Velothon 2017

This is an interesting race with an interesting outcome. To say I had things to learn from it is an understatement.

The Velothon. Something to do with bikes, right? Sort of. It’s a track race, but rather using a running track it utilises the facilities of the oldest cycling track in the country – Preston Park Velodrome, just on the outskirts of Brighton. The place was threatened with closure a few years ago on the grounds of safety, but was saved with a grant from British Cycling in 2015.

This is another Sussex Trail Events Race, and the second time they’ve organised it. Looks like it’s a biennial event, although that might change in the future.

So, I entered this race for a few reasons: it’s nearby; it’s a Sussex Trail Event race – they organise things so well, but with a low-key no-nonsense approach; a few others I know were running it; it’s at a velodrome; it’s not the sort of race I would normally do; lastly , to be able to fund the track we ran around and hopefully keep it from closure again. I had no race plan, other than to complete it in under 4 hours. My training up to it was basically another marathon six weeks previously with some longish runs and tempo work thrown in between.

The entrant list wasn’t huge, only about 50 runners which made things a bit more cozy. They’d limited it to 100 entries, but I guess this sort of running round in circles is a niche event, not to everyone’s liking.  I must admit, I’ve never had an interest in track events, and it was the venue that changed my mind.IMG_1871

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72 and a bit laps – and 73 very similar looking aid stations!

The track itself is 579 metres, definitely not flat, and to complete the verified marathon race distance, you have to run round it 72 times, and another part – about 380 ish metres. The race entrants are chip-timed, so that they can easily count the number of laps you’ve run.

I will spare you the general details of the race, but I spent some time running with Darren Chilcott (long-suffering running buddy of mine) and James Elson, Centurion running race director, excellent running coach, and world class endurance runner himself. He was running this with Darren, in preparation for a 24 hour endurance race later in the year, so wasn’t at all at full beans pace!

I managed to break free after about an hour, as I realised I needed a wee and wanted to bank a half a lap or so to enable me to do this. However, I needn’t have worried as Darren had to do the same thing about 3 laps later!

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James, Darren and me. (photo courtesy of Jon Lavis)

Not much else eventful happened for the rest of the race, other than the fact that I had a bit of a downer at about mile 22, when I just had to walk a couple of times during three laps. I picked up the pace again. When I reached 25 miles, I asked the time-keeper how many laps I’d done.

“69!” he shouted back.

This presented me with a problem. How many laps do I need to do? I had to ask Jay McArdle the RD how many laps the race was – I’d forgotten! Was it 72 or 73?

It was 72. Two left! I had the energy left to do 2 laps, no problem. So I went, ran them, the last corner up to the top of the banking, which gave me a downhill needs to finish at a sprint!

I looked down and turned off my watch. I finished in 3:43:57. Hang on?! 3:43:57? That’s my second fastest marathon isn’t it? It was! My emotions were all over the place at this moment – as they usually are after a race! But should I be happy that I’d just run that fast? Should I be annoyed that I was that close to a PB and not realised it?  At the time the over-riding thoughts were “If only I’d not walked! If only I’d not needed a wee! If only, if only…”

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How fast?!?

As I write this a day later, with the benefit of hindsight, reflection and discussion, I’ve come to this conclusion: I ran a damn good race, which could have been better with a little more preparation and self-belief. I didn’t really think I could have run that well before the race, and if someone had told me I was at PB potential, I wouldn’t have believed them anyway. I was happy with a sub 4.

Jan Lavis, friend and local running coach has a saying: “There is more in you than you think!” It’s about time I started believing it! I missed a PB by 9 seconds!

So onto the usual questions and a couple of others:

What did I learn from this race?

