Sunday, 29 November 2009

And now for my next trick......


After yesterdays little sojourn,I was unsure how I would be feeling today.As things were,I felt fine-no aches and pains and no lethargy.I decided to do an easy ten miles-round Ingoldmells and back,with a social call to my mum at halfway for a quick cuppa and a few biscuits.It was an easy run,and I was feeling good and strong.
Thoughts on the route turned to my aims for the year.The main aim for the first half of the year is the CCUM in early March,and I've decided the Boston A.C. 12 hour race will be a later in the year target.This race takes place on Bank Holiday weekend in late August.Usually taking place on the local 400m track,the venue was changed last year to Witham Country Park in Boston.The surrounding are idealic and the course takes us round the park,on a concrete path-with each lap measuring exactly one mile.The last two years have seen the Rainbow brothers triumphing in the 12 hour race(a 6 hour race is also run at the same time).In 2008,on the track,my twin brother,Chris won with about 74 miles.Last year,with Chris out injured,I won with just under 72 miles.I was pleased with this preformance,especially as it was my first ultra and the fact that my training had not been based around running for such long periods of time.It would be nice for the event to attract a quality field and for next years winning distance to be big enough to bring the event to the attention of the countries ultra elite.To have a classic ultra,on home turf,organised by my club,would be a dream.Details of the 2010 race can be found on the Boston and District A.C. website.
There is a welcome break in the work schedule over the Christmas period.Having a break of 3 weeks from work,coupled with my decision to have a low key festive season,gives me a perfect opportunity to get some serious running done.I plan to take my mileage to levels I have not attempted before-somewhere between 150 and 200 miles a week.I have always read,in awe of various athletes doing mega mileage-people like David Bedford,Ron Hill,Martin Lel and Anton Krupicka and now it is my turn to attempt it.How I respond to it will be interesting,but,hopefully,my body will stand up to the punishment.I am looking forward to it.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Skegness to Mablethorpe and back.


After the last few days feeling down,this morning I woke up feeling fine.The darkness of the previous few days had faded away-I'd had a couple of days off running,as I was hit by a distinct lack of motivation.The last few weeks had all been around 100 miles and combined with racing for the last 8 weekends,I was tired.One thing I have learnt is that not only have you to listen to your body ,but also your mind.If you don't want to run-don't.Running is supposed to be a pleasure,not a punishment.If you are not going to enjoy it-don't do it.
After a good evening at my club(Boston and District A.C),at which u.k. hammer throwing legend and "the voice of B.B.C. athletics',Mr Paul Dickinson was presenting awards,I returned home positive and ready for a challenge.With the CCUM in Mexico looming on the horizon,I decided I needed some time on my feet.I decided the next day to run from Skeg to Mablethorpe,a distance of between 35\40 miles.I fell asleep,the rain hitting the tin roof of the carabanger-the news channel still on the t.v about 1a.m.It was one of those nights where you constantly have dreams,based on whats on the tele.At 6a.m I turned the t.v off and awoke at 10a.m ready.
I set off from the caravan site and felt good,mentally prepared to last the distance.The weather was good-overcast,grey,cool-with a slight head wind on the outward leg.Being the weekend,all the toilets on the seafront were open,meaning free water all along the route.Having no food in,apart from a couple of slices of bread,which I had for breakfast,I was concerned about my energy levels.I had taken some money with me,inorder to get a drink and some food at the halfway point.
The first half was good.On reaching Mabo,I found a shop to stop and get some food and drink.Walking into a shop,mid run ,can be a strange experience.In blue woolly hat,black,red and yellow club waterproof,black tights,brown socks and grey opened toed sandals,my appearrance can be unconventional,but so be it.I purchased a bottle of lucozade and a cheese and pickalili sandwich-had a sit down for 10mins and set off again.
The thing with ultra running is that,areobically ,things are o.k-its just your legs get so tired its hard to keep them moving .I had to get back for a prearranged time as my estranged wife was making tea for me and my boy and I didn't wnt to be late.There was no need to panic as I touched down in Skegness with an hour to spare.(Tea was lovely-thanks kez!).
Nice way to finish the day.Tired,looking forward to running tommorrow,couple of glasses of vino and MOTD

