Friday, 1 November 2013

Going Ultra?!!

Oh hello..........

It's been a while, in fact a whole season has passed since I last posted anything. So what's been happening?

Well after my last post Taunton Marathon turned out to be the disaster I forecast with my wonky injury causing me to bail out after just one of the two laps. Since then though things really haven't gone too badly at all, although over 6 months later and I've still hardly swam, or biked! It's fair to say that as far as Triathlon goes this has been an off-season. Having said that I'd look pretty impressive if I were to send a 2013 race CV out, my win/loss ratio has probably been my best ever, although that's no doubt down to the small amount of races that I've done and the kind of races that I've done.

So a quick recap of goings on since my Taunton DNF...........

Outlaw Half IM Tri - This was always going to be 'interesting' to say the least. I'd only entered after we'd had an invite to Shelly's brother's wedding the day before (thank you Google). A wedding where I might have been ever so slightly the worse for wear. Ok, I'll be honest - I don't drink often and when I do drink I don't drink a lot. Although I wasn't exactly falling over things and throwing up in corners I was (for me) absolutely steaming and leaving a party past midnight, singing while I walked up the road clutching a pink inflatable Saxophone is a state I haven't been in for a good while. Still we managed to get up at 4am and make the 4mile trip to the race venue without incident.
Of course I nearly didn't make the start and was seemingly only saved by a clubmate tapping me on the shoulder with 10mins to go and telling me I should probably stop staring at my bike and get changed - ooops! Somehow I managed to get my act together and actually had a pretty awesome swim with the 12th fastest time of over 1,000 finishers. That's where the good news stops however, the lack of bike/run training along with my 'very' fragile condition meant that the bike and run soon had me going backwards through the field, even if I did get plenty of love on the course for running round with my newly acquired inflatable instrument.
What do you mean I'm drunk during a half Ironman?
Burnham-on-Sea Sprint Tri - One of my favourite races and falling just a week after Outlaw Half I wasn't exactly brimming with confidence ahead of this. I mostly head down to Burnham for the social though, it's halfway between home and the parents so we always meet up and having been around the Tri scene for far too long there's an endless supply of old Tri friends to catch up with and chew the cud.......... Ok, so enough of the chit chat, I managed to make myself look like a total knob here by telling everybody that would listen how I was unfit, injured, tired, recovering etc etc etc and then I went and won. Oooops again!! Admittedly I was slower than last year, but you can only beat the people that turn up and a win is a win :-D
A rare outing for the bike this year
North Devon Marathon - This was a bit of a risky one... I was running reasonably well but hadn't really done any long stuff. There was also lots of talk surrounding a new 50km race along the coast path opposite, could I stretch to racing that far? I promised to wait and see how the Marathon went first!
I started with a plan to keep a nice low HR for the easier first half but it all went a little pear shaped when I found myself amongst a group of leaders within the first mile. Soon after that I was running solo and of course I spent the rest of the run pushing harder than I wanted to and constantly looking over my shoulder not knowing where 2nd place was. At half way I got a time split of 2mins which is nothing once you start suffering. I seemed to run on the edge of blowing up for ages,  It turned out that 2nd place was 13mins behind by the end, looks like the 50km entry was going in then!! Win number 2! :-)
Half way drink stop - idiot!
Burnham-on-Sea Standard Dist Tri - Back on my favourite stomping ground just a week after the Marathon I wasn't feeling hugely confident, but was wary of reeling out 'too many' of the excuses again (I'd learned from the Sprint). Good job really!!
After a back and forth swim where I took the lead several times only to hand it back several times as I swam off course I exited the water a close 2nd. From T1 I was never headed as I hammered (for me) the bike as much as somebody who's hardly ridden their bike could and then dug in on the run trying to fight off the post bike quad cramps. As with the Sprint Tri I was down on my previous time, but if nobody quicker turns up then it doesn't really matter. Win number 3! :-D

After the last Burnham race (July 7th) there was a big break in racing activity. Amazingly that's my Triathlon racing finished with for the season. 3 races, 1 alcohol fuelled, 2 wins. A 66% win rate, never have I had such a successful season, never have I had a season so small though!
By now Bideford 50k had been entered, it was due to be on the 7th September and for some reason I'd decided that as a lot of 'WeirdyBeardy' folks run Ultra's then I'd join the party and NOT shave until race day. Little did I know how much talk would revolve around the 'facial fuzz', especially when the race got postponed until the 12th October which meant another 5 weeks of growth for Shelly to put up with (a week of it while we were on holiday!).
Did I mention holiday?!! Oh yes, we both had time to take off work and with no crazy Ironman exploits  this year we booked ourselves into a little cottage in the Lake District. The Lake District is a long way from Devon though and it seemed rude not to find a little race somewhere to break up the journey. Step forward the JW Ultra!!!

