Saturday, 25 September 2010

Post Number 33 - Six Months of Mutterings

Hi  All

Well exactly six months ago today was post number one!  The last six months has been quite a journey, firstly in terms of ultra running, but also in terms of blogging!  A little over six months ago I hadn't even read a blog, didn't know what they were.  It all started with trying to find some information about my first ultra race of the year the Hardmoors 55, where I came across John Kynaston's blog.  Since then it seems that quite a lot has happened.  Tonight's post is a chance for me to look back, at both my running and my blogging!

Although I was new to blogs back in March, I was not totally new to ultras.  Those of you that have read a few of my posts may have noticed within my Final Preparation for the Lakeland 100 post that I actually ran a 67km trail race back in 1992.  However, it wasn't until 2008 when I decided I would become an ultra runner.  In 2008, I ran three ultras: Downland Challenge 30 miles, Ridgeway 85 miles, and London to Brighton Trail 56 miles, and won all three of them, so it was an exciting start to ultra running.

I then decided to aim higher in 2009.  I ran five ultra races in total, but the main focus for the year was Ultra Trail Mont Blanc, 167km of mountain trails,  the most amazing race I have ever ran in, to date!!! 

So come 2010, the problem was, how do I surpass UTMB? How can I aim even higher?  The answer was to have two key focuses for the year.  Firstly the British equivalent of UTMB, i.e. UTLD - Ultra Trail Lakes District - 167km of hill trails; and secondly the UK Ultra-Running Championship - The Runfurther Series.

Therefore it was Friday 19th March, as I drove up to the North Yorkshire Moors, with my wife Frances, and two boys, Robert and Chris, for the start of an adventure!  As you are probably well aware the UK series is based on points earned in your best four races.  So the Hardmoors 55 was my first of four ultra races planned for 2010. 

The conditions for the Hardmoors 55 were pretty demanding.  For the first time ever in a race, I ran wearing a balaclava!  My race report sub-titled Reflections on Pace Judgement not only described the race, which I managed to win and earn 1000 points, but also publicly announced the first of my 'less accepted' ideas on ultra running.  The "Run as fast as you can, while you can" motto, generated a wee bit of a response, and my follow-up post which I titled Ultrastu or Ultrastupid still rates as one of my favourite posts!

Ultra race number two was the Marlborough Challenge 33 mile, eight weeks later.  In between the two races, I touched on a few topics within my Ultrastu blog, including a bit on running economy, motivation, and a look back to my first ever marathon at the age of 17!  Come race day, it didn't quite go to plan, which is expanded upon in my race report

One thing not mentioned in my Marlborough Challenge race report is, that at the time of the race, I was under the assumption that the 2010 UK Ultra Series was using the same scoring system as 2009, with there being a 100 point bonus for the Lakeland 100.  Although disappointing coming third, I was not really that worried about losing 15 points, as I was going to get 100 points bonus at the Lakeland 100, to more than make up for the 15 points lost.  It was only following the Marlborough race that I checked with the Series organisers and discovered that they had removed the 100 point bonus for 2010. 

However, I think removing the 100 point bonus was the correct thing to do, as 100 points was too much of a bonus, and resulted in that one race influencing the overall series result too much.  Although I still believe the Lakeland 100 should have some bonus points attached, maybe say 40 or 20 points.  Why 40 or 20 points?  Well this value, could represent one point for each mile (or two miles) further than the second longest race of the series, i.e. the 60 mile Fellsman race.  But more importantly, I think it would be great if all of the top ultra runners in the country all turned up and ran the same race, at least once each year.  Without wishing to upset all of the other race organisers that put on superb races, the Lakeland 100 is in reality THE ultra race in the UK, and therefore, by having bonus points, it would hopefully attract the best field to match the best race.

Shortly after the Marlborough race I posted what I consider my best post to date, titled What Determines Performance in Ultra Running - Part Two.  It was a followup to the previous post that introduced the topic.  Although it sounds like I am 'blowing my own trumpet', if you haven't read the two posts, I would encourage you to do so.

My next race was the South Downs Marathon.  Looking back to that race, I still find it quite amazing how one's perceptions can change.  I would have never thought even one year earlier, that I would be treating an undulating trail marathon as 'speed work'!  Well the 'speed' session went really well, with a really high race intensity throughout, resulting with me winning the race for the third time.  All summarised in my race report which I sub-titled The Importance-of Race Preparation.

There was then five weeks to the number one focus of the year, the Lakeland 100.  There were a few posts in between the races, including some memories of my younger days as a runner, a feature on Chris Howarth and his Run Kenya charity, but probably my favourite during this period was the post titled What Training is Appropriate? where I attempt to provide rationale for my "Do Not Train Hard" philosophy.

The BIG day arrived, I was totally prepared, the self belief was there.  I had not only Frances, Robert and Chris to support me, but my brother was also over from New Zealand to cheer me on.  It was all set for an awesome experience, and that's what it was.  A little over 24 hours after starting on a beautiful sunny Friday evening, I was first to cross the finish line.  Taking longer than planned, but mission accomplished, and an extremely enjoyable time the whole weekend, which I will treasure within my memories.  This race report was a ultra length report to match the race, sub-titled The Importance of Preparation - Developing Positivity and Self Belief.

The photo below is now one of my favourites.  It was taken at around the two and a half - three mile mark, just as we dropped back down to Walna Scar road, after the first of many climbs.  I remember that moment clearly, in fact I remember just about every moment of the entire race clearly!  I was in total focus, total self belief, that my fast start was going to set me on my way to achieve my thoroughly planned out goal.  As you can see I'm working pretty hard, and loving every moment!  (Thanks to Paul from Montane for permission to use the photo. Copyright Mark Gillet Jungle Moon Photography)

Following the Lakeland 100 I had a little break, as I definitely needed one as it still amazes me just how much 100 mile races take out of you!  So it was lots of sandcastles, swimming reading etc. on the beach! 

Then it came to the 'Series Showdown' at the Pumlumon Challenge, as I battled against Jon Morgan to earn 1000 points, as we were exactly equal on points going into the race with 2985 points.  Now this race report sub-titled The Importance of the Journey - Not the Destination, which described my third place finish, of all my 32 posts generated the most reaction!  In all of my posts I try to write honestly.  I usually write the posts when everyone else in the house has gone to bed, so it is peaceful and quiet.  As I write, on my own without distractions, I am often amazed at how my thoughts develop and end up typed out.  Now this race report resulted in some disapproval/displeasure of what I had written.  As mentioned in my comments following the post, I expressed my apologies for one or two of my statements within the report being too 'strongly' worded.  However, looking back now, I feel there are still some important messages within the post which we can learn from.

My final Ultra race of the year was the High Peak 40, just last Saturday, where I finished fourth.  This race report sub-titled What is fatigue - The Integration of the Body and Mind, tries to explain possible causes of my 'difficult' six mile patch!  The one thing which I was most pleased with in terms of last week's race, was my acceptance of what happened to me during the race.  Firstly, running of course and going from being probably around 4-5 minutes ahead to being 9 minutes behind, and secondly briefly suffering severe fatigue, which literally brought me to a walk.  Although there was disappointment, I was able to accept that it happened and immediately move on.  A demonstration of what I have learnt over the last six months of ultra running and ultra blogging!