Slacker


Some mornings I wake up happy,most mornings I wake up not particularly happy or sad and some mornings I wake up troubled,with the black dog on my shoulder and at odds with the world.Yesterday morning was one of those mornings.
The word 'slacker' is a word I like.It has positive connotations for me-things like slacklining and Yogaslackers(a group of yoga enthusiasts,slackliners and adventure racers whose lifestyles I greatly admire).The Wiki definition mentions that 'slackers may be mentally stable,well adjusted people and may actually be productive to society,or they may have depressive conditions,resulting in lack of motivation'.Also-'a slacker is a term for an educated person who is viewed by society as an underachiever'.This is where my gripe begins.Underachiever in this context refers to work and indeed a further definition refers to a slacker as being 'workshy'.I am increasingly finding the attitude of most people to work increasingly hard to comprehend.
In Western society most peoples identities are defined by the work that they do.If people choose not to work,they are viewed in a derisory way by society.Children,nowadays,start formal education early and there is the constant pressure placed upon them to work hard,in order to secure a good job.I am not rallying against work-some jobs,including working in health care and education are extremely important and rewarding,however much industry is not.Many manufacturing business' produce items that we don't actually need,wasting vital natural resources and shops fall into the same catagory-selling items we are led to believe we need,but in reality don't.People are encouraged to work to earn money inorder to buy items they do not need.If thought was given to things that produce true happiness-time with family,friends ,rather than material goods,people would realise that the money they actually needed would decrease,resulting in the actual time needed to work decreasing.
I guess the ideal is to find work which you enjoy,which has a positive effect on society,rather than being a drain on natural earthly resources.Children have to be educated for educations sake-to be told that securing a highly paid job is not always the ideal.A life of seeking experiences and travel can also be of equal merit.
I have always been attracted to individuals living at the edges of society-living traditionally unconventional lifes.The person who is the latest to intrigue me is Charles Tucker III a.k.a.Chongo.Chongo is a legend among the climbing community and is also credited with being one of the innovators of the discipline of slacklining.Chongo is homeless in the traditional definition of the term(although he argues he is not,as wherever he sleeps the night is his home),and spent long periods of time sleeping outdoors in Yosemite national park,unlike forbidden to by court order.He currently lives homeless in Sacramento,California.The reason he fascinates me is that it seems he is homeless by choice.He has no evident problems with drugs or alcohol and is well educated-writing books on climbing and also quantum mechanics.I admire his decisions and ,in some ways,envy his lifestyle decisions.A one off and a true hero,in my eyes

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Ode to Darkness


One interesting item I read last year was about one person who was attempting a John O'Groats to Lands End bike ride.Whilst these attempts are not uncommon,the thing that stood out about this proposed attempt was that the rider wanted to do the magority of the journey in the dark.Most attempts at the ride take place in midsummer,taking advantage of the long daylight hours and the favourable weather conditions.This proposed attempt was to be the opposite,taking place in midwinter,but still hopefully missing out on extreme weather,especially in the Scottish Highlands.There were certain logistical problems to the ride-finding shops open for food breaks,and finding accomodation for a person who wanted to sleep all day,but not stay the night.When asked why he wanted to do this attempt,the rider simply replied 'I like riding in the dark'
At this time of year,with the ever shortening days,must running during the working week involves running in the dark.The past two days had involved getting up at 5.15a.m,in order to set off on the 12\13 mile run to work at 5.45a.m.Awaking in the dark with the wind and rain exaggarated by the the thin walls of the carabanger can be hard.But by ensuring that I have no loose change for the morning bus ride and not possessing a car,I narrow down my options-run or be late for work.Once out on the road,with the nights lethagy leaving your body,the run normally becomes very enjoyable.The cloak of darkness and the remoteness of the roads used for the run can easily give the impression that you alone are moving through the countryside,whilst everyone is sleeping.The sole beam of light from the headtouch allows you to almost hyptonise yourself,giving random thought streams ample time to germinate.As the destination nears the sky gradually starts to lighten,preparing you for the day ahead.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Autumn afternoons on the riverbank


