Friday, 31 December 2010

What's it all about?

New year 2011.Time for reflection..about triumphs and failures..wants and needs.For the last couple of days I've been ill-didn't feel like doing anything,let alone running-but felt guiltly.I wanted to do 140 miles this week,but things have conspired against me and I feel guilty only running about 90 miles this week.What the hell is that all about?I was watching a youtube clip about Ricky Gates yesterday.He was documenting a trip in 2008 when he raced in Europe,competing in mountain races and cycling in between them.I delved further ,looking at Rickys website and noticed that he commented that at college he had followed rigorous ,structured training programmes,yet he started racing well when he started following a 'run as you feel' schedule.I like that.I like all things like that..reading of people running without watches,keeping no track of mileage,running free,allowing running to be a freedom,not a constraint.I packed in my job because I wanted freedom-freedom from routine-so why am I setting myself a goal of doing X amount of miles this day at this time etc,etc.That is what I want to get away from-to free myself of structure,of constraints,of stresses.I want to run from the heart,from the soul.I don't want to know of maximum heart rates,miles ran during the week,pace per mile..nothing..I just want to do it.I've got the freedom of time.If I want to get up early and run I will..but probably won't..I hate getting up early in the morning,let alone running in the morning.It makes running into a chore..all this 'no pain,no gain 'stuff.I prefer to wake up and think..will go running now..or have a few more hours sleep ..and go later!Lazy attitude-maybe..but that's the way it rolls.
One of my favourite blog posts was by Lucy Colquhoun.She had just helped Jez Bragg on part of a mid winter attempt on The West Highland Way.She'd had to drop out sooner than expected and on the post,written just after,sounded so down.She'd not succeeded in her attempt to get entry to The Western States and sounded so fed up and I remember thinking..this is what I want to read in blogs.I don't want to read of miles done,pace..anything like that..I want to read of raw human emotion..and I remember that particular post because it conveyed that.Everyone who runs alot knows what it means to us-know how much we love it,but sometimes hate it.We make it such a large part of our lives,but,as much as it adds to our lives at times,it can also take away.

And then 2011.Yesterday I booked tickets to Gran Canaria from the middle of January until the start of March.This year is going to be a bench mark year for me..got a feeling!I'm going to do a super cheap holiday there-landing at Las Palmas,with a ruck sack and my trusted Raleigh and living basic for a few weeks.Apparently the island is pretty good for mountain/Trail running..so am going to camp on the free state run campsites..run /sleep/think of the girl I love..and that's about it.The plan is back to the U.K at the start of March,then straight back out to France..at the start of the Camino De Santiago..and run that..50 mileish a day..gonzo style!!
Happy New Year All!!!!! xx

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Ultra Marathon Running Movie - Indulgence

Whatever happened to the Heroes?

Simon Lawson

The person who provided me with the initial inspiration to run longer distances, as a kid, was a guy called Harry Hayes.You've never heard of him?Perhaps that's because he wasn't real,only existing in the world of celluloid.I remember being about 10 years old and watching 'The Games'.The film followed fictional characters from various parts of the world as they trained to compete in the Olympic Marathon.The Harry Hayes character captivated me-an ordinary working man (a milkman),who under the guidance of an overbearing coach and a grueling training schedule,gradually rose to the higher echelons of British distance running.The pivotal scene for me was in the changing rooms just before the start of the Olympic Marathon.Harrys coach informed him that,not only did he expect him to win;he wanted him to run the first sub 2 hour marathon.When the film was made,in the late 1960's, when the world record was around the 2 hr 10 min mark,it was certainly a huge ask.Harry set off on schedule,but in scenes reminiscent of the famous Jim Peters collapsing scenes on the final lap of the track,at the end of the race,he failed.However I was inspired,got changed straight away,and went outside with the intention of running until I collapsed.My bedroom door,until I left home to go to university,had a homemade sign pinned to it bearing the legend,'Think of Harry Hayes and Douglas Jardin.'Douglas Jardin was the English Cricket captain on the infamous 'Bodyline' ashes tour-but that's another story.

The influence of Harry Hayes probably inspired my interest in the mavericks of long distance running.I devoured information on Percy Cerutty and his 'stotan'regime,at Portsea,Victoria ,which produced several great athletes,the most famous being Herb Elliot,the mile world record breaker.There were also Ron Clarke and Derek Clayton.Ron Clarke trained 3 times a day,often raced at least once a week and trained with the same intensity all year.He did not attempt to peak for races or championships,seldom trained on a track,did not keep a training log and never used a watch.Derek Clayton was similar.He was entirely self trained and,typically,ran between 140-170 miles per week,sometimes running over 200 miles.This approach brought results-he was the first man to run a marathon in under 2 hrs 10 mins and 2 hrs 9 mins.

With the increase in scientific knowledge over the past couple of decades the number of these maverick heroes have become few and far between.Vo2 max tests,blood lactate tests etc have shown the types of exercise needed to achieve the results,therefore the number of people ready to rip up the rule books are decreasing...but there are still some out there.

One of my personal favourite runners is Anton Krupicka.Anton appeared 4/5 years ago as part of an emerging young guard of ultra running.Traditionally the reserve of older athletes,these youngsters,including Anton and the Skaggs brothers,Kyle and Eric, ripped up the record books.Their approach echoed the 'dirtbag' surf and climbing lifestyles..they literally lived to run,living cheap,and shunning much of the modern technolgy used in running circles.Antons approach is basic-big miles everyday,usually ran at a comfortable pace.That is basically it-no intervals,no core/gym work-just plain running.The fact that Anton regularly runs close to 200 miles a week and that most of it is done on mountains and at altitude is awe inspiring.

A little closer to home is another maverick,altogether less well known.Simon Lawson is a Welshman,currently studying for a medical degree.In 2009 he won a silver at The European Junior Championships.His typical training day defies belief:
Up at 5a.m 10 mins of sit ups
Morning Run
Another 10 mins of sit ups
One hour core work in the gym
Another 10 mins of sit ups

Lunchtime 10 mins of sit ups
Lunch time run
10 mins of sit ups

P.m Quality session of the day-intervals/reps etc
One hour of core work

His basic philosophy is simple-run far,run often,lots of core work,nothing complicated.Again Simon is self coached.
In 2009 he completed one of the fastest Half Marathon times for a Britain as a teenager ever-65mins 49 secs.

Another remarkable aspect of his training is his diet.For the last 7 years Simon has not eaten anything that he considers to be 'crap food.'He has consumed not a single chocolate,sweet,fizzy drink,chip,burger or cake.The only liquid he has consumed has been water.

The Simon Lawson story does not have a happy ending.As is often the case with mavericks he has had his fair share of confrontations with the Athletic authorities.In the 2009 Euro Junior champs he was not allowed to compete in the 5 000m ,several days after the 10 000m,the authorities telling him it was too much.He was dissappointed with his silver medal in the 10 000m,and attributed it to him not being allowed to prepare for the race his own way.Lawson did not believe in tapering,indeed the day before his half marathon performance he completed 3 runs-16 miles/9 miles and 5 miles -but was told to take it easy before his 10 000m race.He disagrees with the over protective attitude of the governing body-that less is more.

Unfortunately Simon Lawson announced his retirement from the sport earlier this year,at 20 years old.He was disenchanted with the fact he could not obtain lottery funding,that he even had to pay £3.75 to use his local track.This ,combined with a period of injury caused by slipping on a pile of leaves,proved to be the icing on the cake for Simon.He decided to concentrate on his medical degree and resume playing football.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The Trials of Miles-Week 4 summary.


Friday 17th December 21.5 miles
Run from Southview to Chapel pullover,back to Skegness Pier on the beach.Then Skegness to Anchor Lane and back on the seafront.

Saturday 18th December 10 miles
Southview to Anchor Lane on the road,back on seafront.