Although this post includes a summary of my year of ultra racing, I still have one race left, the Beachy Head Marathon, that takes place in four weeks time.  One of my favourite races, I have run it eight times since moving to East Sussex back in 2002.  So look out for my Beachy Head Marathon race report.  In addition, no doubt I will add a post or two in the coming weeks, maybe a few memories of past races or past running friends.

To everyone I have met during my Ultra Running adventures this year, thanks for sharing in some amazing experiences.  To all of the hundreds of people that have worked so hard to put on such great events, thank you very much.  And, to all of you readers out there, thanks for reading! 

The aim of my blog, when I started it exactly six months ago was: "I hope you find some of my "words of wisdom", or probably as more appropriately titled "Millsy's Memories and Mutterings", thoughtful, helpful, enjoyable, interesting, and hopeful worth your time you spend reading them."  Well with now over 8,000 hits, I know some of you have found my blog worth reading".

Time to sign off with the quote I used at the end of Post Number One.  Still as applicable now as it was then.

"For years I had assumed that my failure to run better was down to a combination of injuries and not training hard enough; but I started to wonder if it was my own self-image that was holding me back."

Charlie Spedding (2010), page 75. From Last to First. CS Books: Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

All the best with your adventures,


Friday, 24 September 2010

High Peak 40 - What is Fatigue? - The Integration of the Body and Mind


Well a few days late, but tonight' post largely consists of my race report for last Saturday's High Peak 40 mile race.  As mentioned in my quick update, it was a bit of a learning experience!

The High Peak 40 was race number eleven of the Runfurther UK Ultra Championship Series.  For me the outcome of the series had been decided, I had completed my four races.  Points earned in the High Peak 40 could increase my overall points tally, but not enough to overtake Jon Morgan's score.  So the race was purely for the joy of running, without the necessity to earn points.  Not that it made me less competitive. The intention was still to run as hard and fast as I could.

What was going to be a new experience was racing two ultras on consecutive weekends, having run the Pumlumon Challenge in Wales the previous weekend.  Although the Pumlumon Challenge was only 26 miles, taking over four hours to complete it took a fair bit out of me!  However, I had prepared well for the High Peak 40, in terms of mental focus, ensuring I had developed a positive approach.  So I was anticipating a strong performance.

Having not run the High Peak 40 race before, or had an opportunity to complete a recce run, I carried a race map in my hand as I made my way to the start line, at the front of a full field of 250 entrants.  There was quite a gathering of runners, probably not 250, all appearing quite relaxed, within the very picturesque area of Broad Walk and Pavilion Gardens, within the centre of Buxton.  I had had an enjoyable time prior to lining up at the start chatting to various runners who I had either met at previous races this year, or  had just met that morning, some of whom who had read my blog.  A number of them asked me if I was going to 'blast off' at the start like I usually did.  I can't remember what I replied, although I knew that for today the intention was to start slower!  Not because I don't belief in my philosophy of "Run as fast as you can while you can", but more due to being a little cautious due to the slight chance that the effects of the previous weekend's race may still be evident and reduce my level of performance.  As you can see, my mental preparation hadn't been 100% successful in terms of giving me my usual total self belief that my preparation had been ideal.

After a few words from the race organiser 'about discovering oneself' during the race, (which I thought to myself, no not me today, one does that in a 100 mile race), we were on our way.  As we set off through the very pleasant Pavilion Gardens, immediately Duncan Harris (3rd in the Lakeland 100, and winner of the Fellsman) and myself are running side my side at the front, well only briefly at the front as Brian Cole (UK 100km Road Champion) decides to ignore the paths and the race direction arrows and runs straight across the manicured grass.  Fortunately no one else follows him, otherwise no doubt the grass would have been rather churned up, as although it was not raining, and it didn't look like it would rain, the ground was rather wet.  Duncan and myself quickly overtake Brian and we head on our way out of Buxton towards the first climb of the day.

Although we are heading at a reasonable pace, it just feels too easy.  It doesn't seem right to be running comfortably, after all, my intention is to go as hard and as fast as I can.  So I am pleased to find that I ignore any self doubt about fatigue from last week's race, pick up the pace, and head up the road on my own.  The course climbs steadily before reaching a disused railway line.  Once on the flat of the railway, rather than easing off after working hard up the hill, I decide to push on.  It therefore doesn't take long to reach the first checkpoint at 3.1 miles where we have to get our small plastic card clipped.  As with other races where I have led the field, there is a real buzz as I enter the checkpoint.  I receive loads of positive energy  from the marshalls and the spectators, which I find really gives me a boost.  I quickly head off, running hard, puffing and blowing loads, and really loving it.

Not long after the checkpoint there is a rapid descent down to the Errwood Reservoir.  I try to control my pace to protect my legs from the eccentric damage caused by the steep descent on a sealed road, but decide that this is making it worse.  So I just let gravity do it's work and I am really motoring downhill.  I glance at my Garmin GPS watch to see what mile pace I am running at and see that my GPS watch isn't working.  A few pushes of the buttons and it finally starts recording my distance.  You can see my GPS trace of the race route by clicking this link, although approximately the first 4 miles are missing from the race route!

I try not to look behind when I race as I want to focus on what I am doing, not what others are doing, but today I seem more conscious of wanting to know where the other competitors are.  It's as if deep down, I know that I won't be able to run strong for the entire race due to the previous week's efforts.  As I head up a short but steady climb after leaving check point 2 after 6.5 miles, I really up the intensity in an effort to get over the top of the hill and therefore out of sight, so 'out of mind' from the following runners.  It works, I calculate that I must already be over two minutes ahead.  There is a short, but muddy drop back down to rejoin the road, before the start of the next climb, which this time is quite long up towards Eccles Pike.  Looking at my GPS data, it does show that I similarly worked pretty hard up this climb, with an average heart rate of 166 bpm and only taking 9 minutes and 2 seconds for the mile split, that included a vertical height gain of 109 metres!

The course immediately drops downhill, I pass through checkpoint 3 (9.2 miles) in a flash, simply getting a quick drink of water, having consumed a gel at checkpoint two, and with the planned fuel strategy of a gel approximately every second checkpoint.  I continue running along the road following the frequent bright pink race direction arrows clearly showing which way to go.  Due to the frequency of the race arrows, although I had a race map in my hand, I hadn't been referring to it, as there was no need.  As I run under a railway line at around mile 11, my race map is rolled up in my hand, and even if I did open it out, it was showing the first few miles of the course!