As I set off this afternoon at 2 conditions were perfect.The wild weather from the previous couple of days had been replaced by beautiful autumn conditions-bright,sunny,mild and still.Todays route would be about 12\13 miles,from Spilsby at work H.Q,back to the carabanger at Skegness.
The route is abit haphazard ,gleaned from the desire to run home from work without running on roads.Consulting the Ordinance Survey map for the area I was able to cobble together a route on the country paths,which allowed only about 2 miles on the road.Starting at Spilsby,the run headed for Halton Holgate,before going offroad behind the church.Over a few fields you are soon on the riverbank,which heads through Wainfleet on its way out into the Wash.
The riverbank is always deserted,save from a few cows or sheep.It is always a mystery to me why the countryside is not used by more people.People are quick to judge this whole area,but the way I see it we are blessed.From my base at the carabanger I have to travel about a mile to endless beaches,or a couple of hundred yards to country paths,which link together to form routes of several hundred miles,with very limited road use.Perfect!
The route heads along the bank for about 3 miles,until the route deviates under a railway bridge.This is a magical place-sheltered,remote,rural.I have joked that if I failed to find a home for the carabanger in the off season,I would have lved under that bridge.It would be a beautiful place to winter.
At this time of year the paths are in choas.As many paths cross farmed fields,many have recently been ploughed and the deep plough can be trying.Off the riverbank at Firsby,the route meanders through to Burgh,over the fields,and then down to Skegness.Nice run.

This weekend saw the 6th consecutive weekend of racing-mainly cross country races over about 6 miles.The club system in the U.K blesses us with the chance to compete in local leagues,with very minimal cost-keeping running cheap.Saturday was a North Midlands League race,where I scrapped into the top 100,placing 100th.Although these distances do not bear great relevance to ultra racing,they do provide the chance to intersperse long miles with a little speed.Ron Hill,the great english runner,advocates running long miles with very regular racing.Reading his autobiography 'The long hard road' it was not unusual for Ron to race every weekend-indeed on Bank Holiday weekends he was known for racing 3 times over 3 consecutive days.

My aims for the next year continue to be vague.I would like to try a big 100 miler,like the Lakeland 100 or a 24 hour race.March sees the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon in Mexicos deep Copper Canyons.Although I will be prepared for this 50 mile race,the whole trip will be a great exchange of cultures and knowledge.The race forms part of a sevaral day programme of treks and festivities,with ultra runners from all over the world and the legendary Tarahumara indians,famed for their endurance feats.The whole event has recently gained worldwide attention by the publication of the book'Born to Run'by Christopher McDougall-a best seller.The man behind the event is Micah True a.k.a. Caballo Blanco.Micah,a self confessed trail running bum,first went to the Copper Canyons in the mid 90's,after meeting several Tarahumara at the 1994 Leadville trail race and has remained there ever since.On the outside Micah has very little-no wealth and a small home,self built from rocks deep in the canyons,surviving on "Korima'-a circle of sharing favoured by the tarahumara,but by organising the race provides the tarahumara with corn and much needed monetary funds.By shunning traditional western materialism and living to run,the man has become an inspiration to many-myself included.I look forward to meeting him.
Training steps up tomorrow.Running to work and back-a round trip of 25 miles,from Monday to Thursday.This is proper running-using running as transport-getting from A to B.I look forward to it

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Minimalist


Why blog?Is it the need to tell people what you're up to,boosting,bigging yourself up?Maybe.The blog which inspired me to write was 'Riding the wind'by Anton Krupicka.Anyone who loves running should read this beautiful blog.His new posts inspire me,and thats the reason I'm writing this.
The change happened in 2007,when I turned 40.Midlife crisis?Maybe.At the time I was a market trader,driving 1000's of miles a year,but working part time in another business I co-owned.I was involved in a road accident in February 2007,in which my van was written off-but I was fine.After that I decided I didn't want another vehicle and stopped market trading.I started working full time at my other business-producing colouring boards for kids.I decided to start cycling to work 13 miles there,13 miles back.The time coincided with questioning the basic premises of life.
The writing had been on the wall for a while.In January 2009 my marriage of 10 years went into meltdown,and myself and my wife of 10years separated.I decided I wanted to live a basic life,a cheap life,a life which could free me from materialism,of needing to work so hard and so much.I was a runner when I was younger and I had rediscovered the love.This is my story.