  • Self belief is a huge deal breaker.
  • Don’t give up! A couple of walking points can be the difference between a good race, and a PB race.
  • Multi-lap races aren’t that bad. You get into a rhythm, which for me was three ‘treadmills’ of eating (40 min intervals), drinking (15 mins), and the all-important SCap o’clock! And working out early on that you’re doing 3 minute laps made the calculations that much easier.
  • Know your marathon PB, even if you don’t think it’s achievable for the race you’re doing. It might spur you on to bigger and better things!

What did I like about the race?

  • Nearby
  • Good parking.
  • Sussex Trail Events put on a good spread at the aid station.

What didn’t I like about the race?

  • Surprisingly, not much. I coped with the monotony quite well, and it seemed to be over quite quickly!
  • The banking on the final corner. Having a tight IT band on the right leg made this somewhat less enjoyable!
  • Missing out on a  PB!!!

Is it a PB course? Of course!

Is it a Negative Split course? Yes! But you’ve got to plan for that!

Would I do it again? Probably not

Why? I’ve done it now; time to do something else.

But would I recommend it? Yes, absolutely.

Is it worth the fee? Yes.  Definitely! All the STE races are!

To summarise, this was one of the lessons learnt races (aren’t they all), which I need to digest and move on from. To paraphrase Jake from the Stephen King Dark Tower books…

” Go then, there are other races than this…”

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Clarendon Marathon 2017

This was meant to be my late summer race, but my indecision got the better of me over the summer, and couldn’t find anything that fit in between my last race and the two holidays I had booked, and I don’t think one could really call the 1st October summer.

I’d heard good things about the race from friends who’d run it previously, and it fitted with what I was looking for in a race. Hills, countryside, new area to run in? Tick, tick, tick, let’s go!

I can say the lead up to this race is typical for me in that I didn’t plan that well (hence the name of the blog!). Last long run was over a month prior, with a relaxing holiday in between. In addition I’d spent the night before feeling a little unwell – not exactly sure why, although we’d spent the evening in a local pub (The White Horse in Ampfield – I recommend!); only had one beer, and a good portioned, three course dinner. I was probably full up on rich food. Not good for my digestion…  …but I got up on the morning feeling okay-ish, expecting rain and so dressed for the planned weather.

The race starts at Wyvern College in Laverstock village on the outskirts of Salisbury. From the starting field you can just about see the spire. The facilities at the start are very well laid out, and the team of volunteers very helpful. Tea and coffee van at the start, as well as a bank of portaloos, and a gymnasium to keep warm in and take team photos, it would seem.

The race is made up of three disciplines and start times. If you’re planning to take longer than 5 hours you start at 9:30, quicker than that then it’s 10:30, and you start with the relay racers (teams of four). For half marathoners, you start halfway along in the village of Broughton, a couple of hours later.

The race started after a few announcements, including the whole entrants and spectators singing Happy Birthday to one of the runners. Klaxon sounded and we were off at 10:30.

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The Start – forbidding Sky

The first mile saw us through and out the village, past the Duck Inn, and off into the wilderness. At about one mile in, the race stalled as we reached the first pinch point – cart track down to single-file path. As we waited, I asked a runner next to me what the wait was.

“It’s a bottle-neck – the track goes to single-file here, but it widens a little later to get past people”, she replied. She looked at my rain-jacket and said, “you’re not going to need that today”.

The race then took on a familiar pattern – narrow paths through fields and woods, braking out every so often into cart tracks through the Clarendon estate.

 

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Every so often a view would present itself.

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Then we would be on our way, through the woods and along tracks to a new village.

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The skies threatened, but that was about it. I got about 10 miles in when I thought my fellow runner was right – no rain today, at least not enough to require a rain jacket. I took it off and wrapped it round my waste.

The route is well signposted, and well marshalled. There are at least 12 aid stations, with water, juice, jelly babies at all (or so it seemed), with the stations after half-way offering bananas, home-made flapjacks (some with dates! Yum!) and fruit loaf (not malt loaf!). In between you would regularly find a marshal at a turn, or just in the middle of nowhere!?