As I exit from under the railway, my focus is ahead looking out for cars and seeing which way the road bends.  In deep focus, in an effort to gain as much time as I can before I decide to adopt the 'sensible' pace for a 40 mile race, I miss the arrow showing that the race route turns an immediate sharp right down a small country lane.  Meanwhile, I continue on along the road, up a long steady hill.  My GPS watch beeps to indicate the mile split.  I am pretty pleased to see it show 7 mins 40 secs for quite a significant climb gaining 63 metres of height.  Again working hard with an average heart rate of 165 bpm.  Becoming more aware that I should be getting back to an off-road trail, I start to unfold my map to see where the turnoff is.  As I crest the hill I am running up I realise my mistake!!!  It is hard to describe that feeling, the moment when I realised I have 'stuffed up'!  I am instantly reminded of the Highland Fling back in 2009 where I went significantly off course near the start of the race by 28 minutes.  On that occasion, I got angry, and ran negatively the rest of the race, hence not running well at all that day!

The two images below show: first, the sharp right I missed after coming out from under the railway; and secondly, the extent of my detour!  One red trace is mine on race day, with the mile numbers being out due to my GPS watch not working at the start.  The other red trace is a GPS trace that I downloaded from the web of the actual race route.

As I realise my mistake, I am very conscious not to repeat the negativity of the Highland Fling race.  I therefore try to relax, and study the map to find the best route to get back onto the race course.  Luckily I simply had to follow a bridleway I was standing right next to, to rejoin the race route.  I try to maintain the same intensity, but all of the excitement, the joy, the energy, the 'ego' of leading the race was now gone.  As if instantly, running hard becomes a bit of a struggle.  As I run uphill to rejoin the course, I am aware that I will miss checkpoint 4 (11.5 miles).  I am in two minds to whether to back track along the course to get my card clipped, or to ignore the checkpoint, and head onwards to checkpoint 5.  As I rejoin the race route I can see no one running ahead. I look back down the hill towards checkpoint 4 and see runners coming up the hill.  I decide to head back towards checkpoint 4 so start descending to meet the on coming runner.  As I get near I recognise that it is a guy whom I had been chatting to prior to the start (Mark Collins). I ask him what position he is in.  He replies either 4th or 5th.  I immediately decide that no one could accuse me of gaining any advantage from by detour from the race route, so I change direction and continue towards checkpoint 5.

As I run along the at times rough four wheel drive track quite high above the valley below, I am a bit concerned that I can not see any runners ahead, even though I have clear visibility for quite a distance.  At checkpoint 5, as I consume another gel, I am greeted with the news that I am in fourth place, nine minutes behind the leaders.  From looking at the map, I knew I would have lost significant time, but to be nine minutes behind was quite a shock!  Checkpoint 5 was at 14.4 miles, and with an official race distance of 40.5 miles, there was exactly a marathon to go.  I positively try to convince myself that nine minutes isn't a problem.  I think that's fine, I have won many trail marathons over the last few years by more than nine minutes, so I'm just giving Duncan and Brian a nine minute head start!  Although deep down I truly know this is highly unlikely due to the high running quality of Duncan and Brian.

The next section of the course is really quite spectacular, as I continue to climb up and then along the top of the ridge, before passing over the summit of Mam Tor and then a steepish descent to checkpoint 6. The sun is frequently breaking through the high cloud, and with a strong tailwind behind, combined with a coolness in the air, it is really enjoyable running with great views in all directions.  At checkpoint 6 (18.6 miles) I am informed that the lead of the two runners, who are running quite near to each other, has dropped to eight minutes.  I am happy with the time gap update. Maybe it is possible to catch the runners ahead.

I run quickly down along the road through the quiet village of Castleton, knowing that this is nearly halfway (19.1 miles), before the last big climb of the day up Cave Dale.  As I run up the steady climb of Cave Dale, into what seems a pretty strong headwind,  I pass quite a few walkers.  I get a few words of encouragement as they turn to see what is creating the loud noise they hear, a result of my excessive puffing and blowing!  Again it doesn't seem long until I reach checkpoint 7 (23.1 miles) at Bushey Heath Farm, to get my next time gap update, and to consume another gel.  Oh no, it is back to 9 minutes!

Although the marshalls are only measuring check-in times to the nearest minute, so I acknowledge to myself that I may in fact have lost only a few seconds, I decide that now is the time for a big effort.  I had looked at the profile of the course, and had driven the next few miles which is along the road the day before.  I was therefore well aware that it was a gentle downhill all the way to the next checkpoint, CP8 at 26.2 miles.  The next two miles are covered in split times of 5:59 and 6:12 for gentle downhills involving a vertical descent of 43 and 35 metres respectively.  During the first mile I absolutely 'motor' past Ian Bishop as though he is standing still, as I move into third place.  We exchange a few words, but the large difference in pace means we are only alongside each other for a matter of seconds!

A quick drink of water at checkpoint 8, and the important time gap update.  Disappointment, after absolutely blasting the last 3.1 miles I have only gained one minute, the gap is back to 8 minutes!  The course then leaves the road onto a really pleasant and scenic track, firstly still gently down hill, and then pretty well flat as it travels along another disused railway and then alongside a meandering river.  Again checkpoint 9 arrives very quickly, I am still 8 minutes behind. As it doesn't seem long since my last gel back at checkpoint 7, I skip having a gel, or any of the variety of food available at the checkpoint and push on along the enjoyable track.

Leaving checkpoint 9, which is at 29.2 miles, I consider that I have been pretty well running at an identical speed as the two leaders, still running quite close to each other, for close on 2 hours.  It reconfirms my belief that no matter what speed you start at, everyone slows down at the same rate.  Hence my plan to gain loads of time at the start, before slowing down.  Only problem today is that instead of being say 5 minutes ahead, and running at an identical pace, with the other runners hopefully getting demoralised that they can't catch me.  It is me getting demoralised being 8 minutes behind due to missing the right turn way back at around mile 11, nearly twenty miles ago!

It is at this point that I seem to acknowledge that I am not going to catch the two ahead.  I think to myself how well I have done to stay positive for the last two hours plus, but it seems with these thoughts, that the race for me today is over.  My intensity drops, as indicated by my average heart rate for the mile split dropping form 157 bpm down to 151 bpm.  Time now starts to take longer, it seems to now take ages until I finally reach the busy A road, which involves patiently waiting for a break in the traffic before crossing.  I think this is the wise thing to do, as trying to out sprint a car at the 30.7 mile point of an ultra race, although I had probably ran an extra 1.7 miles on top of that due to my detour, could be disastrous.

Little did I realise that my acceptance that my race was done shortly prior to the A road and then probably a 30 second wait to cross it would have such a dramatic effect.  As I start to climb up Deep Dale, my drive, my determination, is gone.  It is as if instantly I am tired.  As I continue up the steady climb through a narrow valley, I am getting slower and slower.  Although the ground is at times rough underfoot and quite boggy and muddy on occasions, there is really no excuse for walking, as it is only a gentle climb.  I literally shout to myself to start running again.  I slowly plod up towards checkpoint 10.