Sunday 19th December a.m 11.5 miles
p.m 13.5 miles
Morning run was from the Lifeboat Station along the beach to Butlins and back,then The Skegness Santa Fun Run 5km (1st).
Afternoon run from Southview to Chapel Pullover and back on the seafront.

Monday 20th December 31.5 miles
It was a cold day,but beautiful and bright.I went out with the intention of running 13.5,but the weather was so nice I decided to carry on.I ended up going from Skegness to Mablethorpe and back.It turned very cold on the way back,as the sun started to set.I was glad to get back in the warm.Left ankle was playing up on the way home.

Tuesday 21st December a.m 10 miles
p.m 7.5 miles
The morning run was a standard run to Anchor Lane on the road,back along the seafront.
The night run was with the club at Boston.Left ankle was fine on the first run,but painful on the second.

Wednesday 22nd December 10 miles
Southview to Anchor Lane on the road,back on the seafront.

Thursday 23rd December a.m 5 miles
p.m 10.5 miles
Morning run was at Bourne Woods.Traveled over with Jose and Aidan and it was nice to get a change of scenery.The trails in the Woods were still covered with snow,making for nice running conditions.
Afternoon run was a club run from Currys,with Geoff J,David J and Thomas J.


TOTAL MILEAGE FOR THE WEEK: 131 MILES


__________________________________________________________

Overall it was a pleasing week.It was my intention to push up the mileage towards the 140 miles per week point,but 131 miles is more miles than I have completed for a while.I'm steadily getting into the routine of things now.It is essential to make sure that I resist the temptation to lay in in the morning.If the first run of the day is not until 12 p.m ,the temptation to fore go the second run of the day,especially in the cold and dark is sometimes too great.
My left ankle has been playing up slightly.I have switched shoes,to my Puma Cortland IIs and this seems to be helping.The Cortlands are Cross country spikes.I noticed that there were several styles of spikes which are also available as Cross Country flats(with no spikes) in the States.The U.K version of these shoes are perfectly good to wear as minimal shoes-just don't screw in the spikes!These were a particular bargain,costing only £10,with no postage,and including a free T-shirt and pair of running socks.The price of these alone come to more than the purchase price of the shoes.It is definately a wise move,especially considering that similarly minimal type shoes,like the Innov-8 Xtalon 190 are currently selling for £70/£80.Remember.....Cheap is Good!!!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Guerilla Running




Looking at U.S trail runner,Nick Clarks excellent blog 'Rocky Dirt Mountain Running',I was interested to see the ethos of a race/run that was being organized by Nick and some running pals-The Chubby Cheeks 50k.The thing that stuck me was the 'guerilla' nature of the run.There were basically no aid/drink station,no prizes and no entrance fee,with all runners self timing themselves.In these days of major sponsors,exorbitant entry fees,and all the other things that go along with modern day races,this hit me like a breath of fresh air.I always welcome anything that cuts the costs involved with running,and this approach definitely fits the bill.

The legality/ illegality of such events adds to the experience.The race has no permits.On his blog Nick posts that if anyone is approached by anyone in a uniform,they are to say they are doing a group run,not a race.Of course,in this litigation age,everybody taking part would have to understand that the race was,basically,a run and that no-one could be held liable if anything went wrong.But its certainly a cheap way to race.

Today was cold,really cold,compared with the normal weather experienced in Skegness.The temperature on waking this morning was -7C.Due to this fact,as I lay under my quilt,sipping one of numerous coffees needed to give me the kick to stir,I wasn't looking forward to braving the elements.This week has been going well,mileage wise,and I was looking to cover at least 20 miles today,in order to bring the weekly total up to this weeks target of approximately 140 miles.I decided the best way to do this would be to do my normal Skeg to Chapel and back run-about 13 miles,and then an easy 7 tonight.As I set off I was astounded by the surrounding beauty.There was no wind,but with the low temperatures,everything was covered by a white frost,giving everything a Christmas card look.The day was bright and that quickly boosted my mood,giving me the incentive to do all 20 odd miles needed for the day in one go.

As I approached Ingoldmells Point and made my way around the outlet going into the sea I had an idea.I love running on this beach-each day is different due to the tides and weather conditions.The outlet has got a red buoy on the top and further down the coast at Chapel St Leonards there is a similar outlet,with a similar buoy.An idea started to seed that there could be a race/group run between the two outlets,which I was thinking could be called 'The Buoy to Buoy'.On reaching Chapel St Leonards,and feeling great I decided to carry on down the coast.I knew there was another outlet at Mablethorpe,another 5 miles or so down the coast.On the way there I passed another 3 outlets,which were all nicely spaced,and also split the beach down into smaller sections.By this time I was pondering a Buoy to Buoy race from Ingoldmells to Mablethorpe,or even a double Buoy to Buoy-Ingoldmells to Mablethorpe and back.Im toying with setting up a facebook group where runners could post their best times for a 'Buoy to Buoy' and a 'Double Buoy to Buoy'.We'll see.

By the time I reached home the sun was beginning to set,the temperatures had plummeted again and I was cold.Checking the distance of the total run on Mapometer revealed that the total distance covered today to be 31.4 miles.Not bad.

Friday, 17 December 2010

The Trials of Miles


Things have happened this month which will certainly change my future-for good or bad is yet to be seen.Three weeks ago I sold my share of our family business to my brother.I now have no job and no income.In the space of four years I have gone from working 60 odd hours a week to none at all.Some see this as the ultimate act of madness,the culmination of my mental decline.I prefer to see it as a rebirth-a chance to start again and do things I truly want to do and which I enjoy.My life has simplified beyond belief.Choosing to live in this caravan affords me the luxury of small bills and gives me a time scale to put plans into action.Steve Jobs in his famous speech at the Harvard Graduation Ceremony mentioned that if you wake up in the morning,look in the mirror and realize that you hate your job too many times,it's time to change.The banality of most work has weighed on my shoulders,especially during the last two years.I have no aspirations to be rich and only long for basic material possessions-so whats the point of working too much.I want excitement,change,risk,adventure-and I wasn't going to get that stuck in a factory day in ,day out,constantly struggling to stay awake...and most days failing.

The day of my departure coincided with my brother and ex-business partner finally lending me his copy of 'Once a Runner' by John L.Parker.I read it quickly and realized that the action of the hero of the book,Quenton Cassidy,who retreated to the solitude of a cabin in the woods to train,echoed what I wanted to do for the next few months.To forget about work,earning money,maintaining a certain standard of living and concentrate doing something I loved,to the exclusion of much else...run.I'm only an average runner ,but want to spend the next six months or so running big miles,enduring my own trials of miles.

The start of The Trials have been ok.I wanted to spend a few weeks just getting into the swing of running everyday,doing perhaps 100 miles or so a week,and then build it up from there.My immediate goal,race wise,I have decided will be the East Hull Harriers 24 hour race.Originally I was thinking of the Hardmoors 110 mile Trail race,but want a challenge that will test pure running ability.Not having ran in many trail races I wanted to exclude the chance of navigational errors,and the lure of the 24 hour race,with its immense heritage,appeals to me-a 400m track,a runner and a classic battle of endurance.

The weather these last few weeks has been cold.The first day of The Trials saw the first snow of the year in Skegness,and this has continued,virtually unabated since.I hate the winter-the cold,the short days and long nights.Therefore I have decided to decamp mid January to Gran Canaria.Theres a network of free state run campsites doted around the mountains,so the plan is to take a tent and spend the warmer days running the mountain trails,relaxing and reading.I'm not exactly sure how long I will spend there.I have decided to run the Camino De Santiago at the start of March.This should take approximately two weeks if I can average my target of 50 miles per day.If all goes to schedule that would result in me being back in the UK for my pre London Marathon race,the Friskney Half Marathon on April 3rd,then it will be the marathon itself on April 19th.The 24 hour race is the start of July.

