Sunday, September 9, 2018

And it burns burns burns...

Chester Marathon Training -4 weeks to go

Cotswold 100 Training - 2 weeks to go


Key - 
Both of us - Blue 
Kelly - Purple 
John - Orange 

A 2 week enforced break from blogging after getting home late last Sunday after driving home from (very) north Wales where the GBRM finished the 135 mile run around the island of Anglesey!

Bank holiday Monday (remember it?) was a day of rest. After the Successes of Severn Bridge half marathon we spend much of the day sleeping and eating. 

Tuesday was the start of our holiday! We were up early so KD could bank some speed work before we picked up Cat and set off on our journey to Anglesey. 5 hours and one cheeseburger later we were in our beautifully quaint accommodation for the week. Full of excitement but releasing there were another 2 days until the race started on Friday.  We spent those 2 days mostly relaxing and eating. 

Wednesday 29th August 2018

While John and Cat did a recovery run, I thought I'd do a spot of segment chasing! A steady 5 miles with a few burst of speed to earn myself two crowns. 


Thursday 30th August 2018

Today I'd planned to do my long run for the week- 20 miles was the aim. After a really successful Severn Bridge Half just 4 days ago, I wasn't sure how I'd feel. 

John joined me for my first 3 mile lap and then Cat joined me for my second. It was really nice to have some company. With 6 miles done, I ran further afield with the aim of doing a 7 mile loop. Unfortunately, my route reached a really busy road so I took the decision to do an out and back. 

Despite the Severn Bridge Half, my legs felt really good. I decided to ramp up the pace and see how it felt. The last 10 miles were all sub 7:30 pace with a few at around 7mm. I finished feeling tired but really pleased with how it went. Another good confidence boost for Chester. 

Friday 31st August 2018

I knew this would be the last run of the week for me as I was going into full 'Crew' mode for the weekend. 
Just a 3.1 mile recovery run...with a little bit of segment hunting...just to complete my collection of all segments within the local area! 

And so it begins... 1pm on Friday, after a morning of packing and repacking, eating and re eating, club mates Cat, Gary and I were on the start line in Holyhead Anglesey about to start our journey circumnavigating THE WHOLE ISLAND. 


Day 1 was Holyhead to Amlwch (how do you say it let alone get there?!?) 


35 miles of relatively steady up and down. The first 15 miles or so were easy. Unfairly and misleadingly so! Very flat along mostly road and hard trodden trail. I got to the first checkpoint totally unfazed and having a great time and made it to the second checkpoint feeling almost the same. Seeing head supporter KD was a huge boost and relief and confirmation of certain miles being done. At the checkpoint I loaded up on water and pork pies and made sure to re-energise whilst walking up our first major hill... definitely not the last. It was at this point that the race took a turn and really did turn into a coastal affair. Miles and miles and miles and miles and miles of up and down in and out of various un-pronounceable bays. After pretty much running the whole way up till now the body went into ultra mode - walking the up hills and running the flats and comfortable downhills. Ticking along but starting to feel tired now the third checkpoint was a lovely power station... It was at this point that I was truly knackered and switched from savory resource to ultimate sugar surge. Mars attack!! (Or 2 Mars bars...) Although absolutely knackered, the brain and body to some extent don't really mind. I think this is because both entities are very aware at this point that there are still some 100+ miles to go... Leaving the power station there were 10 miles left for today. Sticking with tricky and hilly coast path this bit wasn't too bad, the sugar had kicked in and the views out to sea were lovely. I got on with it and managed to finish the first day in good spirits and without trashing my body too much!





Day 1 was very enjoyable for me too. I spent the day driving to various beautiful bays, got out my chair and read my appropriately titled book (Running for their lives) while waiting for the 3 ultrateers to reach my different spots. All three looked happy and perky for the whole 35 miles - maybe this ultra lark isn't so hard after all...maybe I'll give it a go someday...


Day 1 - 35.42 miles in 7:08:46 - 16th - (4minutes behind Gary in 13th and Cat was 35minutes behind me in 22nd... Gar would very much stay ahead of me for the next couple of days and so to would Cat!)






Day 2 - Amlwch to Aberffraw - 65+ miles! 