I am relieved to finally reach checkpoint 10 (32.2 miles) where the course rejoins the road.  It seems to have taken forever to reach the top of the climb and the time gap of 15 minutes confirms that I have taken forever!!!  Having run pretty well identical pace to the two leaders for 20 miles, within exactly three miles I have lost 7 minutes!  The marshal sees that I am struggling and tries to encourage me by telling me that the guy in second place is in a far worse shape than me.  I presume he is referring to Duncan, who is now trailing two minutes behind the leader whom I presume is Brian.  I get out my magic chocolate covered coffee beans, grab two pieces of flapjack and slowly depart the checkpoint not really looking forward to the next three miles of undulating road that I had driven the day before.  Although the thought, that the coffee beans will zap me back to life within a few minutes gives me some hope!

Whenever there is a gentle, gentle uphill along the road, I am reduced to a walk!  It is unbelievable, my magic coffee beans haven't worked!  I look at my heart race trace, it is way down in the 130s, even in the 120s at times.  It is as if the message from my brain to run is not being transmitted.  It is a little bit similar to the last leg of the Lakeland 100 back in July from the 100 mile mark to the finish at 103.9 miles.  However, back then it was more by choice that I decided to walk, plus I had an excuse, I had been running all night, and coming up to 24 hours non stop.  But today, as I walked along the road, I seemed to have no choice.  It was truly a new experience!  The GPS trace shows a mile split of 11minutes and 25 seconds for an elevation gain of only 46 metres, quite different to my 5:59 not too long ago!

Then, one of the aspects of ultra running which makes racing so enjoyable occurs.  Ian Bishop gets his revenge on me, he catches me as if I am standing still, which isn't really too far from the truth!  Then amazingly, he slows down to run alongside me and he does his utmost to encourage me to start running again.  His words of encouragement include something like "Hey, your blog is inspirational, it gives me inspiration, use some of it on yourself now.  You can do it!"  I kindly thank him for his encouragement as he leaves me behind as I plod along the road.  His words get me thinking.  I think back to some of my 'words of wisdom' that I have written on my blog.   "Ultra performance  is all about remaining positive, not letting any negativity develop".  I think about the negative state I am in at the moment.  I can't quite work out how it happened so quickly.  I decide well lets really put what I write into action.  I really focus on regaining some positive energy.  Instead of thinking how far there is to go, I decide I am going to overtake Ian.  I briefly think that this is rather mean of me, considering that it is due to his encouragement that I am getting myself back into action.  I convince myself that at least trying to beat him is paying him respect, in that he can say he beat me, or nearly beat me, with me putting in a complete effort, not just because I had given up!

So I manage to start moving again, not fast but at least I am running.  Slowly the pace gradually quickens, I am holding my own against Ian, he is probably around 400 - 500 metres ahead.  Then as we leave the road for the last 4 miles along tracks, and paths again, Ian frequently comes and goes out of sight.  Each time I see him again, I seem to be slowly getting closer.  We drop down the steep ditch of Deep Dale, as it is a hands on knees climb up the opposite steep side of Deep Dale, Ian is really close in distance, but still quite a time gap ahead.  We both run quickly through checkpoint 11 (37.2 miles) to stop only long enough to get our cards clipped.  The time gap is probably around one and a half minutes.

I am back in focus, the heart rate is back up to an average for the mile of 153bpm with a maximum value during the last three miles of 161 bpm.  Nowhere near the max value of 176 bpm recorded during the first three miles of the race, but significantly higher than the 120/130s just a few miles back.  I am working really hard as I get closer to Ian.  We are now within the houses of Buxton, there is one last short steep climb up past the hospital.  I really put one last effort in to catch him.  He must be only 50 metres away from me at this point.  However, as we reach the top of the small climb we run across the flat grass field, he is back out to 100 metres.  As he has done for the last two or three miles, Ian is constantly looking back to check my progress.  He isn't giving up his third place without a fight.  He accelerates away from me, as I resign myself to fourth place.  About a minute of two later I cross the line with a time of 5:49:52, exactly one minute behind Ian!

Well, I had a feeling that this might be a rather lengthy race report, as I experienced quite a few emotions during the race.  Before I try to summarise and explain what happened, firstly I need to clarify who won.  Well, the winner wasn't the current UK 100 km champion Brian Cole, but Duncan Harris.  Duncan won easily in a time of 5:20:15, running strongly to the end.  The marshal at checkpoint 10 was semi-correct.  Brian was struggling a wee bit, with the official results showing him finishing second in 5:30:55.  First women finisher was Cat Lawson (2nd place woman in the Lakeland 100) in 6:56:48.  Closely followed by Karen Nash (currently 3rd placed women in the Runfurther series) in 6:59:15.  With Siobhan Evans third in 7:05:47.

So what caused me to slow down to a walk, which resulted in  me losing 21 minutes over the last nine miles!  What really is fatigue?  Chatting to my physiologist colleague Rob, a one-off ultra runner, but frequent marathon runner.  He put it simply down to a lack of carbohydrate.  The higher the intensity, the greater the carbohydrate usage.  I have previously mentioned how during the Lakeland 100 race I didn't really consume that much fuel as the intensity was so low.  Well during the High Peak 40, my intensity was definitely quite high.  Checking out my heart rate data by clicking the Splits tab on the Garmin page linked above, shows I was working hard.  I took on four High5 gels, some chocolate covered coffee beans and a bit of flapjack during the race, which isn't really a lot, so Rob could be correct. 

Well I don't think it is that simple as to why I got reduced to a walk!  I think it is a combination of factors.  Firstly, it has been a long racing season, with my first race of the year, the Hardmoors 55, being way back in March.  Since then prior to the High Peaks 40, I had raced three other ultras including the Lakeland 100, and one marathon.  So I had been quite demanding on myself in terms of all of this racing.  Secondly, the Pumlumon Challenge, my most recent ultra was only the previous weekend, so without doubt I had not fully recovered by the time I was on the High Peak 40 start line.  However, my preparation for the High Peak 40 had been extensive.  Although not total belief, I had pretty well convinced myself that these previous races would not be detrimental to my performance on the day.

During the early stages of the race, I was running well.  I was working hard, really attacking the climbs and things were looking good!.  I was probably having to focus a little harder than usual, but with it being only 40 miles, I didn't see this as a problem.  Now going off course didn't help.  But probably one of the most satisfying things that came out of the High Peak 40 race was the positive manner in which I dealt with this error!  I definitely had learnt from the Highland Fling, so in reality running  an extra 1.7 miles wasn't the cause of the problem.

I attribute my extreme fatigue between 31 and 37 miles due to a combination of my mind and body as one, telling me enough was enough, at the same time as I accepted that I wasn't going to catch the leaders, so my race for today was over!  Speaking to other runners they often express how the last mile over whatever ultra race they do, they are pretty well absolutely exhausted, they couldn't run another mile more.  What is surprising in this last mile feeling always occurs no matter what the race distance is, whether 30, 50 or 100 miles.  It is as if the recognition that it is the last mile actually causes the exhaustion to occur.  What I think happened to me was that as I accepted that my race was done for the day, just prior to crossing the busy A road.  This resulted in my body and mind assuming that I was running my last mile of the race.  Then having to stop to cross the road, convinced my body and mind that yes I had finished, it could 'shut up shop' for the day.  Only problem was, that there was still nine miles to go!

