Friday, 30 December 2011

Tupper #8

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Post Christmas...Hill Training

I'm lucky to have the Ash Ranges on my door step (Just over a mile away to be exact). The area is owned by the MOD and most days is out of bounds till after 4:30pm while the Army train here. Great in the Summer but not so good in the Winter with the shorter days. Credit to the Army though, in the holidays the red flags are down and you can access all areas every day.

The area is well over 2000 hectares and consists of heath and woodland but gives you just about any other terrain you can think of....and plenty of hills. Short and sharp and plenty of long tough climbs, it's the perfect place for hill training. The beauty of it is, is that some days you can be out here and not see a soul. Even members of the British Olympic team come out of London to train here, so that gives you an idea of the quality of the area.


...and more hills (This is a tough hill, even though
 it looks just like a flat path in the picture!!!)

Paula Radcliffe on the trails
I've read recently that Paula Radcliffe does a lot of her workouts on trails for her marathon training. If it's good enough for Paula then it's good enough for me and my London marathon training. Trail running is perfect conditioning for the runners body, The uneven paths under foot strengthen your feet and ankles while the undulating landscape and hills strengthen both the legs and the core muscles. Spend 10 miles over here and I always feel that my core muscles have been worked as much as my legs.

After the indulgences of Christmas this was the perfect run to bounce back.Three days at my Sisters, eating too many sweet things,not moving and sleeping dodgy on an air bed was enough to throw my body out of kilt and feel like I had turned into a slob! But this workout which consisted of nearly 13 miles, 10 of which were spent on the hills went a long way of burning off the excesses of Christmas and get my mind firmly back on marathon training.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Out with the old....

I decided to trade in my old broken running partner Brian (Twitter: @bsmithy100) for a new updated model for the weekend run....Tim....OK not such a glamorous name, but check out the Twitter name.....@jedirider.

Of course, I'm joking! He's not really broken and still my regular running partner, but today I had the chance to run with Tim whom has been out many times with Brian and myself and we've also ran in races together including my last Marathon.

Tim, me and Brian at a previous run
With time permitting I could only get out for 10 miles today, which was a third of what Tim was completing. Tim is embarking on a wonderful journey into mad marathon.....I mean ultra marathon running and competing in next years North Face 100 in Australia, a 100km ultra race in the mountains. You can follow Tim on his journey at his new blog Tim runs the North Face .

Tim was running along the Basinstoke canal from Woking, which passes through Ash Vale where I live. Nice and flat, which was a nice change from my recent training runs where I've been hitting the hills.

Nice and flat!
I want to train a lot on the hills for next years London marathon. I spent alot of time training on them for my last marathon which was very hilly but with London being relatively flat I'm hoping the time spent on the hills will make things easier???

Another thing I want to concentrate on next year is my nutrition, I eat fairly well at the moment, but like everyone there is room for improvement.

I'm also considering doing the brilliant Janathon, a concept that will be familiar with bloggers in the UK. Basically you need to exercise and blog everyday throughout January. At the moment I'm not sure how that will fit into my marathon training and whether I have to time to blog everyday, but I still have a couple of weeks to decide.
Before then I'm going to relax and enjoy Christmas, and not worry too much about what I eat and come back in January fully focused on the London Marathon.

Thanks to everyone who follows my blog or just stops by once in a while, it makes doing it really worthwhile and I wish you all a Merry Christmas:)

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Return to the Pilgrim's Way

A day off work and with the London marathon starting to appear on my radar my thoughts are now turning to a return to some serious training. Last Saturday, early morning I was fortunate to be able to get onto the Army land that is less than 2 miles from my door step. The red flags that are usually up in the day at the weekend preventing you to get on the land were down, meaning I could take advantage of the brilliant hills and trails that are available. It was one of those great runs you get once in a while where everything falls into place, the weather was good and there was not another soul around. Beautiful.

With a days rest in between I was out again on the Monday, this time a tough 14 miles over the North Downs. This was my longest and hardest run since the Pilgrims marathon back in September taking in a route that gives you 2000ft of elevation to deal with.

The run takes me from my house along the tarmac through Ash Vale village, out towards Normandy village before getting off the roads and hitting the trails.

Early trails en route
After the early trails it's then on the road again and the start of the hills through Wanborough. After a gradual climb I hit the killer climb to the Hogs back (A31) and up Wanborough Hill, a hill that even cyclists in low gears struggle to climb.

The downhill recovery takes me through the quaint village of Puttenham and the steady climb onto the North Downs.

The Pilgrim's marathon runs from the Village of Seale to Guildford and gets its name from using part of the ancient Pilgrim's Way trackway as part of the course. The full route of the ancient Pilgrim's Way runs from Winchester in Hampshire to London. There is evidence that the trackway was a main trade route between 450 to 500BC. After the growth and importance of London and the decline of Winchester as the Capital with less metal supply coming from the West, the trackway was in danger of becoming redundant. From a trade route the trackway was saved following the murder of Archbishop Becket in 1170 with pilgrims journeying to Becket's shrine along the path, thus gaining the name of the Pilgrims Way. Some of the original medieval cobbles can still be seen today....History lesson over!