The furthest I've ever ran before had been 53 miles and that wasn't the day after 35+ hilly coastal miles... whatever was about to happen was gonna be challenging... and I definitely made it so! We started at 6AM - the atmosphere was a little less bubbly than the previous days afternoon start. The gun was fired and we all went into hobble mode. The first couple of miles or so are on road before you get back onto the coastal path. Amazingly, once warmed up, I actually felt ok. I was ticking along nicely and enjoying myself. The sun was rising and the first 5+miles or so were absolutely stunning! Cat and Gary had stormed ahead, they were in great shape - I wouldn't see them until the following morning... long story, here it comes... I got to the first checkpoint and refilled my water, I was hungry and really pleased to see a table full of bacon and sausage sandwiches... However... I wasn't in the mood to eat as I needed the toilet! I stashed some sandwiches in a bag and told myself I'd save them for when I was feeling more comfortable, there's bound to be a toilet in a couple of miles? MILES passed and this was getting desperate... There was no toilet in sight and I could see was 90+ miles of coastline... I was gonna have go to rural! My first off road p**... I had joined the ultra club! A mile or so further along I found KD and explained my ordeal. She reassured me that what I'd done was normal and she could relate... 




The miles were passing nicely. I went through stages of feeling absolutely awesome and absolutely terrible. I'd usually get an hour or so of each. I found myself half way through the day and race in Beaumaris, it had taken me just over 8 hours to get here - great I thought, let's do that again and I'll be in bed, fed, by midnight... It was at this point where I bumped into Cat - I'd caught up with her! It was great to go into the next stage with someone, without her it would have been incredibly dull and soul destroying as the next 10 miles or so are almost all on road and very much inland. It's broken up half way (through the stage) with one of the pinnacle sights of the race being the Minai Bridge but it really isn't enough to help you forget the fact that you've spent the last couple of hours crushing your knees and taking years off your back and quads. I love bridges, but it aint no Clifton Suspension bridge! Cat and I made it to the next checkpoint at St Mary's Church where we were greeted by Cat's parents. Great to see friendly faces and stuff our faces with water and sugary treats. We had a quick breather and then decided to plod on... it's at this point I had a bad patch... We'd spent the last few hours cursing the invention of pavement and concrete and now I was nearly in tears at the sight of miles and miles and miles of sandy or stony beach... Cat is A LOT more mobile than me over this sort of terrain so I shouted ahead for her to crack on, I'd catch her up... 

Miles and miles and miles later, I didn't catch her up but I did see KD and Gary's wife Ali. I was somewhat in bits at this point... but being an ultra and knowing how up and down my moods and feelings had been over the last couple of days I knew I was due a good bit. I took a long site down, changed my shoes, socks and t-shirt and genuinely felt revitalized. 

The mood swings...oh man the mood swings. Crewing for ultra's, I have learnt, is an emotional roller coaster. You'd see them and they'd be grinning like Cheshire Cats "I love running" they'd yell...4 miles down the road and they would be hanging their heads and almost in tears "This sucks!" became the cry...the best thing to do appears to be give them flat coke and fresh socks! 




The next section was nice, a few miles of traily off road forest paths. Nice and spongy and I was starting to enjoy myself again. The miles were ticking along nicely and I felt as though I could feel myself coming to the end - just another 20+ miles to go... It was at this point that the sun was going down... I was very much on my own and found myself and tough navigational point on the beach... I had no maps as I couldn't get to grips with my watch before the race and until now I'd found navigation and following the signs pretty straight forward... 

I'd seen John lots of times during the day and I could tell he was starting to struggle a bit. He had reached new territory in terms of distance. John had told me that he'd had the map on his watch so I figured that, even in the dark, he couldn't go too wrong because he could just follow his watch...I was rather surprised therefore when, while watching the tracker, I saw him running massively off course and onto a different island! It was getting dark now and I was waiting in some very spooky woodland. I thought I'd better give him a call...no response...call again...nothing...

I decided it was time to love things up a bit and when in Rome one may as well freak out his girlfriend and close friends and family following me on the tracker. In the pitch black, I managed to follow a trail taking me off the island I was supposed to be running around and onto another one... I had no idea I was in the wrong as water was very much on my left and I'd had no phone calls to suggest anything was up... Something just didn't feel right... I hadn't seen any runners for a while and it was very dark... I'll check in with Kelly.... "STOP! TURN AROUND! YOU'RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!"... Ah....
It seems I'd taken a pretty unhelpful detour and added at least 3 miles to my days running... balls...

It was getting darker and darker and I was getting more and more anxious. Runners were coming passed me in the woods saying how disorientating it was in there. John's tracker dot was going all over the place and I was starting to panic.

I turned around and retraced my steps. I stopped messing around and followed the very persistent instructions from KD to join a group. I saw some head torches in the distance so I made my way towards the light... pointless, they were fishing. More lights... yay - runners! I introduced myself and explained my stupidity and latched myself onto a group of guys who had several maps on their wrists and within their phones - happy days, I'm back on track.