Fortunately with some encouragement from Ian Bishop, and after some very thoughtful thinking, and as the race organiser suggested  on the start line "discovering a bit more about myself",  I managed to get back into action, and run quite strongly during the last 3-4 miles.  Or was it as Rob simply concluded, I simply came right over the last few miles as the chocolate covered coffee beans and bits of flapjack 'kicked in'.  I'll let you come to your own conclusion!

Well, the High Peak 40 was overall an enjoyable experience.  Yes, I wasn't really getting much enjoyment during those difficult miles.  But as I have learnt from previous race mishaps in the past, I'm sure that I will gain from the overall experience ot the High Peak 40, for future races to come.

Time to sign off:  "No matter what the situation, whatever the experience, try to look deeper into why it happened, what was the reason, it's purpose, and treat it as a learning process on your journey of discovery".  Stuart Mills, 2010.

All the best with your journeys.


P.S. I have two last but worthwhile things to mention before closing:

Firstly, I am extremely pleased to report that Chris Howarth completed his 1600 km run across Kenya, in his charity project Run Kenya - Hear Our Voice Kenya.  Click HERE or the link at the top right of this page to find out more.

Secondly, I received an e-mail asking me to promote what looks like a very worthwhile charity which involves running.  Especially to those readers out there who live in America, click the following link to find out more about the Fresh Air Fund-Racers charity

Saturday, 18 September 2010

High Peak 40 - Quick Update


Well the High Peak 40 was definitely a new experience, and a repeat experience!  I won't elaborate now, you will have to wait for my full race report, however, the new experience - do not try to run two ultra races in consecutive weeks!!!  The repeat experience, you guessed it Kev, yes I got lost again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Another 'bulls up', a repeat of the Highland Fling 2009!

The race was superbly organised, excellent course marking, that is if you keep your eyes open, fantastic checkpoints with great supportive marshals, and good food at the end, very hot showers, and a prize giving on time.

Well the results:  Duncan Harris ran an awesome race, even without going off course I wasn't going to beat him today.  He just seems to be getting better and better, I will have to be extra prepared for 2011.  Duncan finished in 5:20:15, ten minutes ahead of Brian Cole (5:30:55), who was last year's winner.  It was close for third with Ian Bishop, another runner who is improving rapidly, finishing in 5:48:50, just over a minute ahead of me in 5:49:52, and then fifth place was Rob Sellars in 6:06:25.

With regards to the womens race, first was Kat Lawson, recovered from her second place in the Lakeland 100, in a time of 6:56 (sorry I don't have the seconds), closely followed by Karen Nash in around 6:59.  Third place was in around 7:05, unfortunately I haven't got her name as it was not announced at the prize giving.

Overall, a great course, although a bit too much road for my liking.  Some awesome views at the top of Mam Torr, and apart from going off course, a great day out, and well worth the effort going all the way up north for the race.

To everyone else that raced today, hopefully you didn't go off course, and you had an enjoyable and satisfying day. 


PS A quick note to John Kynaston, well done on your 6:34 result today, but please check your e-mail, my amended guess sent at 3pm Friday, was 7:07:07, which puts me in 5th place.  The 8:08:08 guess I sent earlier, had an ulterior motive, and it seemed to have done the trick!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

High Peak 40 - A New Experience

Hi Again,

Yes another post so soon after my previous one!

Thanks to those of you who have commented on my blog, and especially Jon.  As Jon concludes it was a "shame the way it has worked out", but I think we may have all learnt something from the event.  I find that it is always useful to reflect and learn from our experiences, and then to use the wisdom gained in the future. So what is next? 

Well, for me I am trying something I have not tried before; Racing two ultra races in two consecutive weekends!  Yes, I am racing the next race of the Runfurther UK Series, this Saturday, the High Peak 40.  The race is actually 40.5 miles, and involves a circular route of the Peaks District, starting and finishing in Buxton.  It looks a really good course, over a mixture of paths, grass, and road, with a few hills thrown in.

Back in May when I lost 15 points at the Marlborough Challenge, I added the High Peak 40 race to my 2010 racing schedule, in a planned attempt to regain some of the lost points.  Since then I have prepared myself mentally to this new challenge.  In the past I have always given myself plenty of rest between racing, so this will be a new experience for me.  As I often comment within my posts, I feel the mind and body work together as one. So my belief is, that as long as the mind is all prepared for this new challenge, then therefore the body will be prepared.  Time to put my beliefs to the test!!!

A few of you may be asking the question, why bother, as it is no longer possible to win the series, as the points earned at the Pumlumon Challenge must stand as this was my only 'short' race.  Even my eight year old son, Christopher, happily came up to me on Monday and said "Daddy, there is no need for you to do the race up north this weekend now!"  I tried to explain to him my philosophy on running/racing, and why I run/race, but I don't really think he understood my message about the 'journey' being important, not just the 'destination'.  Those of you that haven't read my earlier post in May titled Motivation - Why do I do this? may want to have a quick read, and more importantly may want to have a read of Jim Wallis's brief comment which is linked to, on Julia's website where it appears.  My post and Jim's comments may help clarify the often misconception, that one who is very competitive, can't have other qualities/characteristics.

A brief thought to sign off with:  "Enjoy your running and racing, whatever challenges they may bring."  Stuart Mills, 2010.


Monday, 13 September 2010

Pumlumon Challenge - The Importance of the Journey Not the Destination


Well here is my race report from Saturday's Pumlumon Challenge.  The original sub-title was "Dealing with Disappointment" however, by the time I finished writing this rather lengthy race report, the disappointment had been resolved, so I have come back to the top and given the post a more appropriate sub-title.

As I planned my racing calendar for 2010 at the end of last year, there were two key focuses.  Number one, was the Lakeland 100, and that race went pretty well back in July.  The second key focus for the year was the UK Ultra-Running Championship Series which involves earning points over four races, based on your finish time in relation to the winner's time, with the winner receiving 1000 points.  As I highlighted in last week's post Pumlumon Challenge Excitement - A Strong Field, based on the points of runner's best three races, I was in joint first place with Jon Morgan, with 2985 points.  The Pumlumon Challenge was to be the Championship 'show down', the decider of the series!

The morning of the race I only had a short drive as I was staying with friends who lived reasonably close.  At the race registration we received: an A3 sized map with the route clearly shown by a red dashed line and the seven checkpoints that we had to visit as we ran around the circular course of approximately 26 miles, some final additional instructions regarding the race route, and a free meal voucher for after we complete the challenge. I read the instructions, took a quick look at the map, but folded both up and put them away into the top of my camelbak as I knew the route reasonably well.  Four weeks earlier I had travelled all the way up from East Sussex and ran in the rain for seven hours to ensure I knew where the route went.  In addition I had spent some time inspecting my GPS trace on Google Earth identifying where I had gone astray on my recce run.  I was all set for what promised to be a very competitive race.