The Pilgrims path can still been seen today
In the marathon you have to run up the path which is a never ending climb, but today I was heading the other way and flew down the path desperately trying to avoid turning my ankle on the uneven cobbles. The route then continues along the undulating North Downs and eventually onto the village of Seale, but not before I had the unusual experience of running along side some farm land and being hit with the strong smell of Coriander. It was in abundance in one of the fields where Farmers were at work harvesting the crops. I had no idea where Coriander grew, I thought it was somewhere exotic not just round the corner!

The Beautiful North Downs
After Seale it's time to leave this beautiful side of the Hog's Back and head homeward. To get back over the Hog's Back from Seale I take the brilliantly named Thundery Hill and head back to civilisation.

Having struggled across the Downs the temptation was to call in here......

Water Stop?
....I decline, and before long I'm on the Blackwater valley path that then a brief spell on the Basingstoke Canal before reaching home. I thought I'd share with you in pictures this wonderful route that gives a real testing run but in beautiful surroundings.

One other thing I'd like to share is the brilliant I'm not quite shaw what it is called but it was in my goody bag after the Marathon. When the weather is bitterly cold I like to wear a hat but the trouble I have is that I get too hot after a while. The brilliant thing about my head...thingy, is that it keeps my ears and forehead warm but allows the head to breath and cool out the top. It can also be pulled down as a neck warmer. I would strongly recommend.

More Rambo than Runner!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Grim 2011

Sunday morning, one week on from the Hellrunner, time to put on my oldest pair of trainers and head out the door to my latest planned race...The Grim.

The weather was not as kind as the previous weekend, and the temperature was more what you would expect for the time of year.

The Grim takes part on the Army vehicle training grounds in Aldershot a short drive from where I live. As with most races I was running with my trusty sidekick Brian.

We had taken part in this same race last year, I say last year but it was actually January of this calender year. It was postponed last December due to the snow. We arrived about 50 minutes early although there was no need, the parking for this event is ample, even for the 2000 participants taking part.

This year the course has been adjusted to 8.5 miles rather than the 9 miles, and has a couple of new features, one being some railway tracks to hop over??? and some logs to scuttle over, not really the most challenging of obstacles and looked a little out of place in the wide open area that they were situated. On the plus side the pathetic small cargo net that you had to crawl under last year had been removed.

The main water feature of a ravine filled with muddy clay water that varies in depth depending which side you run on (stick to the left if you don't want to be submerged!) remained, and the mud that follows is nigh on impossible to move in, let alone run.

Grim and bare it!
Before and after this water feature the course is a mixture of woodland trails, sandy hills, stony paths and lots of puddles. With the puddles it is up to the participant how wet they want to get, as you can go around a lot of them. Last year I got in the spirit of things and went through most of the water, this year I decided to skip them where I could (Been there, done that, got the T-shirt).

Overall I managed an average pace of 8:26 min/mile which over a course where at times you are waist high in water or in a bottleneck at the beginning of the course, I was pretty pleased with.

The £25 for such a short course is steep and although you pick up a cotton T-shirt and a shake at the finish, this race is wildly overpriced. At least the Hellrunner organisers put some effort in around the course last week, with fireworks at the start and some overhead fire and music as you go through the water features and a decent goody bag and medal. No goody bag or medal here! Although well marshaled and a good pre race atmosphere this is all there is to offer. There were no stalls to look around at the beginning while you wait unless you count the hot dog vans!

In my opinion this is an event that you do once for the experience, the short course is more playful than challenging or 'Grim'.

If you want more for your money for a similar type of event, go for the 12 mile Hellrunner race, a real challenge, worth the money and takes place around the same time of year.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Hellrunner 2011

I awoke Sunday morning unaware of the weather waiting outside. Rain, Wind and Cold...Marvellous! The scene was set for a wet and cold Hellrunner!

Hellrunner South takes place at Longmoor Army Camp, Bordon, Hampshire. It is part of a national series of events that take part yearly up and down the country sponsored by Brooks.

I didn't know the course but I did know to expect the infamous 'Bog of Doom' and the 'Hills of Hell'.

When it comes to running, I'm a bit of a purist, I run because...well, I like to keep running! I've done a similar event 'The Grim' (which I'm doing again next Sunday) which like the Hellrunner, features water obstacles along the way. To me this is more like competing in Total Wipeout than a running race.

As long as you go into these type of events with a different mindset, ie: Time means nothing and I'm going to get wet! then you will be fine. I had this in my head that this was more a training run than a race.

With 2000 people running, and the run starting at 10am, I would advise to get there at 9am. I was running this event with running partner Brian, and we were not parked up until 9:15am, which wasn't a problem and made for less waiting around but meant queueing in traffic for a while.

Miraculously the weather had broken into clear blue skies and not as cold as expected for the time of year. At the start area there was the usual stalls set up selling running apparel and the Clif company selling their energy and recovery products. They also had bite size tasters of their products to try, which was a welcome pre race boost and very popular with everyone.

Lined up at the start we waited for a devil on stilts to make his way down the road ahead wielding canisters of green smoke, followed by fireworks and a large explosion which I assume meant that we were off.

The course is, and I quote from the official web site 'Somewhere between 10 and 12 miles'. Not the most helpful but I'm guessing that it is nearer to 10 than 12....I'm going with 10.5 miles.

Brian and myself, early on...dry and clean!
The first couple of miles is pretty much flat or heading downhill along quite well drained terrain, but what goes down must go up and from there on in that is what you can expect....hills!