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Pro photo by Sussex Sport Photography – Official photographers of the day. Bought and paid for

Getting through halfway at Broughton, the scenery didn’t change that much. We went through woods, up hills, and over a lovely river or two. I lost count.

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After this, we went down a steep hill into the lovely village of King’s Somborne, and beyond that a long drag up the hill towards Farley Mount. This was particularly slow due to the fact that it was a single-track path, which included some of the 09:30 starters complete with backpacks holding up the traffic. But, it gave me time to check the view (by which time it had started to mizzle).

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By the time I’d reached the top, I was struggling. I basically ran-walked the rest of the way to the finish, mainly through what seemed like muddier and muddier woodland tracks. Eventually we turned a corner, and were told by a marshal it was just another 400 metres to the end.

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The relief of finishing! (photo by Sussex Sport Photography)

The finish is at another school – King’s School on the western end of Winchester. I was given my medal by a scout, and ushered over to drink more water. In addition to water and medal, you get a nice green marathon t-shirt (which doesn’t mention ‘finisher’ on it at all).

So, the usual sorts of questions:

What did I learn from this race?

  • I could have trained a bit more. A 3 hour pootle around the South downs 5 weeks before isn’t enough. But then, it is my 2nd fastest trail marathon to date. So, can’t really complain.
  • I should have checked the weather a bit more. I probably wouldn’t have struggled if I wore the right gear.
  • I should have brought some S Caps with me. Sweating in a rain-jacket for the first half wasn’t helpful. But then, if I was wearing the right gear, would I have needed them?

What did I like about the race?

  • It was somewhere I’ve never run before.
  • It was hilly
  • It reminded me of other races I’d done – NDW50, Fittleworth, Beachy Head…
  • Friendly if sometimes a little overwhelming marshalling
  • The mile count-down. In some respects good (near the end), but in other respects not (at the beginning). 4 miles to go is easier to take than 25 miles to go, if you know what I mean. But it’s in my list of likes!

What didn’t I like about the race?

  • Muddy! Probably added a few minutes to my time. Well, that’s my excuse !
  • Not a dislike, really, but I would have preferred more hills (I love hills, me!), and a few more views.

Is it a PB course? Er, probably not.

Is it a Negative Split course? I’m not sure – possibly?

Would I do it again? Probably not

Why? I’ve done it now; time to do something else.

But would I recommend it? Yes, absolutely.

Is it worth the fee? Yes.  The race itself is very well organised, and the marshalling top-notch with one or two exceptions. When you’re 20 odd miles in, you don’t want someone joking with you about taking a short cut; but there’s always someone at right-angles with the rest of the world (and that’s usually me!). I think some people would feel a little cheated about the size of the medal; if you’re a bling chaser I would think hard about doing this one, but for me, as they only live in a drawer in my house, I’m not that bothered.

http://www.clarendon-marathon.co.uk

Anyway, on to the next race. See you on the trails…

 

 

Mouth-to-Mouth 2016

It’s always nice to do a new race, and Mouth-to-Mouth was another new Sussex Trail Event that the boys had added to their portfolio for 2016. It was the final race of quartet  marathon distance races, the medals of which join together in a nice ultra-medal.

Held at the beginning of December, this was a race I’d been considering, and only decided to do about six weeks before. After reccying the last half dozen miles or so before the day I knew I’d made a good choice.

The race started at many of the other Sussex Trail Event starts – Shoreham-by-Sea. There was the usual race briefing, followed by the gathering by the start next to the Adur River. The first Mouth…IMG_1056

The weather was looking kind – not too cold, no rain planned, and the ground wasn’t too muddy. We had to endure the dreaded slabs on the west side of the river next to the airport on the way out – so nice to get them over and done with at the beginning of a race for once!