The middle of the summer the strap on my watch broke.I quickly mislaid the actual watch,meaning I have been without for the past few months.I never use a watch in training.I have a rough idea of the pace I am running and that will do for me.I used to always race with a watch,but this has not recently been so,and in some ways has been liberating.No longer am I checking splits every mile or km,and my race performances have not been affected at all.I like the idea of running free,using your instinct and soul to guide you.I doubt whether I'll ever use a watch while running again.

Week One: Friday a.m 13 miles
p.m 10 miles

Saturday a.m 13 miles

Sunday a.m 30 miles
p.m 10 miles

Monday a.m 13 miles

Tuesday a.m 13 miles
p.m 5 miles

Wednesday p.m 5 miles

Thursday p.m 5 miles

TOTAL FOR WEEK 117 MILES


Week Two
Friday /

Saturday Race 10k X/c 10 miles total(inc warm-up/cool down)

Sunday a.m 7 miles
p.m 10 miles

Monday a.m 13 miles

Tuesday a.m 15 miles
p.m 7 miles

Wednesday p.m 21.5 miles

Thursday p.m 13 miles

TOTAL FOR WEEK 96.5 MILES


Week Three

Friday p.m 13 miles

Saturday p.m 7 miles

Sunday p.m 13 miles

Monday p.m 13 miles

Tuesday a.m 13 miles
p.m 5 miles

Wednesday p.m 13 miles

Thursday a.m 13 miles
p.m 5 miles

TOTAL FOR WEEK 95 MILES

Friday, 22 October 2010

Sockhanded in the Moonlight

The weather over this last week has definately took a large step towards winter.The proceeding weeks of mild weather have given way to near frosty nights,combined with biting winds.This change,combined with the rapidly diminishing hours of daylight,has put me into prime winter mode,where the motivation to step out the door,into the cold,is often tested,but,where,once out and running,a whole new dimension is added to the training experience.Wednesday night was a case in point.I've had an easy week this week,due to feeling the effects of the weekends efforts.Monday,I did not run-my thighs were way too tight and Tuesday was only a steady 5 mile or so run with the folks from the running club.By Wednesday,I was ready for something slightly longer.By the time I had returned from work and got ready,it must have been 7 p.m or so.The night was bitter,mainly due to a virtual,cloud free sky.Armed in tights,hat,thermal top with a t shirt on top, I set off.I looked for a pair of gloves,but couldn't find any,so settled for a pair of socks,worn over each hand.If you haven't got to carry anything,I prefer these to gloves-you just look abit strange wearing them in daylight.

I decided to head up to the seafront.I had run this route,from Winthorpe to Chapel,so many times over the summer-sometimes twice a day that I had got totally fed up with it,and ,consequently,had not run it for a while.However,tonight,in the darkness,it appealed to me,as I knew it would be very quiet.The view I get when I crest the top of the path,before hitting the promenade,always takes my breath away-winter or summer-the vast expanses of sand,stretching in both directions,and the varying conditions of the sea-sometimes calm,sometimes wild,sometimes somewhere in between.As I headed north towards Chapel,the quiet,the darkness-my path illuminated by a single white beam of light,the cold and the nights full moon reflecting exquisitly on the still expanses of ocean,made the journey quite magical.To think that,within 20 minutes of leaving the banger,I was enjoying this beauty amply rewarded the effort needed to break out into the darkness.Glancing into the brightly lit front rooms of residences on the way up,noticing people glued to ever increasingly big flat screen tvs,at ever increasingly bad quality programmes,made me thankful for the gift I had been given within--to actually want to carry out,and,indeed,enjoy the basic freedom of running.

Last night was another great night run,this time with David J,for around an hour,in similar conditions,in and around Skegness.I went to sleep last night feeling the onset of a cold and ,on waking this morning felt terrible.The first cold weather of the year had taken its toll!Not wanting to make things any worse,I decided to take the day off-keeping warm,checking out bloggs,sleeping and listening to the radio.

As mentioned in the previous post,one area I want to concentrate on in the year ahead is,what I will coin 'Eco-running'-essentially trying to keep the adverse enviromental damage caused by running to as low levels as I possibly can.This will involve work in several key areas:

(1) Transport/Travel
This is an area where I have been a culprit as much as,if not more so,than other people.Last year I travelled to Mexico,in order to complete The Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon.Although I have not taken many long haul flights in recent years,the enviromental impact ,and the ethics of travelling for 10/11 hours certainly have to be questioned.I am not ruling out extensive travel,but the adoption of less carbon hungry ways of transport will,in future ,be used.I have been extensively reading about the concept known as 'Slow Travel.'This basically emphasises the merits that the actual journey can add to your trips-avoiding air transportation and instead using 'slower' means of transport-buses,trains,ocean liners,freight ships,houseboats,bikes etc.A large element of my whole experience in Mexico was,indeed,the travel.Landing at Mexico,I had to take buses and trains all the way to the canyons.This gave me a wonderful oppurtunity to interact with the local people,try out my bad spanish and savour amazing scenery,as well as a wide variety of other interesting sights and sounds.This did take time,but is an experience I valve.I have visions of other epic trips to Mexico-this time taking freight ships across the Atlantic-what an experience that would be.

Travelling to local races can also cause problems also.A change in recent years for races to be held on Sundays is a big problem,especially in a public transport back water like Skegness,as Sunday services are drastically reduced compared with the rest of the week.Some local places are easy to access-Lincoln and Boston-by bus,Mablethorpe can easily be reached without too much effort by bicycle-but with many local races occuring in small villages,off the beaten track,the chance to reach these races are limited without cars.Purchasing a fold up bike and travelling to a place near by ,by bus or train ,then cycling,is an option-the other being not to do them.If there were enough people who followed this lead,then race organisers would have to factor in public transport concerns when organising races.People run for alot of different reasons,but my main enjoyment is connecting with nature,enjoying the great outdoors-and if causing damage to this-by using cars or planes-results,it is a great irony.A great irony I will try hard to address.

I have plans for several races that I could easily do-any race in Lincoln(Lincoln 10k,Tales of the riverbank,Ducks and Drakes,The Spires and Steeples),Boston(Poppy run,6/12 hr races)and any races in Louth and Mablethorpe.I am also looking to compete in several LDWA events,held on Saturdays over distances from 20-100 miles.By not working on Fridays this gives me the idea opportunity to travel on that day,stay overnight near the race,then return on the Saturday afternoon.The time taken and the costs will be more than travelling on the morning by car,but a whole weekend adventure will more than make up for that.

(2)Equipment

Just a look at the athletes at the start of any road race,and especially trail races,and you cannot help but notice the plethora of products worn by runners.From Gps watches,Heart Monitors,Bladder packs and different shoes for every condition-the list goes on and on.Of course all of these have their valve in certain situations.A GPS watch may be wise if venturing into the mountains,but on a road race?A Bladder pack may be useful on long unsupported runs-but on a trail marathon with water stations every 4 miles?
Running shoes are advisely changed every 6/800 miles.By whom?The shoe manufacturers ,of course.In my experience this is totally unnecessary,and will get any old school runner from the 60s/70s and 80s shaking their heads.Back in the day a resole and copious amounts of shoe goo were the order of the day and shoes were not discarded until they,literally, fell apart.My current footwear cost £14.99(Fair enough-it was a sale item) and have logged pretty close to 3000 miles,I would estimate,and still have plenty of life left in them.By realising that the majority of claims about the merits of certain items of footwear and clothing is ,usually,marketing hype by businesses,primarily aiming to maximise profits,runners should be able to use more discretion in purchasing products,and cut down on unnecessary comsumption.And ,of course,lower levels of comsumption can only have positive effects as far as enviromental impact is concerned.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Steeples and Spires Trail Marathon

I was looking forward to this event for several reasons.Firstly ,it was a chance to have a good run out.The event is run in a similar fashion to the LDWA events-being a walk and a run.The walkers set off at 8.30,followed by the runners at 9.30.The cost of the event,to enter on the day was £12-if you entered before it was £10.For that you got a rather nice t-shirt,plastic cups of finest tap water(well presume it was tap water!),and thats about it.That's exactly how I like it.The race was over the marathon distance-but the accuracy has to be questioned-and if you wanted to know how fast you ran,it was up to you to time yourself.These type of events always tend to be really friendly,with alot less big egos around than sometimes found at races.