The course is challenging not only with the hills going up but coming down can be quite hair raising too and very unpredictable under foot. This would be a great course to run on your own one weekend because with the amount of people running, from the very first hill you hit a queue and are forced to walk. This was the biggest problem all the way round, every hill for the best part of the race was a bottleneck.

There are some hills that were very tough not only because of the gradient but also a lot have sand under foot making it doubly hard to get up. The water features are probably the highlight of the race because they are so different to what you're used to on a Sunday run. The good thing about the water features are that they come towards the end of the race, so there are no silly water obstacles along the way put in for the sake of getting wet.

The Bog of Doom is the first of the water to overcome, a stretch of black, stinky water that you have to wade through with the level above the waist. There are roots underfoot that cannot be seen and can easily be tripped on, and yes right towards the end I tripped, luckily my arm partly breaking my fall.

The Bog of Doom

After this it's more hills to cope with and with wringing wet trainers and shorts to drag you back. It's not long before you're back in the water again, this time with the lake crossing. This consists of reaching the top of a 20 ft sand bank that you have to slide down before wading across a quite large expanse of water before attempting to climb the same sized bank back up again.

With the water features out the way it's then the final couple of miles back to the finish, which again consists guessed it, hills and also the sand dunes, an undulating trek across the sand before hitting the tarmac and crossing the finish line.

The sand dunes

I finished with a chip time of 1:39:52. If this was nearer 12 miles or 11.75 miles as someone told me on Twitter today then that would give me a mile pace of 8:30. When running I was probably running close to this if not a little faster, but with the stops at most of the hills and the water obstacles there is no way I was maintaining this pace. If I go with 10.5 miles that gives me a pace of 9:30 which overall is probably nearer the mark. If anyone has the precise distance, please let me know.

Overall this event was better than I expected, as I said at the beginning, you are best going into this race with no expectations and treating it as a really good testing, training run. The organisation was generally good, a scattering of Marshall's, one water stop (It needed no more) and a great goody bag at the end which included a Brooks tech training T-shirt.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The night run

This was one of the best runs I've done in along time for the following reasons:

1) It was on the spur of the moment.
2) The novelty factor and a bit of an adventure.
3) I couldn't see the big hills I had to run up!

Sunday, early evening, I'd spent the afternoon sat freezing watching my son play football desperate to get out for a run to get my legs warm. I text friend and regular running partner Brian to see if he was up for a evening run. He was having the same kind of afternoon and was as keen as me to get going.

The fog had not lifted all day, so we went out on our run at 4 o'clock which gave us about half an hour of remaining daylight. With head torches at the ready we head out across the Ash ranges (a mix of stony and woodland trails plus hills).

It wasn't long before the daylight turned to dusk but the eyes adjusted well to the ever fading light. The fog was quite thick and so the landscape was just silhouettes of trees and distant hills. It was a brilliant sensation to be running in what felt like the middle of nowhere in the dark and fog.

We took the pace fairly steady but was slowed by the gates and cattle grids along the way, which meant we could have a good old chat. 90% of the conversations Brian and me share on runs or at work are about running (much to the disappointment of work colleagues!) It felt like we were running in the middle of the night and we imagined how this run would compare to running in an all night Ultra race. We were soon put off the fact by the thought that it was only 5 o'clock which would mean there would still be probably another 12 hours of running in the dark ahead of us!

There is a few challenging hills along the way but because of the dark and fog, you could not see far enough in front to see how far the hills went on, which seemed to make them easier.

The head torches were ineffective against the fog and the light just bounced straight back at you. Most the time we spent with the lights off which gave a bit of adventure to the run and it's amazing how the eyes become acclimatised to the dark. In the final few miles we did work out that putting the head torches on the side of the head gave a dull light in front of us that was easier to run with against the fog.

I'd done this run many times in the day, but it was amazing how different it felt at night. This is something I would recommend if you are tired of the same routes, what feels like two different runs for the price of one.

After spending an hour and a half of running in the still of night across the trails it was actually frustrating to come back to civilisation, street lights and waiting at the road for cars to pass!

No Google Images, I typed in Night running not Knight....doh!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Winter Training Looms!

It's been 6 weeks since my Marathon triumph, I use the word 'triumph' in the sense that somehow I managed to complete the hilly 26.2 miles albeit a mixture of walk/running in the final 5 miles.

Thoughts now turn to Winter training and ultimately destination London, and the Marathon in April. In between then, two races that I have booked in are The Hellrunner and The Grim. The races are within a week of each other, 12 miles and 8 miles respectively. The first of which is 2 weeks away. For those who have not heard of these races, they consist of a lot of water! The bog of doom is the name of one such obstacle, so you get the idea. When booked up on a hot summers day, these races sounded quite appealing, now it's November...not so!

Since the Marathon it was always my intention to have some down time but at the same time not losing what I had built up to through training for my last Marathon. I've been running a lot less recently but hopefully the base fitness remains.

Today it felt like Winter training had finally begun, a 9.7 mile run to work with colleague Brian, equipped with head torch, gloves and a long sleeve top but I have not resorted to the running leggings yet, I'll save them till the real cold weather takes bite.

Winter Training
The plan now is to slowly build back up the mileage and get to somewhere between 30 - 40 mile weeks come the new year. I reckon on that being just about right for me and get me to my goal of a sub 4 hour Marathon.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Nike Lunarglide +3

I have been lucky enough to receive these running shoes to review. I say lucky because I currently run in the previous model, the Lunarglide +2. I've had two pairs of the +2 model previous because I love them a lot so although I was looking forward to putting the +3 to the test, I was also a little apprehensive having been happy with the previous model.