JW Ultra - This was thrown into the the mix very late on. When we arranged the holiday the run was already full so I put my name on the waiting list to see if any cancellations came up and one did, but not until the weekend before. So there was no real preparing, training, tapering etc (as if I ever do that), just rock up and see how things go. From Stratford-on-Avon to Bournville along the canal towpath, easy peasy...... Hmmm......

This was a little different because there was also a 3x10mile relay event which meant folks went scampering off at a hectic pace quite early and there was no way of me knowing which were relay and which solo. I started steady and soon people started to come back to me until after 3-4 miles everything settled down and I ran along in my own little world with a group of 3 about 30secs behind me and a couple about 1min ahead. About 8miles in I caught the couple running ahead and it turned out that one was a relay runner happy to set the pace and the other was (we thought) leading in the Ultra - I settled in behind.
At the checkpoint the relay team's new runner set off like a scalded cat and the two of us running the 30 settled in and ran side by side until 18miles where we ran up quite a steep grouping of canal locks and I seemed to get a small gap. That gap stayed the same for about a mile until when I checked on one of the many canal crossings and suddenly there was nobody there. I would say the rest was easy, but true to form I didn't eat or drink anywhere near enough during the race and promptly blew to pieces around 25miles. Suddenly I was a full minute/mile slower than the pace I'd just been cruising along at and I was holding on for dear life. I managed to keep things together until a relay runner caught me and told me 2nd place was about 8mins behind. That seemed to be my body's sign to back right off and there was nothing I could do to coax it back, which wasn't such a bad thing because I needed my legs for the week of Lake District walking that was to follow.
Most random goodie bag ever!
Aha, I almost forgot............ a few weeks before the JWUltra I found a sneaky Marathon to do, although of course it wasn't a nice 'easy' flat Marathon. Cheddar Gorge Marathon was all off road and as hilly as they come. To make things a little more interesting it hammered it down with rain overnight to make things a little more than slippery in places. As is my way I took several pairs of shoes with me and ended up running in a pair that were totally inadequate for the course - of course that's my excuse anyway. For once I did however manage to stick to my HR plan. Letting the speedsters charge off and then catching the slower Half Marathon runners (who'd set off 10mins ahead) meant a few bottlenecks on the early stages of the course where things were very tight. This was great for the pacing plan however as it meant there was no chance to go catch the leaders and I could just focus on my race...
To be honest I really didn't enjoy it much and I very nearly pulled the plug after the first lap, mostly because I just didn't want to slip and injure myself ahead of the upcoming Ultra's. I carried on though and as often happens when you pace things sensibly the leaders came back to me - well most of them did. After going through 13.1miles sat just outside the top 10 I caught people who'd blown up one by one and ended up in 2nd place. Happy Days :-D The winner was still 20mins ahead of me though, a racing whippet who'd run 2:30 at London Marathon this year and had seemingly cruised along with the other leaders for the first 6 miles before dropping them all like a stone. Still, the hairy homeless looking man was a surprise runner up and 20mins below the old course record too!

Ok, we're nearly done catching up - I think!

Onto Bideford Bay 50k! As much of a target race as I've had this year.....
Intended to be my first ever Ultra until the postponement this race featured me being as prepared as I ever get. Of course by 'prepared' I mean I had a faint idea of the pace/HR I wanted to run (which I ignored) and a faint idea of the food/drink strategy I wanted to take (which I ignored). The one thing I did have in my favour though was that I'd run the more technical parts of the course quite a lot and that is always a good thing (although I still went wrong - twice!).
Team Beard at the start of Bideford Bay 50k
Because there's so much catching up to do in this blog I'll keep the whole race report stuff to a minimum, but if you're want more in depth tails of what it's like to run 32 miles of North Devon Coastline it's well worth a visit to David'sPaul's and Ben's race reports. They're all worth a bit of your time!
After the short drive to the Start (love local races) and registration I had my normal toilet visit about 2mins before the kick of and promptly walked outside just as the race was starting. With the first two miles on roads and mostly downhill this was no problem though and I eased my way through the runners until very quickly (far too quickly) I could see nobody ahead. Surely somebody must have gone blasting off the front I asked - it seemed not! - within half a mile I'd moved from last to first and of course from there all the pre race 'take it real steady' plans seemed to struggle. I have to be honest, the beginning was a nightmare! We'd been told that we had to run all the way down to Hartland Point "because it was pretty" rather than simply turning onto the coast path, but when I got down to the car park at the bottom there was nothing there! No signs, no marshall, no indication at all of where we were to go. There was a trail up hill just before the car park, were we supposed to turn up there or maybe go all the way to the viewing point? I had no idea!! I stood around for a while until another runner caught me up and then we decided to run back up the zigzag road, as much as anything else so that we could warn other runners there was no indication of what to do next when they got there.

