Tag Archives: ultra running

Ely to Cambridge (in a roundabout kinda way) Report

So a few days ago I left my job of 17 years to follow my passion of photography. I wanted to mark the occasion with something a bit different so upon waking up this morning I decided to test myself at marathon distance. Having only done a handful of runs in the past 10 months with the longest (by a fair shot) being last month (15) it was always going to be a challenge. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Start the Day with Coffee

Start the Day with Coffee

You know it really hit home how quickly the train can travel between Cambridge and Ely – around 18 minutes, and as the countryside sped past I realised I would be on my feet for a good few hours going in the other direction.

One Way Ticket

My pace would be considerably slower

I had run part of this route before, as part of the Monster Ultra so upon exiting the station I made my way to the River (Great Ouse), making sure it was on my right. Within about 10 minutes I was out amongst typical Cambridgeshire Fenland views – flat and wild.

Welcome to Ely

Hello Ely

Goodbye Ely

Goodbye Ely

I pretty much followed cycle path 11, well until I took a wrong turn which meant I had to double back and around on myself a few times – also meant the overall distance was going to be more than a marathon.

IMG_1229 IMG_1230 IMG_1231

Pit stops included the coffee shop at Wicken Fen where I devoured in record time a very tasty sausage roll. I had also packed a lunchbox of pasta and this was consumed in the wilds of White Fen, with a Marsh Harrier hunting overhead for company – idyllic.

Pesto Pasta FTW !!!

Pesto Pasta FTW !!!

I reckon I hit close to my limit around mile 23 but pushed on and ended up with around 28 in the bank. Currently sitting on the sofa with the smell of a steak being cooked by my other half wafting through the house – glorious.

Oh and the run was also part of my #30DaysWild ….. So what was so wild about it I hear you ask? Well how about

Marsh Harrier (Male and Female), Kingfisher, Hare, Lapwings, Reed Buntings (also being shown a bit about surveying the nesting progress), Azure Damselfly, Several Butterflies, Bumble Bees, Cuckoo (heard, not seen), a few friendly dogs (and one which sounded like it wanted to eat me) …

A top day in the wilds of Cambridgeshire …. A little video showing some of my exploits …

Yay I’m FIXED !!!!

Okay, perhaps not … but you know what I’m bloody impatient .. so I’ve just been out for a 4 mile plod around the fields ….. felt no worse than normal so I take that as a good sign.

Seeing a specialist next week, until then I may have time to get a few more runs in .. heck he may even say it’s all in my head and there’s nothing wrong with my Achilles (the bulge is just a fashion accessory) …

Okay perhaps not …. but I’m going bonkers not being able to run ….

/Grumbles !!!!

Making Room for Running

I have a post over on my photography blog which approaches this subject from the photography aspect. This post will be from the running aspect.

I have a bit of an obsessive personalty (as you may have already realised from looking at some of the pictures of my feet after ultras). My main passion in life (and growing) over the past few years has undoubtedly been photography with running coming a close second. I also used to fill the remaining hours of the day with other pursuits including, drumming, gaming, home cinema and conservation.

There came a time in 2012 when I had so many things whizzing around in my head  (as well as holding down a full time and pretty time consuming job) that I’d sit at home on a Saturday morning and get frustrated about having so much to do that I would quite often do nothing. Well actually that’s not strictly true as I would run. I needed to run as I not only found it a bit of an escape from the pressures of all of the other stuff, but I knew I needed to keep running if I were to maintain my chances of completing some upcoming Ultras.

Every time  I’d be out running however I’d be frustrated that I’d not been out with the camera. My two main passions as they had become require many hours of one’s time – and even for me (being an insomniac) it felt either running or photography needed to take a back seat.

This worried me as in my heart of hearts I knew photography would  be the upfront driver and yet I also knew if I simply decided to run shorter distances (and therefore cut the amount of hours needed) I would loose interest and with that would come an unhealthy lifestyle and finally piling on the lbs I’d managed to loose over the past 2 years.

Making room for both of my passions meant that other pursuits such as gaming and home cinema took a back seat – resulting in not only the end of year sale of some of my consoles but also the agreement with myself that for the first time since I became interested in gaming I would not be picking up either of the latest consoles (which launched this past November).

I’ve helped myself on the running front by not entering as many events in 2014 – so far just two (which I’ll talk about in a later blog post) which will allow me to focus more photography while still having something big to train for.

As I start to ramp up the training heading into 2014 ready for my first event (April 2014) I feel I’m in a much better place to devote just the right amount of time to running while ensuring I leave enough time to continue to grow as a photographer.

The Wall Run 2013 – Part 4

So there you have it. I managed to go back to The Wall and put my demons to rest. It felt great finishing. It also felt really good taking part (i.e. mentally so much better than last year). Now that I’ve had a few weeks to recover (back on the running this coming weekend) I’ve also had time to reflect, not just on the event itself, but on my own relationship with running and moving forward.

Now before I get started, if you are reading this a word of caution. I am no expert (perhaps the fact the word Pork Pie appears in one or two posts you may have already realised that) and the opinions reflected here are my own and I don’t necessarily endorse any of them for you. Perhaps though something will help in one way or another.