After working myself into a tired, panicked hysteria, I drove out of the spooky woods and into the checkpoint. After making a rather dramatic entrance to the checkpoint by almost crashing John's car (bloody automatic handbrakes!) and crying manically I found a random man to hug. Luckily, it was Cat's Dad! He explained that the organisers had also been tracking John's crazed journey and were just about to go and rescue him! Due to lack of signal in the woods, it took an age for John's tracker to refresh so I waited for, what seemed like, hours in the dark for him to appear. 

The next few hours are pretty boring. My new found allies and I run-walked the next 13-or-so steady and flatish miles to the finish. We bumped into a stressed out Kelly on the way who apparently didn't think my diversion was funny? Considering I'd run near enough 60 miles, I actually felt ok. 61, 62 and so on miles ticked over. There was some chit chat but mainly silence as we all wished we were anywhere else but Anglesey.

Finally at 1am, the following day... I made my way across the finish line for day 2 - SO SO SO glad it was over... Completely ignoring the fact that I needed to up and ready to run again in 5 hours... This wasn't easy to do as I was a broken man... I was hot, cold, tired, frantic - pretty messed up! KD did a fantastic job of carrying me in and out of the car, in and out of the shower and into bed... ZzZzzzZzz...



Day 2 - 69 miles (Should have been 65...) in 18:55:36!!!!!! - 32nd... MILES behind Cat and Gary who were tucked up in bed hours a go...

I have never felt so relieved as when John crossed that finish line. Thank goodness we could go home and relax and sleep all day tomorrow...oh...wait a minute ....

Day 3 - Aberffraw to Holyhead - 35-ish miles.... urghhhh...


We're in the sports hall some minutes before the start and there's not much talking. More than half of the runners who started on day one have pulled out. I am absolutely knackered but there's no way I am not finishing this race! KD spots a physio that the organisers have provided - struggling to move I hobbled over and led on the bed. "OUCH!!!" - that wasn't me - the physio had spotted something bloody and disgusting... It was my hamstring - apparently it was pulled and in a rather bad way. I hadn't really noticed it as I'd been shuffling the previous 100 miles and I suppose I hadn't done anything like a proper stride... anyway... the physio spent a good 20+ mins working on my legs and doing everything she could to try and fix me. I bounced up - this woman had healing powers! I felt like I could run walk again!



The gun went off and I went into shuffle mode. I was at the back of the pack and could see everyone getting further and further away from me. I wasn't phased by this. I had 2 hours to get myself 7 miles to the fist checkpoint - I was gonna be fine...

Man I was tired! We'd had about 2 hours sleep and I was totally running on adrenaline. All I wanted in the world was for John to finish. He had started slowly and I was obsessively checking the cut off times for the first checkpoint... 

1 hour and 50 minutes later after a "BLOODY HURRY UP!" call from KD - I checked into checkpoint 1 - a cafe on the seafront and I was given the best ever bacon sandwich with 4 rashers of bacon and a cuppa tea - lush!

I now had 3 hours to make it 7 miles to the next check point - no probs! Lots of walking now as the next few miles were on sand dunes - not ideal. It was at this point I saw someone in the distance - I was catching up, over taking, I could still win?!? (I'm 10 hours behind the leader at this point...)
I introduced myself to my new Swiss friend Danielle and we agreed to run/walk/hobble together. Luckily were were of a similar speed/broken condition so neither of us were holding each other back. After a couple of miles of sand dunes, the terrain became very fair - soft and squidgy grassy trail which felt like it was lay down hill all the way. After the bacon sarnie earlier we were racing along at what must have been 15 minute miles - smashing it. Lovely views throughout and we made it to the next check point. 

Throughout the race there were strategically placed honesty books... these were points in the race where you had to tear a page from the book to prove you had been past it. We were motoring along towards (we thought) the honesty book before we bumped into someone... we asked them where it was... "Miles away... BACK THERE..."... bugger... at this point we were comfortably under the cut off time but having to double back was soul destroying and would eat into our time. We raced back along the coast bumping into several confused racers having to explain to each one what we done... we made it to the book, tore a page and turned around...

Once we got back to the point where we'd earlier had to turn around, I started to feel  bit pants again. I think it was mainly the mental pain of having to run ANOTHER extra couple of miles on this already ridiculously long race. I shouted ahead to Danielle to run on and I'd try and catch up... Lots of walking to come...