There was a really good atmosphere around the start area which was located at the Nant yr Arian Forestry Centre.  I got a nice shock when one of my ex-students from ten years ago, Stewart Bellamy, re-introduced himself, as although I easily remembered his face, I couldn't recall his name!  I then met in person various runners who I had either read about, or had read their blog, including Mark Hartnell, Martin Beale and Nick Ham.  Shortly before the start, just to reassure myself regarding the rules of the race, I checked with Wynne Jones the Race Director to confirm that we had to follow the route indicated on the map.  However he replied by saying that runners should follow the route, but as long as they visited the seven checkpoints and didn't climb over any fences (apart from the two fences at 14-15 miles) then that would be allowed.

If you have read a number of my previous posts you will be well aware that I place a large emphasis on positivity, and the importance of remaining positive throughout the race.  A little bit of doubt rises due to my now apparent poor preparation.  When I ran my recce run I focused on the race route, not checking out possible alternative routes that may be quicker.  This bit of news regarding the race rules confirm that my previous planned intention, of not to run off too fast at the start and to run with other runners in case they know a less boggy route, is the best option for today.

I guess there must have been around fifty runners lined up ready to start in dry conditions, following the torrential rain of the day before and what seemed to continue throughout the night.  There was a strong wind and threatening of showers, but it looked as though visibility would be okay.  Wynne casually says Go, and we are off, and as expected, Jon Morgan and myself move immediately to the front.  (Adam Perry the other runner entered who had also won two races in this years series was not on the start line as he has apparently cracked a rib.)  The pace is quite quick, but comfortable, as Jon and I, closely followed by Ben Abdelnoor move away from the field.  I am a bit surprised at how quickly we drop the field as it didn't feel that fast.  Then as we approach the trees at the end of the lake, I see why there is no one immediately behind us, somehow there are around ten runners in front of us!!!  Jon and I go from leading the race to being around 50 metres behind!  We both quickly move through the field to regain the lead as we attack the first muddy climb.  Then as we enter the forest at the top of the first short climb, again one or two runners get in front of us, as they manage to cut a few metres off by going down a steepish bank.  A nice descent on a gravel road follows as we run through the forest and Jon, Ben and myself leave the rest behind, this time for good!

We then hit the next climb, a bit steeper, but not that long as we head up to the summit of Dinas.  I am working hard at the front on the steep section, but then as the hill levels off a bit, first Jon and then Ben run past me.  I try to stay with them , but decide that upping my intensity takes me too much into the uncomfortable zone.  Although the race is only 26 miles, nothing like the 104 miles of the Lakeland 100, and therefore one is able to run at a much higher intensity, it is still going to be a duration of around 4 hours, so I decide to ease off.  Although my motto is "Run as fast as you can while you can", this mainly applies to longer distance ultra races.  Today's race is pretty well only a marathon, so one doesn't really automatically slow down as the race progresses, so running a more constant pace tends to be my strategy during trail marathons.  The heart rate trace later shows I reached 179 bpm going up the hill, not far from my max of 187bpm, so letting Jon and Ben move ahead was the sensible decision.

Those who have read some of my other posts, are probably thinking that my inability to stay with them is due to my "Train Easy" approach to physical training, and yes you are partly right.  My training during the year had been for my key focus race, the Lakeland 100.  The limitation to performance in that race was totally different to what was going to limit performance in today's short race.  The shorter the race, the greater the emphasis on the physiology, and the lesser the emphasis on the positivity of the mind, the wisdom, the experience.  With my age being now well into my forties, it isn't difficult to detect where my strengths are going to lie, hence my focus on the longer Ultra events.  So the Pumlumon Challenge was always going to be a challenge for me, but one thing that does develop with age is the experience of racing, and knowing not to panic because alot can happen in four hours!

Jon and Ben gradually pull away, but then as we start climbing the big climb of the day up towards Pumlumon Fawr at 752 metres, I get close to them again, in distance but not in time, as we have to walk up due to the steepness.  As we first near the crest of the smaller summit at 654 metres the mist comes in and they are now out of sight.  I reach the summit of Pumlumon, visibility is minimal, there is a strong wind, beginning to try to rain, and I find two or three marshalls sheltering within the cairns at checkpoint three.  I thank them for the water as I consume a gel, decline their offer of waffle biscuits and head off thinking how amazing it is that marshalls would volunteer themselves to be battered by the wind and rain at the top of an isolated hill in the middle of nowhere!  Heading east and losing some height the mist clears allowing me to see the red and black tops of Jon and Ben as they run together, dropping down towards the weather station. I can see them probably now around two minutes ahead, as they head into the forest, which follows another gravel road before the route joins the Severn Way up to the source of the River Severn.  I am a little bit concerned that they have put such a gap on me by mile 11, indicated by my GPS watch, but I feel as though I am running strong, and try to remain focused on what I am doing, rather than what they are doing.

The next section of the course is really great.  It somehow feels kind of special as I run along the Severn Way, over large flagstones, next to a small stream to the very start of the River Severn as the mist by now has fully lifted.  I am working hard running up to the source of the Severn.  I am enjoying the puffing and blowing of the higher than usual intensity, enjoying the surrounding environment.  Then as I am probably around halfway down the hill towards the Hengwm Valley  I can see Jon and Ben crossing the river distantly below, probably around three minutes ahead, but hard to accurately gauge, but further than before.  Seeing them ahead distracts me, as I am starting to begin to pay too much attention of their whereabouts.

The run along the valley goes well as my recce run pays off, as I am able to find quite good footing along some reasonably worn trods.  It doesn't seem long before I am making a small descent down to the new footbridge over Afon Llechweld Mawr.  As I make my way up the steep climb to the top of Drisgol, I start to get close again to Jon and Ben, who are still running together, although pretty well every time I have seen them it is the red shirt of Jon  leading, with the black shirt of Ben around 10 metres behind.  They now don't seem so far ahead which is pleasing, but I attribute most of this to the steepness of the climb, and having to walk again.  They are probably still around 3- 4 minutes ahead!

My descent off Drisgol goes reasonable well, although looking at the GPS trace on Garmin Connect my route down shows a few distinctive kinks, not really the straightest of lines down to the reservoir.  After crossing the top edge of the reservoir I climb up to the easy to follow four wheel drive track and decide that if I am going to try and pull Jon and Ben in, I better do it now as my GPS watch is showing nearly 19 miles, so only a little over 7 miles to go!  I pick up the pace, with the GPS later showing a 7:13 mile which isn't too slow considering the extremely wet underfoot conditions, and a gate or two to stop at.  As I approach the north eastern point of the reservoir, before turning left uphill to Radio Point 5 I can see the two of then together leaving the radio point on the other side of the reservoir, they are definitely closer in time now. 