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Running with friends, Neil D, and Michael (HHH) – photo courtesy of Jon Lavis

I settled down into a nice relaxed pace, running with fellow BHR runner Neil Dawson, and spent the first half of the race talking previous races, views of the downs, farming,  and anything else that cropped up. Anything really, to keep us off the thought of running! Before long, we were at the foot of the Downs, ready to turn west towards Chanctonbury. Up the hill we went, past the pig farm.

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We continued on up the hill, right at the road, and continued to follow the South Downs Way. Past Chanctonbury Ring…IMG_1059

…and down into Washington. Neil and I managed to lose each other after we both had a comfort break on opposing sides of the path, and a quick flurry of text messages revealed that he’d carried on assuming I was ahead, while I waited for him! I had to catch him up!

The next few miles included that nasty hill out of Washington – short and sharp –  followed by the lovely descent from Kithurst Hill down into Amberley.

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Gloves on! Photo courtesy of Jon Lavis

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The race then joined the Arun river, where the rest of the race is run on one or other side of the bank.

IMG_1069.jpgI managed to catch Neil as we ran through the woods south of Amberley, as we reached the bridge. It’s a lovely, over-engineered bridge in the middle of nowhere, which bounces as you run over it. A bit unnerving for some, but I quite enjoyed it!IMG_1071

From then on, it was the race to the end. The views down the Arun are quite beautiful on a sunny day, and the race day this year was very kind to us. We saw Arundel Castle in all its glory.

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A quick scoot through Arundel town itself, and we were back onto the openness of the Arun estuary, making our way to Littlehampton Marina. Be warned, the river meanders quite a bit, so you may think you’re nearer the end than you are at times as you seemingly make snaking turns from left to right; and to cap it all off, once through Arundel, you seemed to be running into the wind, no matter which direction you seemed to be going!

And finally, the bridge was reached – under we went, through the car park, and the finish line. Made it, Mouth-to-Mouth!

Once again, the Sussex Trail Event team has produced a lovely, challenging and picturesque route, worthy of anyone’s time and trouble. The cup of tea at the end, as always the perfect finish to a race.

So, the usual questions:

Would I recommend? Yes!

Would I run it again? Yes!

Is it worth the fee? Absolutely!

Is it a PB course? Nope!

Is it a negative split course? Yes, it could be.

Any downsides to it? Not really, all I’d say is reccy those last few miles so you know what to expect – they’ll mess with your mind if you don’t!

Until next time… thanks for reading, and enjoy your running!

LUNAR-TIC Marathon 2016

LUNAR-TIC marathon is one of four marathon-length races put on by the Sussex Trail Events team. This was the second marathon race of theirs that I’d run after doing their Dark Star in 2015.  The team put together a good bunch of interesting races, which, for this year have interlocking medals to make one huge lump of medallion-ness to show off to your mates.

I decided to run this race, in part because it sounded a bit bonkers, in part because I fancied doing another marathon, and in part because running buddy Darren goaded me into it. He’s good like that.

The race is essentially three loops up and down the Adur river from Shoreham to Bramber and back (up one side and down the other), finishing on the dreaded concrete blocks on the west-side of the Adur. Starting at 8pm, the race is done more in darkness than in daylight. It’s flat, apart from the odd bit of ‘climbing’ up to or down from the 6 foot levee either side of the river. Nothing strenuous! Well, apart from it being a marathon…

We arrived in good time, and in good weather. Not too warm, but still warm enough. The usual race brief was a little briefer than normal, as Jay was not available, so it was left to Chris to do the honours. A few dos and don’ts out the way, and we were off, along with 86 others, doing the couple of laps around the field, and then out across the Norfolk Bridge and up the east-side of the Adur for the first time.

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Round the field no. 1 (photo courtesy of Jon Lavis)
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Field trip no. 2 – (photo courtesy of Jon Lavis)

This was the first loop, and I was determined to get as much done in daylight as possible, making sure I knew what to expect at each point. I suspect that meant I went off a little too fast – finishing the first lap in about an hour and 25.  But still had time to take a few photos, and partake of the food at the aid station at Bramber (the furthest point of the loop) and again at the wooden footbridge in Shoreham. The sunset was brilliant, and we were able to gauge ourselves against friends running it on the other side of the bank.

