suffering can turn that aspect into auto and concentrate on the demons in their head.

It just turned into a game of ticking each mile off as it came, this strategy worked and we were soon down to around 2 miles to go plus Rory’s infamous added extra bit (we had reckoned on three quarters of mile to make it an even 32mile course) We saw some runners in the distance who were looking around as if lost, so we went sailing past saying follow the green arrows.  Let’s be fair here the course was easily marked but the amount of runners we had encountered who were scratching their heads was amazing.

Then suddenly we saw a painted arrow painted in the road and we knew this was it.  The run into the finish was on. To be fair I think I speeded up and Ian to his credit pushed on as well.   He was seriously depleted now and had got double vision. Well we turned the corner and we saw the running track and that was all we needed.  We ran on to the track arms aloft knowing we were about to complete an epic run.

It is always a fantastic feeling to finish a race know matter where you come, but this one seemed more poignant with the fact that for 50miles it was just Ian and I battling the conditions and navigating our own course (well Ian did I followed like a lost sheep)..

Rory and Jen were there to greet us, with a double medal for a double effort, we had completed our 50 50 race. In total 82miles in around 19hrs.

Well there was just the small matter of driving home, which I must say had to be done in stages for fear of falling asleep at the wheel..

I feel I need to say some thank you’s :-

Ian J Berry for organising the whole adventure and for being fantastic company for 19hrs. At no time did I think God I wish this bloke would shut up. It was great fun all the way round and I think the photos prove that.

Rory & Jen for letting us share their room while we faffed and sorted our stuff out. Also for transporting our bags around for us, and even phoning us at just gone midnight to check we were ok. Oh and Jen the lift back to my car was fantastic. Thanks both very much…

Thanks also has to go to Greenwich Council for leaving the Woolwich Foot tunnel open, if that had been locked I did not fancy the swim.

Thanks to the couple out walking who pointed us in the right direction to the Tasty Cafe

Thanks to my Guardian Angel (you know who you are) for carrying me through the tough patches.

Oh and if you read this thanks so much for reading this and I hope I did not bore you….

Here is the profile of the course. It was a bit steep after the tunnel. The tunnel is the negative section.