The conditions were near perfect.The proceeding night was cold,and a heavy mist hung over Lincoln Castle at the start.The forecast was good-about 14 degrees,combined with a clear,sunny autumnal day.Setting off from the castle grounds on the way down Steep Hill to the river saw its normal fast start and the usual exuberance by people who should perhaps have taken it a little easier at the start.Once we hit the cycle path a lead group started to form with myself,Jon Hobbs,a couple of army guys and a couple of lads I had not seen before-and not forgetting Pip-Jons dog!We stayed together,until the army lads tailed off,leaving 4 of us together.If anything I thought the start was alittle to fast.Jon is smack bang in the middle of a hard training block,in preparation for the Florence Marathon at the end of November,and seemed to want a long,hard training run.Combined with having to stop/start regularly to keep check on his dog,who couldn't resist chasing the local wildlife-usually in the opposite direction to the race,I think a good training run was what he got.

At the aid station around half way,I inadvertently developed a 50m lead.I think it was solely a case of the other runners spending more time getting drinks,rather than me speeding up.I knew I was approaching an area where last year I took a wrong turn.This year I did exactly the same and found that my lead had disappeared,and had to chase the leading two runners up the subsequent inclined field to catch up.I was feeling good and decided to up the pace slightly.The rest of the run was on my own.I crossed the line in 3hrs 02 mins to win,and was slightly disappointed at not registering a quicker time(my brother won the event last year in 2hrs 52mins),but several runners clocked the course longer this year-the finish was moved,and we had a detour this year to miss a railway bridge,which added extra distance,so my time was probably worth a sub 3hr run.Anyway,I'm not bothered.It was a pleasant day,nice scenery and good company.On days like these positions and times are largely irrelevant.

The logistics of getting to and from the race also added to the experience.Choosing not to have a car can cause problems,especially if no-one else you know is going ,to share a lift with.Sundays are the worst-the reduction in the number of trains and buses make travelling,even relatively locally,a task in itself.I,ve been looking at LDWA events for the coming year precisely because some of the events are held on Saturdays,making travelling on public transport a hell of alot easier.In days of old-well the 60's and 70's,the majority of road races were held on Saturdays.This would be ideal for me,but I suppose the passage of modern day life,in relation especially to working patterns ,have eroded this.Shame.

However today was very,very simple.Bus to Lincoln from Skegness,arriving half an hour before the start,and a train from Sleaford an hour or so after the race finished.I was back in Skeg for just after 3.

All in all,a good day!

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Search for Adventure

'No matter what you're doing,or where you are in your life right now,it is crucial to be vigilant in a dedication towards adventure.It is immensely important and keeps the existential fires burning brightly.Adventure keeps you creative and alive'.



I was sat at my wife's flat at the tail end of last week.The flat is on the 3rd floor and has large patio doors which overlook a communal,grassed play area.The weather was bad.Strong winds blew the torrents of rain straight against the doors-the resulting noise making the weather seem even worse.It was comforting to be inside and warm,but the wildness of the weather always stirs the wild edges of the spirit and sets the mind wandering of potential adventures new.

Browsing facebook,I came across pictures of a friend who had carried out a 130km hike to Santiago ,in Northern Spain.This interested me.It reminded me of the walks that Ken,a member of my running club,had done carried out over the same routes earlier in the year.On his return ,he told me that it was the sort of thing that would be right up my street.Remembering this I carried out a piece of impromptu research.

There are a number of walks,all converging on Santiago,due to bones being found that were rumoured to be the bones of St James.This resulted in the routes being used by Catholic pilgrims.The routes are still walked by many Catholic pilgrims,but also by people seeking a spiritual experience,or by people just doing the walks for sport.The religious and spiritual aspects of the walks appealed to me.The religious pilgrims were the first people who really travelled for long distances,with peaceful aims,rather than the aim of claiming and taking over land.I am not religious,but would like to consider myself as spiritual-and am interested in seeking a spiritual experience ,through running.

The Camino De Santiago route that caught my eye was the Camino Frances,starting at St Jean de Port,in France,crossing the Pyrenees and finishing 780km later in Santiago de Compostela-travelling the breath of Northern Spain.There are cheap hostels situated every 20km or so along the route,so the options are:(1)Run 40ish miles per day,stay at the hostel and repeat for 2 weeks or (2)take a lightweight tarp and sleeping bag,run as long as possible each day and then just wild camp,get a few hours sleep and continue.I've pencilled the trip in for the start of March,and which ever option I decide,I'm sure it will be a spiritual voyage.


Adventure does not only mean going to far flung places-just putting yourself in situations outside the norm.This year,over the Christmas and New Year period,I have a months holiday.On the lookout for adventure I have come up with the following,more local options:

The Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path.

This route begins in Knettishall Country Park and follows the Roman Road to Holme next the Sea on the North Norfolk Coast and then joins the Norfolk Coast path-as it runs from Hunstanton to Cromer.

Distance --93 miles/150km



The Lindsey Loop


This route is a figure of 8,which takes in six market towns-Market Rasen,Spilsby,Alford,Caistor,Horncastle and Louth.

Distance --95 miles/153 km



The Yorkshire Wolds Way/Cleveland Way


The Wolds Way runs 79 miles from Hessle ,near the Humber Bridge,across the Yorkshire Wolds to Filey.

This route can then be connected to The Cleveland Way ,which runs for a distance of 110 miles,from Filey,skirting the upland ridges on the edge of the North York National Park.



These routes will certainly provide me with several days of adventure soon.



On the more mondane front,things have progressed well over the last two weeks.Last Sunday marked the seasons first Cross Country -The Louth Open.The weather was brilliant country weather-raining and windy.I had a relatively good run,placing 11th-about 1mins 30secs faster than last years performance.
Today was the Ducks and Drakes 10 mile-off road at Lincoln.Again I had a relatively good run,placing second-time unknown ,so far-but it didn't seem too fast!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

A Soulful Journey to the Depths of The Copper Canyons.



It was a cold,dark morning in mid December.I was on the way to work 11 miles away,running with a head torch with a rapidly diminishing light ,left ankle hurting and I was-well-feeling miserable.I'd made a commitment to run The Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon in the deep canyons of the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico,having sent my entry donation to race organiser,Micah True.Yes-the Micah True-the person I'd read so much about over the previous year and who was the star turn in the best selling book 'Born To Run'.I knew I had to go there-to take a voyage of discovery into the deep canyons-but the voices of sanity were chipping away that dark morning.

It was a relatively large financial outlay,mainly for the return flight from the UK to Mexico,and Christmas was rapidly approaching.Christmas marked a month long break from work,several weeks of which I would have to take unpaid to utilise the holidays available for Mexico.I'd been having problems with getting a visa for entry to the US-I'd assumed that I'd get a visa exemption,but on close inspection realised that,due to a stupid night of youthful exuberance years earlier,I'd have to attend an interview at the US embassy in London.More expense.Should I just fill in the exemption and take a chance?Would I get turned away at US customs?I just didn't know.

The voices continued.'Save your money-the money you spend will pay your caravan rent for a full season.Theres loads of great races in the UK etc,etc.'These doubts continued for a couple of weeks,until I voiced them to my brother on a snowy,country run during the Christmas vacation.I knew what his response would be.He had ran from John O'Groats to Lands End,ran the coast to coast route from St Bees Head to Robin Hoods Bay,been part of a run across Africa,had cycled across Australia.He began that the easy option is always to stay with what you know-but ,to live life you need to step out of your comfort zone.That I might go to Mexico and think it was a total waste of time and money-that the great things I had read about the people involved with the race,may be hype.However it could also be a life changing experience that I would remember for the rest of my life.If I didn't go.I'd never know'.