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Crossing the bridge for the first time (image courtesy of Jon Lavis – https://www.flickr.com/photos/jel183 )

We crossed the footbridge for the first time with the light starting to fade. My pace continued roughly the same, although I knew at some point I’d probably slow down. Not knowing where you’re putting your feet can slow you, and I didn’t really want to finish the night turning an ankle (or worse). More photos…

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Lancing College trying to look like Hogwarts

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The nice thing about the route – seeing other runners on the other side!

We had part of riverbank shared with another race – a walking race, which didn’t really slow us down. It was for about a mile or so, and both walkers and runners got on extremely well; cordial and obliging when it was time to give way to each other.

At the end of the second loop, I was starting to feel it a bit. In what way? Tum was a little churn-ey, which I think was down to a lack of fluids, and I suspect down to my choice of foods. I’d decided to go with Tailwind for fluids which had served me well in some other races I’d done recently; however those races hadn’t included any real food accompaniment. The STE boys like to put on a spread, and I’m always partial to a bit of teacake! So, the teacake, Tailwind and heat conspired to give my digestive tract a bit of a going over.  Luckily, nothing happened, other than the fact that I had to slow down a little!

The third loop was a bit of a trial – head torches were on, and we had to check our footing. img_0419We did have the moon to guide us, but nevertheless at certain points I didn’t want to risk running, having remembered how the terrain was on the previous two laps. This made my last lap a little (actually a lot) slower than the other two loops.

I ran most of the race with Darren (a great running companion and sounding board for my particular brand of talking rubbish!), but then we both traded places during the third loop when each of us had our demons to vanquish, including the dreaded concrete slabs after running 25 miles! We ended up finishing within a couple of minutes of each other. And! I managed not to get calf-cramps going over the slabs for the first time!!!

On the whole the race was brilliant and lived up to expectations: well organised, a novel twist, lovely scenery, awesome marshalling, well-stocked aid stations, and a unique finishers medal.

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Would I recommend? Yes!

Would I run it again? Yes!

Is it worth the fee? Absolutely!

Is it worth staying up for? Yes!

Is it worth buying a headtorch for? Yes!

Any downsides to it? Not at all! (just don’t mention concrete slabs to me!)

My advice? Check their website for next year’s race. They don’t advertise because they don’t need to – the places fill up quick!

 

 

London Marathon 2016.

The London Marathon has a certain aura about it. Since I started running in the early 21st century, its reverence in running circles has been huge. Back then, in the south east there weren’t many marathons organised, so the key focus in the running year was London. Even twelve years ago, the chances of you getting a place in the ballot was one in four. Roll forward to now, and it’s one in six, despite another 9000 places being available.

This was to be my second London marathon. My first marathon was in 2006, where I finished a creditable sub 4. Just!

This year was much the same as 2006. Having got a hallowed place through club, I was determined to make the most of the occasion: raise some money for a charity, give a good account of myself for the club and get a PB!

One thing to mention before going on to the day itself. Tapering. If anyone hasn’t told you about tapering, it’s physically easy, but mentally awful. For weeks you’ve been working hard to improve your fitness working to your goal, getting regular doses of endorphins. Then three weeks before you start reducing the work. As the endorphins go down, so does your mood. It affects people in different ways. With me, it’s anxiousness and paranoia. Weird thoughts went into my head in the week up to it, so I was so looking forward to running on Sunday!

Rather than go into a full description of the day, I will reduce it down to a few questions, bullet points, observations, thanks, and recommendations.

Is it the best marathon to run?