Sometimes a new model of a trainer is not necessary an improvement, and there comes a time when you keep re branding a model, that over the years it becomes a totally different trainer. Take the Nike Pegasus for instance, this is one of Nike's oldest models. If you look at the design when it was originally brought out, it looks and probably performs like a different trainer. Something I need not worry about with the Lunarglide (at the moment!).

My initial thoughts on the Lunarglide +3 as I took them out the box was that I was not so impressed with the new look of the trainer. The new mid foot strap that has been added in my opinion looks ugly but on the positive side holding the trainer, it is still amazingly light for a support trainer.

Putting the trainer on, immediately you notice how comfortable the trainer is underfoot. The new mid foot strap does feel a little tight across the top of the trainer when you lace up, in all it's quite a snug fit. I guess this is down to personal preference and how you like a trainer to feel, I prefer to have a little more room, but having said that, once I got on the run the snugger fit was not a problem and actually felt quite secure and comfortable. A heel-support clip has been added that helps to moderate excessive pronation.

The Lunarlon sole looks a little chunkier than it's predecessor, but again once running any additional support felt beneficial and not a hindrance. The Lunarlon sole is a bit of genius by Nike, light,cushioning and supportive.

I've been out on 3 relatively short runs with these now and have to say they are just as comfortable, if not more so than it's predecessor. The mid foot strap actually works rather than a new gimmick added and with more ventilation than before, overall the updated model is a winner, if not on looks. As with all Nike's trainers they are Nike + ready with a place under the left inner sole to fit the sensor.

Overall Performance 35 out of 40

Cushioning - 9 out of 10, Better cushioning than previous, but still super light.
Comfort - 9 out of 10, Very comfortable on the run.

Flexibility - 8 out of 10, Generally Flexible.

Responsiveness - 9 out of 10, Very High with good movement with the foot.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Virgin London Marathon - British Heart Foundation

Next year I will be running the 2012 London Marathon, which is exciting because a) It's London,one of the worlds major Marathon's and b) It is the Olympics here in the UK, so what a year to be doing this race.

I did not get a ballot place this year but found out a lot earlier that I had gained a place with the British Heart Foundation (BHF). I could not run for a better charity because it will give me a chance to give something back.

In October 2007, my youngest child had to undergo open heart surgery to repair a hole in his heart. A harrowing time for the family but I'm glad to say a huge success thanks to the amazing surgeons and staff of Southampton General hospital. Ideally I would love to give something back directly to them but am doing the next best thing by running for the BHF.

Although 2012 is a great year to be running London it's also going to be, I expect another tough year on people's finances. I need to raise £1500 which is going to be tough in these times we live in.

The easiest way of doing this is if I can get 1500 people to donate to me a single pound. Hopefully I will be able to achieve this and spread the word with the help of readers of the blog and followers on Twitter.

People have already been generous and donated more than this amount and hopefully family,friends and work colleagues will continue to do so, but I would not expect people who I don't know to do the same.

So all I ask of followers of the Blog and Twitter that they can help spread the word and retweet messages etc, to help me achieve this goal.

A massive Thank You in advance!

You can make your donations by clicking on the banner on the right or follow the link: Virgin Money Giving to my page.

Winter Marathon training, here we come!

Er..Maybe double this for my finishing time!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

New Balance 1260

This stability shoe has recently taken the Editor's Runners choice award in the Runnersworld Autumn shoe guide, so if you overpronate and have low arches, then this is the trainer for you. In it's previous life this trainer was the 1226, but has been updated with a new heel collar,more pronation support and a more flexible forefoot. Weighing in at 349g (Men's), 285g (Women's) it's up there with the heavier stability shoes on the market.

The first thing I noticed when putting the trainer on was the comfort, the fit was perfect and felt snug around the foot particularly around the upper part of the trainer. I'm not necessary a one brand running man, so I've tried different makes of trainers in the past but this was by far the most comfortable I can remember.

Out on the run the trainer responded well and although the medial support of the trainer was not obtrusive, the chunkier support could be felt, but this is a stability trainer so it needs to be there. I also run in the Nike Lunarglide +2, I don't want to steal the limelight of the 1260 in this review but Nike seem to have created the perfect sole which not only supports well but has taken away the chunkier stability of most other trainers on the market. If I could combine the base of the Lunarglide with the upper of the 1260, then you would have the perfect trainer.

The lacing system, as always with New Balance is brilliant and the grip of the trainer is designed well. Overall a great trainer and easy to see why it went down so well at Runnersworld.

Overall Performance 33 out of 40

Cushioning - 8 out of 10, Plenty of cushioning, firm with medial support.

Comfort - 10 out of 10, Perfect.

Flexibility - 7 out of 10, More flexible in the forefoot.

Responsiveness - 8 out of 10, Good, but chunky mid sole holds it back.

Sunday, 25 September 2011


Question: When is a glove not a glove?.....Answer: When it's an eglove!

The F3 sports glove is a traditional running glove but with a difference, the conductive metalic material on the forefinger and thumb allows you to operate touchscreen devices without the need to remove your gloves, clever eh?

The gloves also have rubber detailing on the remaining finger tips and palm which gives you better grip and the feeling you could climb walls like Spiderman!