At the radio point I decide to change from taking on gels to my 'magic' chocolate covered coffee beans.  Although I lose a bit of time stopping to drink water to wash down the coffee beans, I am all hyped up ready to chase down Jon and Ben.  My next mile along the rough rocky four wheel drive track, complete with ankle to knee deep puddles is covered in 6 minutes 57 seconds.  Jon and Ben are now on the same stretch of semi flat road as me as we head to Radio Point 6 where we have to turn left off the road, back to the boggy tussock, as we have to run around the east of the hill Disgwylfa Fawr to the final checkpoint.  I have managed to pull Jon and Ben back to within probably around no more than one and a half minutes. 

As we leave the road heading east towards the north side of Disgwylfa Fawr, Jon and Ben are on a higher up track than me, but it appears that the two tracks will soon converge as we have to skirt around the east of the hill, without climbing unnecessary height to reach the last checkpoint.  I lose sight of Jon and Ben but expect to see then shortly at the bottom of the north side of the hill.  After a minute or two without them appearing I realise that they must be taking a different route around the hill.  I recall the reply Wynne the race director gave me just prior to the start of the race. "As long as you go to all checkpoints without crossing over a fence you won't be disqualified".  I think should I stop, turn around and try to follow the path they are going?  How do I know if there is a fence needing to be crossed or not?  The map which I haven't needed during the race is in my back pack, should I stop to get it out?  Is it actually detailed enough to clearly show the fences?  I have seconds to make the decision, but really by then it was too late, as I had already started to skirt around the north side of the hill.  I had recce this part of the course, so I decide to stick to the route marked on the map.

Although the route skirts around the east side of the hill it still actually climbs quite a bit, gaining quite some height, so the pace is slow, before losing what seems loads of height to drop down to the checkpoint.  As I start dropping down and have a clear view all around me and a wee bit ahead of the checkpoint I am surprised that Jon and Ben are nowhere to be seen.  I can't understand where they could of got to, as the last time I had seen them on the other side of the hill there wasn't that much distance between us.  The image below shows the section of the route map where the route passes around the east of Disgwylfa Fawr.

It is then as I run around the smaller hill after the checkpoint P7, that way off in the distance, climbing the last climb before the short descent down to the finish, I see them.  They are absolutely 'miles' ahead!  I cannot believe that they could be that far ahead.  I think that maybe they have missed the last checkpoint, but knowing that this was highly unlikely, as this would lead to disqualification.  As the points for the UK Ultra-Running Championships are based on my finish time in relation to the winner's time, I continue to run hard, but I find the positivity that I had had prior to then, was no longer present!  I am not a happy runner as I run the last two miles or so to the finish line. 

I cross the line in 3rd place and see that I am around six minutes behind Jon and Ben who finished together in a race record time of 3 hours and 56 minutes.  I aggressively challenge Jon and Ben asking them if they visited the last check point.  They confirm that they did and that they got there taking the west side around Disgwylfa Fawr as they could see that the direction they were heading in around towards the east side was bringing them closer to me.  Wynne senses the slight tension in the air and comes over and confirms that as long as all checkpoint were visited then all is fine.  At that precise moment in time, to me all was not fine, I know instantly that finishing six minutes behind Jon means that I have now lost too many points, so no matter what happens in the remaining two series races I cannot exceed Jon's points tally of 3985 points.

As I head off to my car to get my clothes and to have a shower, I find myself feeling really angry.  Firstly, and mostly, I am angry with myself for not following Jon and Ben around the west side of the hill.  If I had simply followed their exact path I wouldn't have lost six minutes, which equates to around 25 points.  But I am also angry with Jon and Ben for deliberately not following the route to take a short cut, (which when looking at the contours on the map afterwards, not only is it a shorter distance, but it actually climbs 50 metres less in height), and thirdly at that moment in time I am angry with the race organisers for the confusion over whether the Pulmulon Challenge consists of a defined race route or consists only of checkpoints that require visiting.

I am writing this race report, now a few days after the event, but I am trying to reflect my actual emotions at the time.  Looking at what I have written, it amazes me just how negative I was, during the last part of the race, and then to quite an extreme immediately upon finishing.  I like to consider myself as a positive person, one that gives off positive energy, not the opposite.  Sensibly, following my shower, I decided to sit on my own briefly within the cafe, to get things into perspective, and to get back to my usual positive self. 

Yes, the UK Ultra Running Championship had been decided, and had been won by Jon Morgan (with the only possible exception being Adam Perry winning the final two races, although with him apparently suffering from a cracked rib, this doesn't seem likely).  But I then begin to think deep down, what do I run for?  Why do I enjoy ultra-trail running so much?  It isn't the winning, that is not the major aspect.  It is the personal challenges I set myself, of running hard and fast, to my best ability on the day.  Did I do that during the Pumlumon Challenge?  Yes, I felt I ran strong, and ran well, at a pretty high intensity most of the way, considering the difficult terrain, which made it hard at times to keep the intensity consistently high. 

I run for the enjoyment of being outdoors, the freshness, the scenery, the climbs, the descents.  Did I experience that during the Pumlumon Challenge?  Yes, the route was fantastic, a real challenge with some great climbs, descents, and tremendous scenery at times as the mist disappeared.  But I also run to be part of the Ultra-Running community.  To enjoy the positivity and friendship of the other ultra runners, the marshalls and organisers, who generate and transmit loads of positive energy. Are these people here today at the Pumlumon Challenge?  Yes they are?  I consider, at this precise moment in time, am I here today with this positive energy?  Upon this reflection I realise I haven't been, not for the last 30 - 40 minutes! 

I get up from the table, with renewed energy.  There is still some disappointment at no longer being able to win the series, but this disappointment is now in perspective, with winning not being the major motive for why I run.  I leave the cafe and join the other ultra runners, as we chat and share experiences of the race over the very welcome free cake, pasty and coffee provided by the race organisers, on the outside decking, watching the Red Kites above, as the sun makes a welcome appearance.  I learn that Kate Bailey has won the womens race, in a time of around 4 hours and 26 minutes, smashing the womens course record, beating the current series womens leader Nicky Spink into second place by around 30 minutes.  There is good banter amongst the runners as it is proposed, not sure by who, maybe by me, that all points for the race should be void, as Martin Beale's GPS watch has recorded the course as being less than 26 miles, so technically not qualifying as an Ultra race, so therefore can't be part of the series! (Although my GPS watch did indicate a distance of 26.34 miles.)

Well, writing this rather lengthy race report has helped me with my reflecting on the Pumlumon Challenge.  Within my quick update on the afternoon of the race I referred to there being "a little bit of controversy over what were the race rules, what was the actual course, what was the moral thing, the correct thing to do within the spirit of Ultra running".  As we chatted following the race, it became apparent that I was not the only runner surprised by the late ruling regarding there being no need to follow the marked route.  This seemed rather strange when the Additional Instructions given out on the morning of the race, together with the route map clearly stated "head east around Disgwylfa Fawr".  So yes there was controversy, it was interesting discussion amongst the runners gathered.  Were Jon and Ben running within the rules of the race?  Yes, as confirmed by Wynne, the race director they were.  Was it the moral thing to do, within the spirit of Ultra running, i.e. deliberately not taking the intended race route in order to gain a clear advantage over another competitor?  Now that question does not have such a clear cut answer!