Two months later I was sat on a small bus,slowly weaving down the steep roads into the canyons.Darkness was drawing in-our original bus had broken down after miles of making very strange noises and we'd had to wait for a replacement.Rick,an American tourist returning to the canyons ,having visited several weeks earlier,but knowing he would soon to be witnessing something special soon, and having decided to return, pointed out faint lights below.The lights of the small town of Urique. Driving down the main street an hour later in darkness ,all was quite.I was in the most remote area I had been in my life.My mobile phone was dead and my closest friends and family knew I was in the Copper Canyons in Mexico-but didn't have a clue,really,where it was.However I felt relaxed and at home.I'd landed in Mexico City,deciding to bypass the US altogether.I was nervous.The guide books advised of the dangers of unauthorised taxis at the airport-of people being robbed,even killed.At the Norte bus terminal I sat on my pack quietly,viewing everyone as a potential criminal.I was relieved to get on the overnight bus,for an 18 hour trip to Chihuahua.From Chihuahua,I caught the bus to Creel-again a town with a bad reputation for drug related violence and killing.But I was relaxing.The Mexican people were friendly,the foreign travellers had great tales to tell and I was starting to get excited about the race ahead.As I got off the bus and walked down the dark road to the campsite,Entre Amigo,I took in the quietness and serenity of the place and the realisation hit me that I had arrived at the place I had read so much about.

I awoke the next morning,made my way out of the tent and savoured the surrounding.The tent was surrounded by trees bearing oranges and grapefruit,but it was the view beyond the campsite that was jaw dropping.In front of the site was a river,which lazily wound its way through the town of Urique,about half a mile away.I gazed up.We were on the canyon floor-mountains rose high above on both sides,covered with lush greenery.This place truly was beautiful.I dressed quickly into t-shirt,shorts and sandals-desperate to get in my first run for several days.Although it was early,the sun was rising and the temperatures were getting higher.I filled two empty coke bottles in the restroom,dropped in a couple of purification tablets and made my way to the site entrance.There I stood,debating which way to run.To the right was Urique,to the left a dirt road heading to where?.I looked at my watch.I would run for 30 minutes,then come back-paying special attention at any points where I had a choice of routes,in order to not get lost.I set off on the road to the left.

The dirt road headed past several homesteads,keeping close to the river.A mile or two down,the road bent to the left and passed the entrance to a decidedly dodgy looking bridge,which crossed the river.I decided to carry on the dirt road,as it gradually climbed upwards.The light sand colour of the path and the canyon walls made me realise that this was the same road I had seen many times in magazines and the web over the last year-pictures depicting the tarahumara runners,complete in colourful shirts,wrap around skirts and homemade sandals,made from tyres-making their way up the hills,a steely look of determination in their eyes.I continued up that first hill,until the road straightened out and then stopped.I was spent.My head started to go light and I had to quickly crouch down,scared I was about to pass out.I turned round and jogged,gingerly,back down the road.I'd ran,probably 3 miles.In 4 days time I would be running 52 miles,with near on 10,000 ft of climb.This would be harder than I thought.


Over the next few days my confidence returned.I began to feel stronger,the effects of the long trip diminishing.The campsite gradually began to fill with like minded runners,as did Urique itself.Great days were had reecing the course with the rest of the international runners and several tarahumara.Runners,in particular long distance runners usually possess similar attributes.They are comfortable in their own space(the hours of training solo show this),usually modest and easy to get along with.It was great sharing stories about their places of origin and of races and runs they had achieved.The scenery was unbelievable(the single track up to Los Alios must take some beating as the most beautiful run in the world)and the days were rounded off with delicious meals at Grandma Titas,along with beers and more tall tales.

The race itself was as hard as expected,but the smiles from both the supporters on the roadside,the school children at the aid stations and ,more importantly fellow runners,regardless of where they were from,made the going alot easier.I crossed the line in around 8hrs 45mins,just sneaking into the top 30.However times and positions were irrelevant-the whole experience transcended statistics.


There are several things that stick in my mind.The kindness shown by everyone was immense.From the locals,right down to the runners.I remember being eternally grateful to Mike(also on the campsite),for offering me his stash of antibiotics,after an abscess flared up on my tooth 2 days before the race-of Wes offering me his huaraches after finding that the maker in Urique would not be able to make mine before I returned home.Laughing on the way back to the campsite with Rick after spending a night engrossed in Abi's stories of family and races.Seeing the locals darting off the path on the first part of the race,taking short cuts at every bend.The smiles and words off all the runners I past on route.High fiving Maria as I headed back from Los Alios and noticing her beaming smile,even though she had still far to go.The list could go on and on.


However one thing sticks in my mind more than any other.It was the morning after the race.Most of the runners had departed on the bus from the canyons,returning to normal life and the planning of more adventures.A few of us were hanging around for a few more days.I was in the kitchen,talking to Mike,when Micah entered.Everyone was making idle chit chat when Micah said, 'That sure was a beautiful race yesterday'.I suddenly thought that comment summed up the whole experience-beautiful people,beautiful places,a beautiful ethos to the race-everything was just plain beautiful.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Roll on -The Cross Country season is about to start!



This sums up all that is great about club running in the UK.Nominal entry fee-just short of 3000 runners in the Senior Mens race -and 2009 at Englands Classic Cross Country course-Parliament Hill Fields,London.Starting at the bottom of the hill exemplifies what a tough course is to come!I was in there ---somewhere!!!

End of Summer/Start of Winter

Reading Anton Krupicka's excellent blog 'Riding the Wind' this morning ,I was surprised ,yet heartened to here how his September went.Anton is renowned for running big miles-sometimes up to 200 miles a week-but this last few weeks has been running low miles-probably 4 miles a day.He attributes this to both physical and mental tiredness.It's nice to see normal human fragilities in your running heroes and makes you feel better when faced with times where motivation is sometimes lacking.

Since a month before Christmas I've probably averaged around 100 miles a week.There was always some race on the horizon-The CCUM,London Marathon,Boston 12 hr race.My big goal for the year was the Boston 12hr race at the end of August.Having completed that and achieving a result I was happy with,it has been nice to take things easy-have the occassional day off-go out for a 1 hr run ,instead of a 2-3 hour run after work-just enjoy running and not get too wrapped up in the statistics for the week.I have,even during this'down month',raced regularly.The week after the 12hr race was the Lincolnshire 10,000m county track championships.During the whole week I ran twice,due to the aches and pains caused by the longer race.However I ran 38.15(my years best being about 37.50 at Woodhall Spa 10k) and really enjoyed my first track 10k,and was really surprised my time was as quick.I have also completed a couple of road 10k's-Mablethorpe(8th-38.55ish)ans West Pinchbeck (22nd-38.39).

This weekend sees the start of our cross country season,with our traditional opener at the Louth Open.The weather this last few days has been terrible and the forecast for Sunday itself is not great,but ,hopefully,this will add to the race with some tough underfoot conditions.Through October,November and December I will be racing virtually every weekend-mainly over the country-and it is a time I relish.The atmosphere at these low key races is great-the same faces over and over-the entry fees are nominal and the pressure to achieve time targets are non existant.It is a period I am looking forward to immensely.

Thoughts also turn to goals and races for next year.My main interest is doing abit of something different.I'm going to try and get away to The Peak District at least one weekend a month and reece the area-with the intention of running a few races round there-The Long Tour of Bradwell and The High Peak 40 for starters,and probably a few lower key events.With the increased interest in trail running in the UK,there has been an increase in high participation trail runs,normally sponsored the big players in the footwear/outdoor wear industry.However they are not for me.Encouraging people to enjoy the countryside is certainly admirable,however 1000 people racing the trails over sensitive countryside is,in my opinion ,not a wise idea.I have entered the London Marathon(probably the biggest commercial race in the country),but apart from that will be targeting just low key races-local races-and small races further afield,which can be easily accessed by public transport and which are free from excessive commercial involvement.As Caballo Blanco(CCUM organiser and fierce advocate of keeping the North Face/Saloman et al out of the race)-'Running should be free,man'!