I have had the gloves to review for a little while now and was waiting for a colder morning to put them to the test, The British Summer may not be the greatest but does not require the need for gloves so obviously this product is going to be part of your Winter running kit.

Although made of a thin cotton/lycra material the gloves surprisingly gave a lot of warmth, although we're not in Winter yet, I put the gloves to the test by holding a tub of ice cream for a few minutes with little affect of the cold coming through. When I took the gloves on a run I had my touch screen mobile phone with me. The conductive material on the finger worked well on the screen without problems scrolling through menu's even the smaller icon's on the screen did not cause a problem.

The gloves are well made and very comfortable to wear. I personally don't run often with music so have no need to operate a music device but do carry my mobile with me on longer runs, but I will happily use the gloves whether I have my phone or not because of the good thermal properties and comfort of the glove.

With most devices now, whether it be for music or a phone being touchscreen I can see a place in the running market for the product. The gloves are priced at £21.99 but if you use the code OKUK over at you can get 20% off any product.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Farnham Pilgrims Marathon 2011

We found the sign to the car park OK but somehow missed the one with 'Welcome to hell on earth' written on it! Today was the day of the Farnham Pilgrims Marathon, now in it's second year, this is probably one of the toughest marathons the south has to offer, extremely challenging with it's hills. So what better way to take on my first marathon!

There is a famous running quote that says "If I'm still standing after the marathon then push me over because if I've tried hard enough I should not be standing". Well believe me I was close to not be able to stand, so I guess I tried enough.

Like the Spitfire 20 a couple of weeks ago, I ran this race with friends Brian and Tim. Like the previous race Brian started strongly and after the early bottle neck where there was a couple of minutes wait to climb the first of many stiles, soon pulled away from me and Tim.

The upside to the challenging course is that the route takes in some stunning scenery along the North Downs and up to to the halfway point I was able to enjoy the views.
If your not in too much pain, the views are worth admiring.
The terrain of the course changes all the time, one minute you could be running on Tarmac, Sand, Trails and narrow mud pathways through fields. This course really does throw everything at you.
If you are looking for a PB on this course then forget it, however good you are. I say that because of three things 1) The Hills 2) The Stiles 3) The narrow pathways in places, because you just can't pass people until the route opens again.

The course is undulating from the start in the village 'The Sands' through Puttenham and then onto Guildford. But it's in Guildford that the course really gets challenging, in particular the halfway stage which is up St Martha's hill, a long steep climb up to the church, but the consolation is that the views are amazing. I've trained on this hill before and never managed to get up to the top, well today I almost made it but had to walk the final summit. This was a good chance to take a gel though and I recommend good fueling on this course although the plentiful water stops are stocked with biscuits, banana's and drinks.
The good water stops leads me on to praising the whole set up of the race. Brilliant cheerful marshaling, and a well run start and finish of the race. A medal and T-shirt at the finish and while you wait to collect these a choice of drinks and selection of cakes. You can also get a print out of the results there and then.

The hills of Guildford took their toll on me and I finally hit the wall at mile 19. I say I hit the wall but it was more like smashing into it. The legs were gone and even seeing my family at this point could not revive my spirits. The remaining miles were a mixture of mental games and running down and walking up the hills.

I was hit with a massive down pour about 10 minutes from the end but was lifted at the finish with a respectable time of 4:34:02 on such a tough course. I felt like I was walking more than running the final miles and expecting to come in over 5 hours.

Massive praise to Brian and Tim who finished in amazing times of 4:11:27 and 4:12:08 respectively.
Me telling tales of great adventures
 of the journey at the end of the race
A Burger King and a hot bath have gone a long way to take away the pain. To sum up the race, the organisation was second to none but the course was brutal. If you are up for a challenge I would highly recommend this but I am now looking forward to a flat London Marathon in 2012.

Everyones a Winner! Me,Tim and Brian

Monday, 5 September 2011

Spitfire 20

Tim, Me and Brian pre race (and still dry!)

The Spitfire 20 is held at Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey and is famous for being the race test track for the popular British TV programme Top Gear. The Aerodrome is a vast open area and made for a totally new experience in running for me. The course consists of 2 laps of 10 miles, 3 miles of which are running around the Airfield, so it gives you a feel for just how large this area is.

I was running the race with friends Tim and Brian, the race was fairly local to us. It was an early start though, race registration opened at 7:30am with the race start at 9:30am. We arrived at 8am which meant we had plenty of time to relax. It was great because we had a chance to meet up with a couple of other runners from Twitter, suddenly conversation had to be longer than 140 characters!!!

As well as meeting Jo and her boyfriend, I also got to meet the remarkable Kevin Betts, a runner attempting to run 52 Marathons in a year, one a week and all must be completed in under 4 hours. Today the organisers had marked out an additional 6 miles for Kevin to complete this weeks Marathon. You can follow and support Kevin on Twitter or his Website 52marathons .

The vast Airfield

The weather conditions were perfect, (to begin with!) overcast and cool. With my first Marathon just 2 weeks away this was my last planned long run and I set myself the target of 9 - 9:30 minute miles. As per usual I went off quicker than planned (as I always do at races) with the first few miles at around 8:20 minute pace. I ran with Tim the whole race, Brian had pushed on after the first few miles which was as expected as he is running strong at the moment. Tim normally the strongest runner out of us all, was coming back from a serious mountain bike injury, and had done little running in the last couple of months, so was happy to 'plod' with me. It was great because we kept the conversation going for the full 20 miles! I'm sure at times though Tim knew when to talk me through some difficult moments of the race (hills and the last couple of miles).