To summarise, the Pumlumon Challenge was a great race, over a very demanding course considering it was only just under or just over 26 miles. The performances of the three winners Jon Morgan, Ben Abdelnoor, and Kate Bailey, all breaking the course records were outstanding.  I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Jon for his excellent run on Saturday, which looks like will pretty well result in him winning the UK Ultra Running Championship, as due to my rather negative state of mind immediately upon finishing the race I did not congratulate him, and by the time I had returned to my usual positive self, following my shower and self reflection, he unfortunately had had to leave.

I will sign off with one thing I have been reminded of from the Pumlumon Challenge last Saturday.  "That it is the actual 'journey' during the race, shared with the other participants, which is most important.  Although winning or finishing high up in the field is pleasing, the actual 'destination', i.e. the finish place, must be kept in perspective and should not dominate one's enjoyment and satisfaction gained from the overall occasion."  Stuart Mills, 2010.

May you all enjoy the 'journey' of ultra trail running,


Saturday, 11 September 2010

Pumlumon Challenge - Quick Update


Just a quick update on today's race in Mid Wales.  Well, as expected the race was very competitive, with five out of the top nine male runners in the Runfurther Ultra Series starting, (unfortunately Adam Perry wasn't on the start line as apparently he has cracked a rib).  The race started fast but I won't expand on the race now as I am staying with friends Paul and Jessica Robinson in Presteigne, and typing away on a computer isn't really being sociable.  So for now just the results, although the results don't tell the whole story with their being a little bit of controversy over what were the race rules, what was the actual course, what was the moral thing, the correct thing to do within the spirit of Ultra running.  But that will have to wait to sometime next week after I have had time to reflect on the race.

Jon Morgan and Ben Abdelnoor both ran extremely well to finish first equal in an amazing quick time consider the very wet underfoot conditions, in a time of 3 hours 56 minutes, beating the previous course record of 4 hours and 6 minutes.  I finished in 3rd place in a time of 4 hours and 2 minutes.  Martin Beale finished fourth in approximately 4 hours and 11 minutes, fifth was an ex student of mine, Stewart Bellamy in around 4 hours 12 minutes, sixth was Mark Hartnell in around 4 hours 26 minutes, and eighth was Simon Bourne.

The quality of the women's field was equally strong, with Kate Bailey winning in around 4 hours 26 minutes, smashing the previous womens record.  Second women was current series race leader Nicky Spink in around 4 hours 55 minutes, and third women was I think Isaline Hughes who was currently in sixth place in the series prior to the race.

Overall an excellent race, ran in dry conditions with the sun coming out after we finished, which made the post race chat with loads of the other competitors, as we enjoyed  free coffee, cake, pastry, and rice pudding very enjoyable.

Time for some lovely tea from my hosts.

All the best with those who also raced today, hope your races went well, including David Giles from Sportswise, who is probably still running the 103 mile South Downs Way Ultra Race as I type this.


Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Pumlumon Challenge Excitement - A Strong Field

Hi, welcome,

Tonight when I opened my e-mails I got a pleasant surprise.  There was an e-mail from the race organiser of this Saturday's Pumlumon Challenge, race 10 of the Runfurther Ultra-Running UK Championship Series, which included a list of the runners entered.  In total there are 60 entries.  However, it was not the number of entries that got me excited, it was the quality of the entries.  A quick look at the names listed indicates that this Saturday's race could well be the strongest quality field of Ultra Trail runners assembled this year!  So tonight's post will look at who is entered in relation to the current Runfurther Ultra-Running UK Championship Series Leader Board after 9 of the 12 series races.

The image below shows the top part of the current Leader Board.

Clicking will open the Runfurther webpage showing the entire current Leader Board after 9 races.

At the moment Martin Beale is leading the series by 91 points from Martin Indge, with Simon Deakin, long time series leader, (who led the series from after two races, then he lost the lead to Wendy Dodds for two races, regained the lead after five races before losing the lead to Martin Beale after eight races), being a further 56 points behind.  However, if you look at the Leader Board (see image below), only taking into account series points based on runner's best THREE results not four, assuming that most runners will compete in at least one of the last three races, then the Leader Board order changes quite dramatically. 

Now there is an exact tie for first place between Jon Morgan and myself, with Adam Perry in third place 77 points behind the two of us.  Based on this ranking Martin Beale drops from first down to fourth, being a further 21 points behind.  Looking at the points scored in the various races, all three leading runners have each won two races, with Jon Morgan winning Long Tour of Bradwell and Calderdale, Adam Perry winning Wuthering Hike and Osmotherley Phoenix, and with my winning of the Hardmoors 55 and Lakeland 100 races.

And finally looking at the last column, you will see what all the fuss is about.  Six out of the top ranked 11 runners, in fact six out of the top nine men runners are racing the Pumlumon Challenge!  What a race to look forward to!!!  And just to add to the occasion, it looks like it should be a showdown between the current womens leader Nicky Spinks, and Kate Bailey.  Kate, who although way down with a ranking of 76 has only competed in two races, but based on points lost in two races, (assuming she will compete in four races), is ranked 1st, being 89 points ahead of Nicky.

So what will the results of this weekend's race look like, and how will the Leader Board change?  Well as I have mentioned in a number of my previous posts, both during my race preparation and during the actual race, I try to focus on what I can do and do not pay much attention to what others can do.  However seeing the names on the entry list and knowing the results from the series races I am well aware of the accomplishments of some of the other runners, so it is a bit difficult to ignore the fact that there are some top class runners racing, in addition to names of runners I am unfamiliar with.  Many of the other highlighted runners have raced each other already this year, but for me, this will be the first time I have raced any of the leading contenders either this year or last year (apart from Adam Perry who started the Lakeland 100 however he withdrew during the race).  It should be a great occasion, an opportunity to see how my preparation and performance directly ranks against the other runners present.  One against one, in person, on the ultra trail, as opposed to simply on the Leader Board table.  It doesn't get any better!

With only four days to go, it's now not too long to wait!  As you may have gathered I am really looking forward to the race, but I am also looking forward to the chance to chat to many of the runners before and after the race.  I will hopefully have the opportunity to thank Nick Ham in person for his helpful 2009 Pumlumon Challenge race report that I used for my recce, and hopefully I will also be able to chat to Dick Scroop about his experiences in completing all nine races of this year's series, with both of these runners entered.  To the other 57 runners I'll see you all on Saturday.  Lets hope the conditions are like last Saturday, and not the rain and mist of my recce run three weeks earlier!

Time to sign off with a few words on running.  "Although Ultra Trail Running is extremely enjoyable, with the challenges, the competition and the scenery, it is being part of the Ultra Trail Running Community, with the over abundance of positivity and friendship, that provides the total enjoyment." Stuart Mills, 2010.

To those of you running on Saturday, may you all have an enjoyable experience.