Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Love Life Love Running festival 2012

The weather leading leading up to this weekend had been horrendous so the idea of camping in a single skin 2 man tent (which turned out to be a one man dwarf size tent) and possibly running for 6 hours in torrential down pours was not appealing.

Friend Brian and myself had signed up a while back for the Love Life, Love Running festival taking place in the beautiful forests of Cannock Chase in Staffordshire. I can't remember where we saw the event advertised  but it sounded something a bit different and a bit of an adventure, out camping for one night and running for the weekend.

Ah Ha..I think we're here!
We arrived at the site around 11am on the Saturday after a 3 hour drive. The God's were obviously with us this weekend because Summer had finally arrived (for a day or 2 at least!) The vast grassed clearing set within the surrounding forest was scattered with the tents of the other participants, music was playing from the speakers as we drove around mulling over where to set up camp for team 'Running OK in the UK'.

A mile race and a 10K were being run on the Saturday, we didn't have much time before these started so we stuck to what we had originally signed up for which was the 6 hour endurance race on the Sunday. We had signed up as a pair, but the options were to run solo, or in a team of 4 or 6. Brian and myself would be running alternate 7K laps for the 6 hours and we were hoping to achieve a total of 11 laps.

Once we had set up camp and stocked up on some food supplies we decided to run a slow lap of the 7K course to get a practice lap in ahead of the next days race. However the markers were still out from the 10K race so we ended up running a hilly 6 miles instead of just over 4 miles, not the preparation I had in mind!

The elevation was tougher than we had imagined, but fortunately we had been doing plenty of hill training recently which would not go to waste this weekend.

The organizers put on a pasta party on the Saturday night. We had a good nerdy run chat with other runners including Nicky, Lisa and Claire who had done the 10K in the day before retiring back to our miniature tents.

We also met up with a Twitter friend Mike (@mikew30) who was with his family, and a great bunch they turned out to be. The event catered really well for families, which there were a lot of. There was plenty to keep the kids occupied with face painting etc. There is also a 'Go Ape' near by in the forest, plus bike hire, cafes and plenty of MTB trails. I will definitely bring my family along next year.

Me, Mike and Brian
The night's preparation for the next day could not have gone any worse with a massive sleep of....2 hours on a dodgy flat air bed. What with running the 10K course the evening before and 2 hours sleep, I wasn't sure how I was going to fare with the race.

Our plan as I said earlier was to run 11 laps, the idea was Brian would start and do the extra lap at the end. The race kicked off, Brian was gone and I had at least half hour to wait till I set off. It was not long before Brian was back from his first 7K lap laying down a low 7 minute/mile pace. Automatically I set off too fast as well and completed my lap with a 7:30 minute/mile pace. We had both pushed the start of the race too hard and would have to be more conservative on the remaining laps.

Pre race gathering

The lap starts with a half loop around the camping field before heading off into the forest and undulating trails. The terrain is a mixture of stones, sand and woodland trails with some man made paths through the more popular areas of the forest. After some early undulations in the first mile the next mile is the toughest with a hilly section to the course that by lap 4 and 5 I was cursing! After this section is out the way there is plenty of short up and downs before hitting the biggest downhill section which comes as a welcome relief. A trip past the fishing lake, a windy woodland path, one last evil short hill and then you are back in the site with a testing loop under your belt.

The live results were on a screen so you can see how you're doing throughout the race. At one stage we were 3rd in the women's pairs!!! After a quick word we were back in the male pair group which 3/4 of the way through the race we were leading! I think other teams had the same problem with their categories because by the end the male pairs list had grown and we finished up 3rd, still a great achievement.

Baton change over

In the end we achieved the 11 laps, I completed 5 and Brian 6. So I ran over 21 miles on the day. In some ways running a straight 21 miles straight through seems easier in the fact that you are not stop starting and can find a rhythm but on the other hand the break between laps was a great chance to fuel and hydrate properly.We fuelled ourselves on coconut water with pineapple, water and flapjacks.

Each lap takes in 850ft of ascent so by the end of the race I had climbed 4250ft, with the 10K the evening before and 2 hours sleep, the weekend has given me confidence to what I can achieve.

Finally time to praise the organisers, super friendly and helpful. The facilities on the site brought in for the event were great which consisted of a portable shower block with hot power showers (most welcome after the race) and a toilet block. There was also a food van selling a variety of food. The camping field is huge and plenty of space to pitch where you want.

The Monodome 2 tent from Halfords - Don't buy unless you are 4ft tall.

I will definitely be back next year and I thoroughly recommend this to everyone, the challenge can be made as easy or as hard as you want it. You can follow Love Life, Love Running on Twitter @TrainRunAchieve

Great weekend with great people.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Club NDW

At one stage there were about 10 of us, but come today and the inaugural run of Club NDW (North Downs Way) there were...3! OK not the greatest of starts but a brilliant run never the less.

The club has been informally formed by a bunch of us local Twitter friends who can all access some of the most stunning scenery and trails in the South. The North Downs Way runs through Surrey all the way to the Kent coast a whopping 156 miles long. Today we were on a stretch between Newlands Corner near Guildford and Ranmore Common near Dorking, covering 15.6 miles and a challenging ascent of 2474 ft in total.

So the 3 amigos, @bsmithy100 (Brian) @jedirider (Tim) and myself @runningokinuk set off in the brilliant summers sun  rain. The recent down pours made for a lot of slipping and sliding along the muddy trails and at times when running on an incline streams of water cascaded down the sides of the trails. It was all worth it though because eventually you come to some quite spectacular and beautiful views over looking the Surrey hills that even the rain and grey skies could not spoil.

Drink and gel break and a chance to enjoy the stunning views

The mud made for some energy and leg sapping miles but the deep puddles and sliding around added to what was a brilliant run with plenty of chatting and laughter along the way.

Mud and Water the theme of the day!
It may all sound a little daunting with the terrain and ascent covered but this was a very relaxed and easy paced run. Hopefully the next time Club NDW meets up we will have a few more on board and the original gang of Tweeters who were going to be here today will be there next time, plus anyone else reading this who fancies it.

This is going to be a very informal get together when it fits in with everyone, and it matters none about ability, whether you're an ultra runner or a 5K runner who fancies running some trails. The distance and route today was what it was because its what the 3 of us were planning today, but the miles can be reduced to whatever, people can run on if they want, stop and wait and enjoy the views, it really doesn't matter. The whole reason for this is a relaxed run with like minded runners to enjoy some great trail running once in a while.

So if you want to come along next time find any of us on Twitter or the hash-tag #clubndw and enjoy some of the best trail runs the South has to offer.

At one stage the sun actually did shine!!!

A couple of short movies from today's run

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The world as I see it...