As I said earlier the course consists of two laps, the first 3 miles around the flat open airfield before moving onto country lanes to the village of Dunsfold and the surrounding area before returning to the aerodrome. The country lanes can be described as undulating, some short sharp hills and a longer hill heading up to mile 8 (and 18). The roads are not shut but very quiet and the any cars made their way past slowly. There were plenty of water stops with each stop supplying water, Powerbar energy gels and Jelly Babies. The course was very well marshaled. I didn't stop as I was practising my Marathon fuelling which consisted of Sports drink in my Camelback, mini flapjacks and Jelly Beans.

The dark sky that was threatening most of the race finally decided to down pour around mile 16, by the time we reached mile 18 we were soaked to the bone and my trainers were squelching with every step. After the final hill at mile 18, I was really tired but Tim managed to spur me on to the finish.

I came in at 2:54:52 an average of 8:45 minute miles which would make for a sub 4 hour Marathon, so I was really pleased. I will take this on board when I run the London Marathon next April but my Marathon in 2 weeks time is a different kettle of fish. The Marathon is extremely hilly so I will be happy with sub 5 hours in 2 weeks time.

To sum up this was a great event, a little disappointing that there was no goodie bag at the end, but a great medal made up for that. The course was different and interesting and was a great distance for anyone doing an Autumn Marathon. There was the option of running a single 10 mile lap also. Great company with friends old and new, now for the 2 week taper!

Medal (Worth waiting for)

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Run...Dean Karnazes

I guess if you are reading this review, you're here because you like running and because of that reason you probably don't need any introduction to the Author of 'Run...26.2 stories of Blisters and Bliss' - Dean Karnazes.

This is Dean's third book, of which I've read his first, Ultramarathon Man. The first autobiography is very much a structured story following Dean from his Ultrarunning beginnings through to some of the unbelievable achievements he has recorded in the Ultrarunning world. Run although autobiographical, jumps around Dean's life, so you could read any chapter in any order rather than following a story.

That is not a criticism, I felt like I learnt a lot more about the man than in the first book and some of the chapters and the stories within them are just awe inspiring and keep you very much engrossed in the book.

You also get to dig a bit deeper into Dean's life, and a continuing theme throughout the book of his friendship with fellow endurance runner Topher Gaylord, who even gets to write his own chapter. You also see the strong bond he has with his Farther who is also one of Dean's crew on the races.

The stand out chapters are the ones where Dean writes about his experiences during some of the Worlds toughest races. I particularly enjoyed the chapters describing the 4 Deserts races, 4 155 mile races across the Atacama, Gobi and Sahara deserts and the largest and coldest desert Antarctica. These stories give a real insight into what Ultra running is all about.

There are a few 'Book filling' chapters that could easily gone a miss in particular the 'Letters to Karno', a chapter dedicated to fan mail.

Dean Karnazes is without a doubt an Inspiring person and it truly amazes me what the man has endured and achieved.Who else could run for 48 hours non stop, rack up 212 miles and all live in a TV studio!

So it miffs me somewhat, why Dean has as many haters as admirers especially in the Ultrarunning world. The reason behind the haters? From what I understand Ultrarunning used to be very much an underworld sport and people liked it that way. Along comes Dean and puts the sport into the limelight literally overnight. Events then become oversubscribed with runners now relying on lotteries to get them in.

Hang on a minute Ultrarunning world! Dean is not the first or the last to bring the sport to the Public's eye and make money from the sport. I've only just finished an article in Running Fitness magazine written by Jez Bragg about his race report on the Western States 100, and what about the success of 'Born to Run'. Dean may have been one of the first, and has put your sport on the Map, is that a bad thing?

I'm in the Dean camp, he has given the fascinating world of Ultrarunning a high profile and as a man has done so many great work for charity, and that should not be forgotten.

Run is as enjoyable as the first book and a great inspiring read into the realms of Ultrarunning and I would highly recommend the read.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

24...The Long Run

I have not completed any specific Marathon training programme, but I am aware of what they contain and knew the time had come to complete my longest run ahead of race day. With 4 weeks to go my plan was to run 22 miles on a fairly undulating course, which would reflect some similar elevation to my race. I was intending to run this alone, but by the weekend it was all change. In the end I decided to run with friend and running partner Brian. He planned to run 24 miles; our route of 12 miles along the Basingstoke Canal to work, get there and then turn around and head back, One for all, and all for one!

Although this was longer than I planned, the canal is very flat apart from about 15 locks that on the way back give you some short hills to go up. Brian's thinking was this would be more of a confidence booster in completing the distance rather than struggling on a hilly run.

It was also a chance to fine tune my nutrition. Like my previous long run I stuck with my bite size flapjacks, jelly beans and Powerade sports drink. My Camelbak can take 1.5 litres of fluid, so I put 2 x 500ml bottles into the bladder, It didn't quite last the run, but come race day will be plenty of water stops.

It was around mile 18, I noticed the tiredness, and this was more mental than anything else. But I kicked in and broke down the final 10K in my head in the typical way all of us runners do. " If I can just get to the BP garage.....train station.....that tree!".

So I made it and Brian had been right, this has boosted the confidence. The short walk home was more of a struggle than the last 4 miles had been running, but I was lifted when my two son's came past me, the eldest going for a run and his brother following on his bike. If I had inspired, then job done!