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Deep Ecology



The more I read about deep ecology,the more it strikes a chord with sentiments I already echo.Interesting stuff..

Thursday, 23 September 2010

A life less ordinary




I was thinking about this clip tonight.For the last few weeks I've been back on the bike-biking to work,biking to training at Boston,doing the shopping etc,etc.It's good to be back to a mode of transport that is both free and also is not damaging to the enviroment.This evening I finished work and found a puncture in the bikes back wheel.No problem-I had a spare,so changed the tube.A couple of miles into the 11 mile trip back I got another flat.I've got a feeling that theres a thorn or something in the tyre thats caused the problems,but couldn't find one and as it was getting dark decided to walk.Instead of being irritated with the situation,I thought - just enjoy walking!And I did.

Minimalist living has been on my mind constantly this past couple of weeks.I've gone through my ,already pretty minimalist,wardrobe and sorted out everything I don't wear regularly and put it in a charity bin.Same with trainers.I suppose the aim is to get down to the bare essentials.I have become inherently aware that,with the accumulation of goods,for me,there is also an accumulation of stress.In searching for minimalist modes of living I have stumbled on the bike camper,pictured above.It may be a romantic notion-but it is a romantic notion that I have been giving serious thought to-living full time in such a set up.The trailer would hold all my worldly possessions-and I would choose to wild camp,avoiding rents etc.A cheap way of life.I would be able to work Monday to Thursday-then take off for a few hours on the trails and tracks running-then tow the trailer to a secluded spot-preferrably under the shield of darkness-prepare a quick meal-pop up the shelter-then sleep.I will definately give it serious thought with the on coming of spring next year.

The last couple of weeks I have been really enjoying running.My summer obsession with miles is dissappearing.All I want to do is get out in the country,on the paths,finding my way or getting lost for a few hours at a time.The scenery around Spilsby really is beautiful.Life is pretty good!

Friday, 17 September 2010

Boston 12 hour race





Well I'd been doing alot of miles for this one-things went ok performance wise and some lessons were learnt.Last year I won the 12 hr with just under 72 miles.This year I wanted to get something approaching 80 miles.The day was good-not too hot,but with the wind forecast to pick up as the day progressed.

The race started at 7.30 and I felt good-going through the marathon in about 3.30 hrs and by half way was 2nd overall,including the 6 hr race.Last year I had a real bad spell about 6.30 hours,where continuing was questioned,but this year,although tired,those sort of conditions did not repeat themselves.After reading Stuart Mills blog and appropriating some his nutritional advice,things seemed to progress well.The preferred drink of choice,which after 40 miles,was consumed every 5 miles ,as a treat ,was a 50%coke/50%water mix.Every 10 miles was a cup of coffee,which was drank relatively quickly,sitting down resting on the kazi!

My legs started to ache about 5 hours in-and just got worse.Its hard to keep focused,but to cut a long story short,I finished with a distance just short of 78 miles.According to the german ultra statistical site that ranks me 3rd in the uk this year for a 12 hour race this year-so not too bad!!

The thing I realised,however,is that ultras of this sort,to me,are really boring.Ultras always have a large mental component to contend with-but more so ultras ran over short courses.I was planning to do a 24 hour next year-but don't now know if I will.Running has to be enjoyable to me-I like racing people-I like racing from place to place-I like changing scenery.We'll see what happens!

Friday, 6 August 2010

Its there and its free

Had a good couple of days,after the relative rest of last week.Wednesday night was a 4 hour run from Spilsby to Skeg and then straight on to Chapel and back.I've stopped morning runs again-basically because I don't enjoy them.I also have a left ankle/achilles that aches alot when I first get up-and is pretty uncomfortable to run on first thing-however being on my feet all day seems to sort it out-and running after work is normally no problem.

The run Wednesday meant passing the cherry trees at Skeg-so with 1.30ish under my belt-and never running with any food or drink-I was getting abit peckish.Therefore a 10 minute stop to gorge myself on the free cherries was just the job-running and nature working in perfect harmony!Some people say the cherry carn't be eaten,however,this last few weeks I've eaten more cherries than in the rest of my life combined-all with no problems.I think its a case of people thinking that because these cherries are just growing normally,and not in some enclosed orchard,then they cannot be eaten.Well I hope they continue to think in that blinkered way--more cherries for me!

The run to Chapel takes you off the beaten track for a short while-and this is ideal.The blackberry season is just starting-another completely free and nutritious running food available!

Been abit of hype about a new book out called 'Bounce' by Matthew Syed,about the question of whether champions are born or made.He comes down heavily on the 'made' option,which should encourage everyone.In terms of ultradistance running there are no limits,potentially.If you can get out there and run long and very often you may not be the best in the world-but you will be good.alot of the time its about committment and time.Can anyone afford the 30/40 hrs a week that Krupicka puts in?-maybe not-but if they really want it,maybe they should.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Ups and Downs


Been abit of a crap week for training this week.The last few weeks have been biggish miles-between 120 and 140.But,ultimately,its left me really tired,feeling abit under the weather and ,generally, abit demotivated.Lessons to be learnt?Probably that I need an easy week now and again.This week has been around 75-80 -and i feel that I haven't done much really.But its left me hungry for a big week next week.Maybe I'll try something like 3 weeks around 130/140 and then a recovery week of about 80 throughout the winter.Not missed a day now for about a month now-so try and keep that going.

Had a training run at Boston this morning and decided to bike to Boston and back-must be a round trip of about 60 miles.I'm going to invest on a touring bike in the next few weeks-something like a Dawes Galaxy-or something similar.I'm trying to cut out the travel expenses that I'm accrueing at the minute,in order to make the switch to 3 days work more viable.If I can cut out the travel expenses to work and training it will save me about £30 a week-so will be worth the effort.I am currently looking forward to those dark,cold winter nights on the way back from Boston-should be good.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Decisions

The decision of the moment is whether to opt for a three day week at the end of September,for the duration of the winter or not?At the minute I am seriously thinking about it,and,infact will sit down tonight and work out a few figures.I have a core feeling that I should do it.Life has moved in mysterious ways over these last couple of years,but I feel it has delivered me at a time and place which is near perfect to make a big decision.

Chris has been reading a book called'Once a Runner'-a seminal book written in the early 70's about a college athlete named Quenton Cassidy,a talented miler,who after getting booted out of college,retreats to a hut in the middle of the forest to train..and train..and train.Needless to say it is ultimately a success story-the character beating the world record holder at the mile and going on to win Olympic silver.I guess that most people who are pretty serious about sport,at any times in thier lives,have haboured such dreams-but the reality is that normal living needs money-and money normally comes from working.

I have arrived at a place and time which most people would be unhappy with.I am single-although am currently experiencing a great relationship with my estranged wife-after a lot of ups and downs-and don't feel the need to be in a relationship right now.Living in the Carabanger is cheap-probably averages at around £50 a week.I've got no council tax to pay,no water bills,no gas,no electric.I can live on less than £20 a week for food-and then the only other costs are the money I give/save for Reice each week,travel costs and then money for myself.I can live frugally,and going without luxuries such as new clothes,nights out,take aways no problem.So....what is stopping me?

Looking at things in a short term perspective is easier.Working three days a week does not mean I will have to do it all the time.I would have the option of increasing the hours once we get to peak season next March.Luxuries,such as foreign travel and a return to Mexico for next weeks CCUM would be out of the picture-but the thought of really throwing myself into hard running for the winter excites me-and it would be interesting to find out what I could do-if anything,in terms of ultra distance running.I feel it is an oppurtunity that I may not get again-and if I do not seize the day,I will regret it.