So first in regards to the specifics of the event;

Training – Despite putting in lots of miles in the first four months of 2013 I slackened a bit too much in the build up to the race itself. I had run a few long runs and almost used this as an excuse to stop my early morning runs over an extended period. I also had a business trip to Houston a mere 10 days before the event and so once again running took a back seat. Looking back I need to make sure that despite the longer runs I need to keep the mid week shorter runs going as well. (the data below is miles per month). On top of the miles I also realise that I need to change my training a bit to incorporate a few extra bits including;

  • Mixing up my longer running with speed work, hill work (especially) and more back to backs to ensure I’m used to running on tired legs
  • Include other elements including biking, swimming and cross training (that last one is going to be tough as I’ve never much been a fan)
  • Core work and better stretching

Screen Shot 2013-07-04 at 06.08.08

Kit – I had changed my kit a bit since last year including a full change of clothes. I made use of most of this so not too much to tweak there. One thing I do run with is a waist belt where I can put water bottles in. This remains a bit of a love / hate relationship as while I can carry extra fluid I do find myself struggling with keeping it comfortable. Now in the UK I don’t think we are ever going to have to worry too much about dehydration, but I still take comfort in the fact that I have a few extra bottles on me.

Feet – Last year wasn’t pretty. This year, while a huge improvement, I still ended up with a few massive blisters. I need to continue to understand what is causing these. Taping up my feet worked well I think and Talc Powder in the socks and around the feet at various points. I’m sure the fact the course was much dryer helped as well. On top of this I invested in a number of pairs of really good running socks and this I’m sure was a major reason for the improvement. As I’ve said I still got blisters but perhaps this is just something that happens after 50 miles?

Fuel – Although I significantly reduced the amount of spare food I carried in my bag I still took too much. Over the past year I’ve been focused on my training runs to eat more sensibly. (sorry folks not a single pork pie was consumed in the making of this run). I need to find an energy gel that I can get on with – the ones I used on the run (I only could stomach 2 across the whole race) tasted like the inside of a 3 week dead badger … it almost made me vomit upon each and every drop. DISGUSTING ! They did help though so I know I need to do a bit more searching around and find something that works. For me what works still is focused on a few different types of food (something sweet, something savoury, salty etc … )

Technology – I carried 3 GPS watches in total and just about managed to get across the full event with at least some battery life left. I really wish they made these to last at least 24 hours. The course itself was very well marked out so I had not planned to import the GPS information although I really need to give that a go soon (I know a lot of Ultra runs expect you to navigate a lot yourself and I’m not that good at that). On that point I need to get better at map reading. Finally although I carried my shuffle I only listened to it for about 2 hours in the second half of the race. It was still a welcome break allowing my mind to wander.

And so what about just in general going forward;

My Weight – I’ve struggled with my weight for many years. Over the past 3 years I’ve lost close to 3 stone (currently sitting at 187 lbs) but I still look at myself (and others) at races and realise I’m still carrying too much meat. I’ve got 3 more races planned in 2013 ending with the Round Ripon in October and I’m setting myself a target to try and get under down to 175lbs. Tough going I know but the less of me to carry around the miles the better.

Beer – I’ve had a love affair with the hop for quite a few years and while I don’t batter it anywhere near as much as I used to I still find myself using the excuse “well I did a big run today so I owe myself a few beers or a bottle of red”. The more I get into the running (and just fitness in general) I realise that I need to seriously reevaluate my diet (read above) and that includes alcohol intake. I find when I make the bold statement “going dry for xx weeks” I immediately  get myself craving a beer (even at times when I normally would not). While I don’t think I’ll ever tee-total (I actually love the taste of a really nice ale) I’m going to have a significant reduction in my in-take. That alone should also help with my weight plan.

Photography – for those who know me know that I love photography – it’s my number one passion in life.  Now that Ultra Running is running it a close second I find myself in a constant battle to get enough time for photography and training while also fitting in a very demanding day job. Quite often I’ll be out running and wish I had my camera, while others when I’m out with the camera I can feel guilty that I’m not running. I typically run in the morning – perfect time for sunrise photography. I’m still struggling to balance this out but I’m getting better. Perhaps as Google Glass gets better I can have both 🙂

So there you have it … The Wall 2013. I remember listening to Ryan Giggs talk about winning medal after medal after medal. As I sit here and look at my medal from The Wall I find myself with a similar attitude to Ryan, that is the medal is now hung up with the rest of them and pretty much forgotten about. For me after completing a race (even half or full marathon) I find myself often turning my attention to the next event.

And for me that’s the 24 Hour Thunder Run ….. More on that in future blog posts ..

1 Week To Go

Well actually just over 1 week, but this time next week I’ll be about to board the train up to Newcastle and then from there over to the Race registration in Carlisle. Yes, it’s just over one week until I go back to attempt The Wall Run

Training has gone well – although I’ve not been running as much as I’d have liked in the past few weeks due to first a vacation in Mull and then a Business Trip to Houston. Still I did manage my 40 mile training run a few weeks back – felt good actually (completing in 10 hours). 

This weekend I plan a few short runs, just to keep the legs ticking over (I find the week before an event I get imaginary injuries so it’s always nice to confirm my legs are still working). Both runs I’ll be out with my full race day kit which always brings in the odd look or two. The weekend will also be spent confirming my kit, packing, checking and re-packing again. 

As you may know last year I had to pull out at mile 67 (out of 69) …. to this day I’m still not quite sure what happened. I’ve found it playing on my mind more and more as race day gets closer. This year I’ve simply set myself a target of finishing … I don’t care if its 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds ….  I actually found myself earlier checking my splits from last years event and thinking to myself – well if I can make up a few minutes here and a few minutes there .. 

STOP IT NIGEL !!!! 

For me I start at 7am on the Saturday .. and I run … (and run) until I finish …. it’s a simple as that.  

Simple … oh okay then 😉