I made my way into the the next and last checkpoint... broken... Kelly was there, ready to look after me with the camping chair ready and a new pair of socks and t-shirt. The marshals at the checkpoint were awesome, although I was last and almost holding them up, they were positive and nothing but helpful. I was offered tomato soup which had the same effect the first cold beer on a Friday evening does - awesome. Feeling properly revitalized now and with only 10 miles to go - I had 4 hours 0 I was gonna do this!

The next few miles were lovely undulating coastline. I was running well and the scenery was taking my mind off of the pain. 3 miles to go... Holyhead mountain... REALLY!?!?! Urghhh....


I plodded my way up the mountain, cursing every one of the several thousand (yep - thousand) steps... I was at the top and there were several paths the other side to get back down... today has been relatively straight forward, lets mix things up a bit... Let's go right at the cross ways... The phone rings... it's the Maestro! He must be calling to say well done or almost there... "GO LEFT, LEFT!!!!!".... Ahhh... Absolute legend and life saver. It was at this point that I reflected on All of Kelly's EPIC and heroic help throughout the weekend and on top of this lots of friends and family tracking me and caring enough to steer me on track that I almost had a cry - almost. 

I got myself back on course, I am genuinely in sight of the finish. To make sure I don't mess it up, I latch on to a walker. I explain what I'm doing and it seems that we're trying to end up in the same place. He was a local so this was great. I was running and struggling to keep up with this pensioner with a zimmerframe hobbling along the mountain... it came to a point where he needed to go a different way... I had half a mile to go... I pleased with him not to leave me but then I realised this was a little insane so shock his hand and got on with it. 

Da da da dada da da da... I could here it! Johnny Cash Ring of Fire in the distance... the water was on my left, there was one path... I could see the finish.... I'd done it!!!

There can be no better feeling than seeing a little orange dot very far in the distance, realising that it is in fact your little orange dot and he's going to finish this horrific race! Phew!



Day 3 - 35 miles - 10 hours!

Overall... 135 miles... 28th... 36hours 3minutes 4 seconds...

A truly life changing experience! I did it! I ran around the whole island of Anglesey in 3 days - woooooooo!

A massive congrats to Cat who was 2nd lady and Gary who was 13th overall in under 30 hours - epic from both of you!

2 weeks to taper now for the Cotswold 100...


What an amazing achievement. I am so proud of all 3 of them. There is no way I am every doing a race like that! 

We then drove back to Bristol. Arriving at midnight we rolled straight into bed and I fell instantly asleep. I've never been so tired! 

On Monday I had an INSET day and then on Tuesday I was off to camp with 29  10 year olds! Still sleep deprived, I was slightly worried about how I'd cope being in charge of all these people for 4 days and 3 nights! 

Luckily, they slept pretty well so I had about 7 hours each night. The days were pretty full on though with activities like climbing, abseiling, canoeing, raft building and zip wire. Good fun but not ideal cross training! 

The centre does have a gym which I made use of each day doing a quick 5k while the kids were watching a film in the evenings. 

All in all, the last two weeks haven't been the best preparation for the Chippenham Half Marathon...

Sunday 9th September 2018 

Despite having slept all day Saturday, I woke up still feeling rather tired. I wasn't sure how I'd fare today but I wanted to be positive so I gave myself a target of around 1:25. Having done the Severn Bridge half (a hilly course) in 1:28, I figured this (supposedly flatter course) would be easier!

John wasn't running today so he packed his bike in the car; it was his turn to be the crew! 

While waiting at the start, we bumped into Joe Spraggins and Katie. It was a little bit like meeting celebrities as both John and I have been following their training and reading their blogs for a while now. It turns out that Katie was running today and Joe supporting. After warming up together, Katie and I made our way to the start line. 




I can tell pretty quickly in races if it is going to be a good day or not...by mile 2, I was pretty sure it wasn't going to be a good day...clearly, sleep is important! 

I struggled pretty much from mile 4. Katie stormed on ahead (and ended up getting a PB of 1:27 and finishing as 4th lady!) and I changed my race goal from 1:25 to finish with a strong training run. 

Joe and John were both on their bikes and it was great to have their support as I gradually got slower and slower. I thought about stopping and giving up but John was there singing away and he gave me the strength to go on. 



I finished in a time of 1:34 way off where I wanted to be but, considering the last couple of weeks, I wasn't too disappointed. I won't book races in for the weekend after camp again! You learn something from every race. 


4 weeks until the Chester Marathon! Really close now. I need to fully recover from the last couple of weeks and then get a couple more marathon training sessions in. Hopefully sub 3 is still on the cards! 






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