Just under a week later from this run, and as I conclude this post, I have been out for a couple of runs. I went for a 4.5 mile run 2 days after the long run. The legs were heavy but by the end of the run had loosened, so I think this was worthwhile. Yesterday I ran into work on a 12 mile run, again I took this easy.

That now leaves 3 weeks until race day. I have a 20 mile race next Sunday which will leave 2 weeks to taper. I have not planned what to do in them couple of weeks and have never tapered before, so any thoughts let me know.

Sunday, 7 August 2011


An English football manager once described the ability to comeback as 'Bouncebackability'. This was exactly what I needed to do today following a blow out on my last long run a couple of weeks ago.

I didn't put too much pressure on myself but deep down I knew this was a big week of running for me. After taking a weeks rest, I got back into it this last week. I had a week off work so as well as fitting around the family I also managed to get some decent runs in. These consisted of medium runs of 6 and 9 miles, a tempo run of 4.5 miles and today's 17 miles, totalling a very nice 37 mile week.

The real satisfaction though came from today's run. Before I set off I was far more confident than I had been for two reasons: 1) I was really up for this run, and 2) I was a lot more confident with my fuelling today.

Today's Fuel
I had my Camelbak filled with a Powerade sports drink which I topped up with a little water. I also tried the Lucozade Jelly Beans which tasted no different to the regular beans you can buy, just twice the price! I also packed some flapjack pieces. I individually wrapped these in cling film and nicknamed these my 'Scooby snacks'. My thinking was I would have a flapjack and a few beans along with a swig of drink every 3 miles. This seem to work really well although somewhere along the way I must have dropped a flapjack as I was one short come mile 15! I also like the fact of having some real food with me and I had no problem with stomaching these.

As well as getting the fueling right, I think the course helped give me a lift as well. It was a similar route to what I have done a few times before but to give it a fresh feel I run through a couple of typical quaint English villages set in the heart of the Surrey hills.



The villages of Puttenham and Seale were quiet and still on this sleepy Sunday morning and were the perfect back drop for the run. The course in parts was quite undulating and the best part was running up 'Thundery Hill' I thought this was just a great name for a road and would sound brilliant to have as an address.

OK so this was still 9 miles short of Marathon distance but I could have quite easily gone on today. So with 40 days to go till my race it was good timing to show some 'Bouncebackability'. 

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Thank You!

Following my bad run last week, I've had a great response from people offering advice that I thought I'd share as it may help others. I haven't put names but you know who you all are, from the Blog, Twitter and Dailymile. A massive Thank you. I've taken everything on board and putting it all into practise.

Sorry to hear about your dead stop. Maybe a couple of lower-mileage weeks would help? I
can't get my head around gels either - pricey, sticky & yukky! surprising how many of the ultrarunning bods on twitter use jelly babies or haribo instead... 3 jelly babies=1 gel, by all accounts. certainly taste nicer & a fraction of the cost.

Most of those gels just don't agree with people's stomach's, that carnitine theory of the gels will only work in the long term, i cant see it getting to your muscles fast enough to switch your major carbon source to fat. I'm all about jelly babies, they taste good, there cheap and if you suck them you will absorb the sugar straight away. Sorry maybe don't be so harsh on yourself, you got 8 weeks to your Marathon, that means you got 4 weeks to get to 20 so maybe slow down take your time. It may hopefully just be a mental thing.

I've tried jelly sweets but they are harder to digest (more solid) and therefore upset my stomach on a run. I don't go for sweet food at all anyway. I'm back to gels and I don't notice a "kick" from them, but my energy levels stay OK, which is the goal. Note that you have to be taking 500-600ml of water per hour with the gels too. Have you tried Endurolytes? I take one every 30mins along with gels.
Good luck!

My preference is for a mix of caffeinated gels (powerbar) and jelly beans, I also fill my camel back with electrolyte sports drink and water half and half.
Are you making sure you're 100% hydrated before your long runs and picking your evening meal the night before carefully? All these things can have considerable effect, especially the hydration. If I have a load of booze on Friday night, I suffer from not being totally hydrated by the time Sunday morning and the long run comes along.

And don't forget getting enough sleep: a brief period of sleep deprivation has shown not to impact performance significantly, but a prolonged period of sleep deprivation does. If your mileage increases, so should your time asleep.

I'm no expert but previous distances looks OK. I have lots of calories the night before and usually just water on the run.

If I run for 3 hours I take about 600/800 cals, you sure your not just bonking because of lack of cals.

Take another rest & re-focus. Look at your nutrition, maybe that's why you bombed?

Sorry to hear Ian :( I'm not nearly as experienced as you at running so I can't offer any advice about your schedule. But looks like you have a good mix of workouts going on so maybe your body saying 'i need a little break'? Have you tried Power Bars before - they give about 39g of carbs, and are more filling than cereal bars/gels. I haven't had one for a few years, but used to eat them a lot during running or squash back in the day.

Hi Ian. Just spotted your posting. IMHO, you are possibly pushing your body too much, too fast. Maybe you should run flat terrain for your long runs and separate out your hills/speed work to shorter weekday sessions. Also, if you sweat a lot, you need to replace lost salt/electrolytes so SiS Go in your water is a good idea. Good luck and keep up the good work.