Having run only two road marathon courses, all I can say is the atmosphere is tremendous. Its iconic status and elusive place through the ballot makes it a special one to run in. You could argue its route isn’t special, but then it’s difficult to see very much except spectators. But then, running over Tower Bridge is something special, as is running down the mall. No other race can claim that…

How did this year compare to ten years ago?

More crowded! From memory, I don’t remember it being so bunched up for so long ten years ago. I remember having space to move about the bunch, adjust pace as I saw fit ten years ago, as soon as we’d passed the Cutty Sark.This year the field didn’t really spread out until past Tower Bridge.

Good Moments?

  • Getting the train up with my club the Burgess Hill Runners. They kept me relaxed until ready to race.
  • Seeing my first Eltham sign (Sarf Landan born and bred, me!).
  • The joining of the red and blue starters, and the jovial booing between the two streams.
  • Running past Floyd Road turning to the Valley – home of CAFC.
  • Running over Tower Bridge at a fast pace to shake off a bit of muscle fatigue (yes, running faster works!)
  • All of the bands. They were simply awesome whatever they played, and whatever size they were, but especially the steel drum band. Lovely!
  • hitting the Samaritans supporters area at mile 19, and feeling a wave euphoria as a result.
  • running up the ramp at Limehouse and passing a number of runners. The relief of a hill was exquisite!
  • Hearing and seeing Neil Dawson at mile 24 amidst a thousand other voices. Amazing how those moments of clarity drown out all else but the important stuff.
  • hitting the Samaritan supporters area at mile 25 – such a push and a buzz!
  • Turning the corner onto the Mall and pushing that much harder to get to the end.
  • Crossing the line realising I’d achieved a PB!
  • Blubbing with relief and euphoria after getting my (huge!) medal (same as 10 years ago).
  • Looking through the goody bag and realising how much they’d stuffed in it.

 

Bad Moments?

  • knowing after about 8 miles that my right shoe wasn’t on tight enough, and knowing I’d have to deal with blisters later.
  • Miles 7-12 still crowded.
  • Having to resort to mind games to get me to the end.
  • Lucozade gels. Bluurrrgh!
  • Seeing a runner on the side of the road receiving CPR at about mile 24. The runner later died. R.I.P. Captain David Seath. A reminder that there but for the grace of God we go.

Would you do it again?

Hmm – bit too early to say. But then, the ability to get a place will dictate when I will run it again!

Would you recommend it?

in a heartbeat. if you get the chance do it, do it, DO IT! 🙂

How about afterward?

 

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Enjoying a glass of something post run
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Big Medal!

I must say, if you ever get the chance to run London, even if you get in through the ballot, raise money for a charity as well. you will get looked after at the end, which is when you need it. Within ten minutes of finishing, I was in a dressing room in the Playhouse theatre having a shower, before being given a massage. Raising the money is important to them, and you’ll be rewarded for your efforts. Plus, they’ll be just as grateful if you have your own place as they won’t have paid for it!

To this end I’d like to thank the fundraisers at the Samaritans who looked after me after the race, and who helped during the build up to the event with emailed tips for training and fundraising.

http://www.samaritans.org/support-us

Anything Else?

I had five Plans. Plan A: 3:30 result. Plan B: 3:30 something finish. Plan C: Beat my PB. Plan D to finish. Plan E. DNF. According to official results, I achieved plan C, however, according to my Strava feed I ran 26.61 miles. A marathon is 26.21875 miles. I reached 26.21875 miles in less than 03 hrs 40, so plan B was achieved! sort of…

I think that covers the main points. The day is quite special, emotional, tough, exciting,tiring,humbling, but left me feeling so very exhilarated, even through the pain and exhaustion. If you feel so inclined, you can still donate to the Samaritans on the link below.

https://www.justgiving.com/Baillie-BHR-VLM2016

I’d also like to thanks Jan Lavis for giving me help and a few pointers on my training plan. Without her help, I doubt I would have achieved what I did.

Many thanks, and happy running!