The plan for the winter is thus:After the 12 hrs at Boston at the end of August,I've got the Robin Hood Half or full Marathon-probably the half-then its Cross Country season again.I love that time of year.Theres races seemingly evey weekend until Christmas-so I will do as many of those as I can-working towards a goal race at the end of January.That will give me something to work towards through those dark winter months.Right -off to work out some figures-I'm getting excited thinking about it!

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Lazy



Had abit of a break from this blogging lark,but I,m now back!Training has been going well since the London-consistant weeks of between 80 and 110 miles-all run in my pretty steady pace.Theres been a couple of races of note-the Woodhall Spa 10k,followed by The Boston to Skegness Marathon a week later.Woodhall went ok and I lowered my pb once again to 37.55(ish-carn't remember exact time)-which I was happy with.My speed seems to be increasing in the shorter races,even though I'm doing absolutely no training at speed-no intervals,and virtually no running at less than 7min mile pace-apart from races.

The seabank was a week later.I had decided a few weeks earlier to miss this race this year.I had planned to go to the lake district to help reece a leg I was supposed to be doing to support my brother in his up and coming Bob Graham attempt.However plans changed and I would be in Skeg for that weekend after all.Last year I surprised myself by sneaking 3rd place in 3.21 in terrible weather conditions.But that run last year,plus running 2.56 at London,put some pressure on myself.My expectations had risen and so,in a way ,was reticent about racing this year in case I didn't preform as well as expected.However,these pressures were only put on me by myself,so the week before I decided to enter--if I ran well,I ran well-if I didn't,I didn't.I was also spurred on by comments made by my brother that week who labelled me a 'lazy runner'.This was a reference to my attitude to training.I do train hard,but do not like to follow strict schedules and have the week fully mapped out at the start of the week,preferring to just do what I feel like doing,depending on how I feel on the day.

The day of the race was nice weather-relatively still and warm-but not too warm.I felt ok.I had not done any sort of taper--ran 30 miles on the Thursday,13 on the Friday and about 10 on the Saturday-and warming up felt alittle tired-but nothing to get worried about.At the start I decided to stick with two experienced local runners-Mark Sands and Dave Tilley-both who had run the race several times and would be good judges of pace.David Oliver took the lead immediately.David has raced several ultras,such as The Jungle Marathon in Brazil,but speaking to him at the start I had found that he was going for roughly 3.30--so was not overly concerned about his lead.Another local runner ,Ben Evison,ran with Mark ,Dave and myself for the first 3/4 miles.He took us that he had ran 1.20 ish for the Friskney Half for the last 2 years,so he was certainly someone to keep an eye on.At the first water station around 3/4 miles,Ben took off and quickly caught David.Our chasing group was not overly concerned-we were trotting out sub 7 min miles,and ,if anything,thought we may be going too fast.We maintained a distance,with the leaders always within our sights.

We hit the actual seabank at around 11 miles.I was feeling easy and relaxed and exciting the check point at 11.75 miles ,took the lead position of our little group and thought I would push things on alittle.Mark and Dave quickly let me go and I began the chase for the lead two.I had plenty of time,so didn't need to do anything too dramatic-thought I would just reel them in slowly.On the approach to the 17.5 checkpoint I caught and passed David and so began the chase for Ben.The seabank is flat,so I was able to see Ben all the time,but ,although I felt good and felt that I was pushing on,I didn't seem to be catching him.I had almost settled for second place-still an improvement on the previous year-until we approached Gibraltor Point,when I seemed to make ground.As we excited the seabank and made our way along a field from the pumping station Ben was perhaps 50m ahead.Half way down the field the track split into two-both routes going the same way,I think,but Ben stopped,confused,turned to me and gestured at which track to take.I didn't know and shugged my shoulders,but knew now that the race was now mine for the taking.I passed Ben just before we reached the final road section,with,perhaps 3ish miles to go.I kept my pace up,vowed not to look back,and although Bens footsteps behind me seemed to take an eternity to dissappear,they eventually did.I hit the seacroft area of Skegness knowing the race was mine.I crossed the line in 2 hrs 52 mins-and was told it was the second fastest completion of the race in its 33 year history.Compared to the London-when the last few miles had been torture,with my legs and arms hurting,this time I felt fine.Ben finished a minute down-a great run for his first marathon-and David held on for 3rd place in a time alittle over 3 hours.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Simple


On a beautiful night,like tonight,all is well with the world.It holds promise,adventure,opportunities,happiness.I'm sat outside the carabanger-the lightness is slowly starting to fade-but the temperature is mild-and I'm surrounded by a feeling of positivity and calmness.Its quiet here-made more so by my recent decision to turn off the tv.I've not watched anything for a couple of weeks now-and don't miss anything.Most of the time its just background noise.If its noise I'm after,I'll put the radio on-but I,ve recently been revelling in the joy of silence.Its the things that are always there which are always most pure,and the absence of noise is one pleasure people are gradually destroying.

I feel ,in some ways, vindicated that the course I have chosen is right.I have little stress,am more relaxed and can now see a life plan that is clearer-but involves doing things my way.I do not miss the extra money I was earning through more work.Indeed I enjoy trying to survive on less.Previously my ego was consumed with success-and that included work.I would have been embarrassed to admit to having a low end job,with low end money.Now I,m not bothered.I've got greater things I want to achieve than work.I still crave a certain amount of success--for example,I have got goals I want to achieve with running--but this may also be a weakness--another attempt by the ego to gain a modicum of control--but this is one I have not yet conquered.Maybe in the future.

I feel now I need little materially.I could quite happily get by with only few possessions.The propect of a real minimalist running adventure really appeals to me.To arrive in some far off place with just a pair of shorts,sandals,a couple of shirts and basic essentials would be good.I would have to find somewear to sleep-not too much of a problem ,if it was hot--and would have to get a daily food source sorted out,but this should not be too much of a problem.Just running from town to town/village to village/settlement to settlement would be a most excellent adventure.

Today is the second day I have not run.My legs have been so stiff after the marathon.It must be the faster pace,as after Mexico,with its 50 odd miles and 9000ft of ascent/descent,my legs feel fine.Not to worry--will see how they are tomorrow.

Monday, 26 April 2010

London Marathon 2010


London was to be my first proper marathon.I had done a couple of trail type affairs over the last couple of years-but ,with those,accuracy is always questionable.We set off on the Saturday morning-Me,Jose,Geoff K,and Tony-all running-and David and Geoff J spectating.The weekend is always good-even if you are not running.A visit to the Excel to register,dinner on the grass at the side of the London airport,to the hotel -and the traditional fish and chips on Saturday night.

Saturday in the city was hot!The forecast for Sunday was better-cloudy,with a chance of showers,and getting warm later.Sunday morning-and the forecast was right!I wanted to run as close to 3 hours as possible.I knew the distance was not a problem-but maintaining sub 7 pace in the second half of the race was abit of a voyage into the unknown for me.The first few miles passed quickly and were slightly faster than predicted pace.At around 9 miles,the enormity of the task entered my head-could I keep this pace until the end?Me and Jose passed 10k in just on 41 mins-this time last year I was running 42+ for 10k races on their own-so must be getting fitter.Over Tower Bridge,I was still running with Jose-but half a mile down the road,we had split.I was entering the second half of the race and felt good.I passed half way in 1hr 27--1.5mins faster than my time in last years Friskney Half.