You have a lot of long runs in there Ian, I think you can do a marathon for sure. You might try salt tablets, and Magnesium and Potassium pills at key points during your long runs. The electrolytes are important, so if the GU isn't working for you switch off to the beans! And Fig Newtons and Smarties (M&Ms here) and Swedish Fish!

Don't sweat it mate, one bad run doesn't a bad runner make or change any of the hard work and miles you have already banked. Have a rest the let the body recover and you'll come back stronger than before, but hopefully not so strong that you leave me trailing in your wake. :)

Sunday, 24 July 2011


Today my legs gave up! They finally just cut out on me like an old battery in a car. I was on a planned 18 miler, admittedly it was a tough 18 miler, undulating with some testing hills around 12 miles. To my surprise I got up these hills but they must have sapped the last of the energy from my legs because come mile 15 I just stopped. I've never felt like this before, but I mentally and physically could not go on. I walked for a couple of minutes and tried to go again but within a few hundred yards I was forced to stop again. This was the pattern for the remainder of the run walk! albeit the running part was getting less and less. I stopped the watch at 15.75 miles I couldn't include the rest as part of the run because it wasn't running.

The worrying thing is that recently the last couple of long runs have gone this way and I have a tough Marathon approaching in 8 weeks time. I'm not sure of the problem, but this is where I need people's help! Any advice big or small would be much appreciated, please leave a comment.

I'll give you a little bit of recent history. You can see below my running for the last couple of months. Have I been doing too many long runs? Not enough of something else?
My second concern, Nutrition. Today's run I took my Camelbak filled with water, so there was plenty of water on tap! I also tried a new gel. The SIS Burners gel, these work in a slightly different way than a usual gel, The theory behind the gel is that the added carnitine in the product increases the levels of carnitine stored in the muscles so you become more efficient at burning fat as a fuel and therefore helping to spare your carbohydrate stores. Gels just don't seem to give me any benefit and this one was no different. I took it half way round, and the only thing I noticed from it was the bad after taste in my mouth. So if Gels aren't working, what else can I try, filling the Camelbak with a sports drink? Ideally I would like to go on a long run without the Camelbak but a 330ml sports drink is not enough for me for 3 hours running.

I actually don't mind running with the Camelbak, it's a great product and after a little while you soon get used to it on your back. I have tried running with a cereal bar. I found this great (real food!) but just not enough to keep me going.

I'm getting concerned. As I was walking at the end of today's run, thoughts of  'Maybe I'm not a Marathon Runner' filled my head, but I remind myself that apart from the last couple of runs, I've been out for 18-20 mile runs and have been OK. My thoughts are that maybe I'm making my long runs too hard, they do tend to be undulating.

I would really appreciate any help on the above in my quest to get me back up and running.

Thanks in advance.


Monday, 27 June 2011

Beauty and the Beast: G3 series 2011

The North Downs

I caught the last of the G3 races yesterday. The race is part of series of five races which take part in the beautiful surroundings of the North Downs in Surrey here in Southern England. The first three
races take part in the early months of the year finishing with the final two back to back over this Weekend in Sunny June.

I say Sunny, the forecast was for this to be the hottest day of the year, fortunately though the day started very misty and the race start was 8:30am.

Setting Up at the Start

It was an early start as I had offered to help friend Tim whose Company sponsor the event, a helping hand in putting up his Company banners. Tim had got me my race place so it was the least I could do to help out. It also gave me a chance to meet some of the Organisers and chill out a little before the other competitors turned up. I enjoy helping out at events, especially shorter races as it makes more of the time rather than just turning up racing and going straight home.

The Calm before the Storm!

The race course consists of Forest trails and Woodland sandy paths with quite a few challenging hills thrown in too. The well organised start to the race made a prompt start as scheduled at 8:30am. Tim had warned me that the first two miles of the race were fast and downhill and it would be easy to get swept along at a fast early pace. He was not wrong and I shot off from the start like a greyhound. This was my first mistake as I would learn later in the race.

I'm really pleased with the way my Nike Lunarglide's handled this type of terrain although a Trail shoe would be recommended for this course. After the easy start to the race and crashing through two seven minute miles, the false sense of achieving a PB was slowly but surely zapped out of me. The next mile and a half was by far the toughest I have competed in, the ups were tough and the downhills just as daunting. Be warned the Down hill's are steep and fast with the terrain uneven and rocky!

The toughest of the hills follows up to the Church of St Martha's. Not only is this steep but the terrain is loose sand. I've run this hill from the other side on a training run. That particular run was the first time I have ever had to stop and walk while running and today would be no different. Despite my recent efforts to include more hill runs as part of my training, St Martha's, my Nemesis, had reduced me to walk for the first time in a race.

The Final Stretch

Once I had got past this, my confidence came back and I was able to go past a few people up the smaller hills that followed and finish the race strongly. I finished with a respectable time of 52:12 on this very tough course. It was nice to be greeted by the race director who I had met earlier while setting up, with a "What took you so long!" I like this kind of banter at the end of the day and laughed along while I ate my Banana and Recovery Shake that you receive at the end of the race.

There is no medal, which was a little disappointing but you do have access to download your photo for free after the event and I was pleased that the Recovery Shake was my favourite 'For Goodness Shakes' which I swear by as part of my recovery at the end of a tough event.

The race was faultless in it's organisation and the Marshall's were encouraging and friendly. I will definitely be up for doing the full series next year, a great race although not one for the beginner.

The Course