From then on it was all pretty simple, you followed the coast path!! Occasionally the coastal signs weren't too clear about whether you were heading out to a dead end viewing point or still on the coast path, a bit of local knowledge here helped me out though so it was all fine. The plan to keep my HR below 150bpm went a little pear shaped, but then when you're climbing 4,000ft in the first 20miles it's always going to be a struggle so I didn't worry about it too much. I felt pretty comfortable and so just plodded along in my own little world and not having the slightest clue what was going on behind me and how close the competition was.

I'd told so many people that the best way to run this race was to cruise the first 20miles and keep something in the tank for the last section where the terrain was flatter, So of course I blew to pieces at 22miles - kind of - although I felt pretty good my quads started twinging and then cramping and suddenly I was in all sorts of trouble. I managed to hobble on (mostly swearing at myself) and for the last two miles I was not a happy man to be around, especially when 31miles showed on my Garmin and I knew I was nowhere near the Finish!!! Finally I limped along the river and across the Finish Line in 4:52, a long way off the 4:30 I thought was possible but very happy as I'd not been caught and happier still as Shelly bought me a Hockings Ice Cream almost immediately :-D.
It later turned out that of the two litres of drink I was carrying in my camelback I'd only actually drank 500ml - or less as it was dripping water for the whole run. If I'm EVER going to look at running further I'm really going to have to sort this nutrition thing out!!!!!!
Reporter and dog fighting over my post 50k ice-cream
So that was it. The end of the running season and a full two weeks off running - and well deserved it would be too - at least it would have been if I hadn't decided to rock up to the Exmoor Stagger the following weekend! 16miles of trails from the sea level of Minehead to Dunkery Beacon (the highest point on Exmoor) and back. Simple eh?!!!

Well it was kinda simple, or it may have been one race too far.. I drove over the morning after a big party and didn't really have any expectations other than to give the legs a bit of a stretch out after the 50k. With that in mind I opted to trial my New Balance 110's knowing that it didn't matter too much if they had zero grip - not my best move as it turned out.
I set off towards the back of the field and slowly moved my way forwards as we set about the early climbs. Soon I was on the main ascent to Dunkery, a rocky and stone strewn path that the new shoes really didn't like - or maybe it was my legs that didn't like the shoes on the surface. The shoes are very minimal-ish which meant that whenever I landed funny on a rock my ankle/achilles would take a bit of a pounding. I landed very wrong at one point and had to stop and check things out - bad times! I cracked on up to the top though focussing more on where I was putting my feet than the pace I was running.
Once over the top there was a section clearly signed as "slippery and steep", knowing my shoes were not blessed with much grip on the real slippery stuff I took things very gently. It wasn't gentle enough though and next thing I knew I was crashing to the ground like a sack of spuds, smashing my hip onto some rocks in the process. Yup, it frikkin hurt!!!

I jumped up, yelling to the onrushing marshal that I was fine (while not knowing if I actually was) before limping off down the hill feeling less than comfortable........ Next time I'll wear my Walsh's!!!!!!
The pain is only just starting to subside a little - 2 weeks later - so I'm pretty sure I managed a healthy bit of bone bruising. Got a horrible feeling the achilles aches won't be disappearing quite so easily :-/
After a tentative mile I decided to ignore the aches and got back into my rhythm and I even managed to catch and pass a few folks along the way. Somehow I'd managed to drag myself into the top 10 and even picked up the prize for 2nd M40............ Unlike some folks though I'm not going to go telling the World how great I am and pretend an Age Group prize is up there with an overall win (people really do tend to exaggerate these placings), the fact is that I was 15mins behind the winner, slower than the winner of the Age Group above me ............ and yes, I got 'CHICKED' too!!!

So that's it, a season of racing caught up with in one foul swoop. I'm still putting some run miles in and achilles permitting the next fun day out will be Cornish Marathon in two weeks time. If you're all really unlucky that might even get a write up of it's own and as this thing has already dragged on forever I won't tell you about how I've just made my little Sister run some of North Devon's juicy scenery on her week holidaying down here. Enough it seems is enough..................... and even two weeks after I started writing this post I still haven't biked or swam, so nothing has changed there ;-)

Seeeeee Ya.
The beard. It had to go!! :'(

1 comment:

Michelle Hindes said...