All was going well.At 20ish miles the tiredness hit me-but I knew that if I could maintain pace,I would be under 3hrs.My final time was 2hrs 56 mins--very happy with that.My legs today are aching!So day off today-then getting straight into training for the 12hr race-including my first 8hr day on Friday.I am energized after the performance-and ready to roll!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Peace,Love and Understanding.(The banyan tree revisited)

Tonights run was great.From work back to the carabanger,nice and slow,due to the race on Sunday.The weather was beautiful-nice and bright-hot,but not too hot.It was one of those runs which just feel so easy,that you feel you could carry on all day.It made me question the training post London,for the 12hr race.I've decided I'm going to do 3 hours a day,home from work-Monday to Thursday.Friday will be the big day of the week-and a good day to devote to running ,with people at work and Reice at school.This will be an 8hr day,consisting of 4 loops to chapel point and back.The benefits of this is that all the toilets are open on the seafront,so I have to carry no drinks,and I'II pass by the banger every couple of hours to get food.Running a 12 takes no speed at all-the only difficulty being to actually keep your legs moving.If I can get 14 8 hr runs in before the race it should hold me in good stead.Saturday and Sunday will be very easy runs of about 2 hrs.Overall that should give me 24 hrs for the week.
Came across an intersting conversation on facebook tonight,where two people,who know me well were discussing me.(nice to be the centre of attention!).One was commenting on my profile picture,days before the CCUM,and said on it I looked like I had AIDS.I guess that means I'm looking pretty skinny,so I'II take it as a compliment.Over the last 3 years I've gone from 14.5 st to just over 11st.With all the miles over the next I reckon that I should be able to drop to 10.5 st,which will be my lightest since being a teenager.

Monday, 19 April 2010

The Greatest Living Painter


Tonight was a good run home.It was a proper run-a run of neccessity ,rather than pure enjoyment.I had to collect something from my mums house,so it made sense to devise a route home from work which involved passing hers.Altogether it took about 3hrs-just over-and I felt ok.The last few days I've had a slight calf strain,so have not been doing anything too intensive(do I ever!).Sunday is London Marathon day,It will be great to run it ,finally,and I would love to go under 3hrs.However this race is not the focus for the year-so if I do ,I do-if I don't,I don't.

The race thats the biggy is the Boston 12hr race in August.I am aiming to run long-hoping to run a distance that will place me at the top of the uk ranking for the distance this year.After London I should have about 14 weeks,before a 2 week easing off period before the race.Consistancy is the key and I am hoping to run a steady 20/25 hrs a week in all those 14 weeks.That should give me a fighting chance.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Honest

The basic chain of thought for this post started with the sun shinning through the window of the carabanger,waking me up at about 8 a.m.It's so nice when you wake up and think about what you've got to do that day and the answers-nothing really.It afforded me with the pleasure of drifting off to sleep til about midday,drifting in and out of sleep ,sampling snippets of a parrot incessantly whistling in a van on one side,and the world according to Sheffield(bloke who gets in this car to drive 100 yards to the shower block-but makes for entertaining eaves dropping)on the other.When I eventually got up,I decided to check out some stuff I had briefly read before about 'The Slow Movement'.This all links up with my quest for simplicity and basically advocates that people are too obssessed with getting things done fast and having busy lifes.To be busy is looked upon as admirable,while having nothing to do is viewed as not.The benefits of having nothing to do are numerous,but,one great one ,is that then you can do choose to do something,but there are no constraints on time.It seems that peoples obssession with speed is similar to most peoples attitude to work.Why is doing something fast so important?Why is being viewed as a'good worker'looked upon as a positive personality trait?Don't ask me.

Basically I knew today would be a 'slow'day-take my time,enjoy the sun,have a mid afternoon kip if desired,and enjoy the day without any prearranged plans and no constraints on time.And so far its been nice.

I eventually got ready to run about 3ish.The past two days I had planned for 2 x 2 x 2,but due to my right calf playing up(had major problems last year) I decided to revise it to 1 x 2 x 2.On the 2 hour jaunt today(actually 1 hr 45-just felt like I wanted to go hard after 10 mins or so)I started thinking about honesty.Strange thing to think about for most folks,but not me.I had recently read interviews with John Grant,who used to front The Czars,and was impressed by his honesty-then listened to a song by The Beautiful South,where someone had commemted that on the particular album that this song was on ,Paul Heaton was too honest for his own good.It set me thinking'Can someone be too honest?'I like to believe that I'm pretty honest,but sometimes,for example,when people say'Why do I live in a caravan?',I'll explain its temporary,I've just split up from my wife'etc,etc,etc.I do that because I'm scared in a way of peoples reactions,like'Oh hes a failure' etc.But then I question why I,ve done that.I chose to live here and I chose it because I thought I would be happy here-and I am-its just somewhat out of kilter with what'normal' people aspire to.Anyway that got me thinking to other areas of my life where I had not been completely honest.

From as long as I can remember I've wanted to be the best at things.At primary school I wanted to get the best marks in class(nearly-always beaten by my twin brother) and the fastest(I was).That passed on to secondary school,where again I excelled at sports and ,through sheer hard work,was good on the academic side of things.I eventually went to university to study Sports Science,with the long term aim of becoming a PE teacher.However university changed my mind.I got to a place where I was distinctly average,mostly in terms of athletic ability(Birmingham University is one of the premier sporting universities in the uk)and that got me questioning myself.I had sacrificed so much,in terms of socialising etc,and for what?I was still no good.The seed was planted and the partying began.I found if I couldn,t be the best runner,I could become the best drunk-it was easy!Dead easy!At all the athletic club does I would put on my customary performance and people would love it.Life and soul of the party!I left university with zero plans to get a career(in hindsight,perhaps, an inspired move).The last year of university involves what is (or was!)known as 'The Milk Round'-where companies come round trying to attract graduates.I attended none.I was fed up with sport,running,everything to do with commitment-all I wanted to do was Mcjobs-earn abit of cash and travel.

I did travel-Indonesia,Thailand,Austrailia,America,Canada and enjoyed it-but still wanted more.When I returned to England in 1989 the rave scene waas just kicking off.It was exciting-a chance for me to fit in-and again this was done by excess.I floated around for a few years-still doing jobs with little responsibility and then ended up in Nottingham.I knew no-one in Nottingham,but through my sisters husband at the time,became friends with some of his friends who were at Trent University(still good friends to this day).This was great-late 20s,knocking about with students-cheap drinks,fun and laughter!By this time I had started working the markets,but could easily handle 3/4 nights a week-get in at 3 blasted-then work at 5.

Things changed forever(!) one night in Loughborough in 1996.I had burnt the candle at both ends for too long-I was living with my ex brother in law,having moved from notts,due to having my van broke into numerous times.This night we overdid it,and I went to bed feeling wierd.Not a new experience.The next day I woke up feeling wierd.This was a feeling that would stay with me for over two years.When it happened,I turned back to running.I remember running round a park in Loughborough and I couldn't think-there was too much going through my mind-as if every fact was competing for space.I moved back to Skegness.I needed some familiararity.Those things were scary.I,d try and tell close family and friends how I felt,but as I was telling them I'd think'You sound mad!'.Then I'd tell them and by the look in their eyes I knew they were freaked out.I wanted someone to say that they knew how I felt-but no-one did.

Things started to get better gradually.The day I was on eastgate and I looked at the volcanic eruption and actually thought it was real ,not an illusion,was a turning point-but I had been on the market 6 months before that point.Rather than slow-I needed things fast.I hated winters when I didn,t have to work-but loved summers-I was so busy-and felt great.Gradually,through abstinence,normality returned-running returned-life returned.Now I,ve felt great for about 6 years-its nice to run-nice to be able to relax-and nice to actually think that was a lesson learned.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

(out and back x2) x2

Had a relatively easy week this week,due to picking up a slight calf strain after the half on Sunday and also with lack of time to do too much running.Its been one of those weeks,where everything happens at once-club committee meetings etc,etc.So had a day off Monday,club session on tuesday-about 1hr,1hr 30 mins on Wednesday,1hr 15mins on Thursday and 2 hrs on friday.Due to the easy week I have decided to do a couple of 4hr days over the weekend-but split into 2 sessions,to safeguard the calf before next weeks London Marathon.I have just finished the first 2 hrs-Chapel and back and am having a couple of hours rest and then doing it again.Same for tommorrow.The weather is beautiful-hot with a slight cooling breeze.Happy Days.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Search for Soul


Running for me has to be soulful.I like to refer back to the soul surfers,where the key is the attitude,not the performance.The sheer act of running is essentially soulful-simple and spiritual.Keep it to the basics-don't overshadow the beauty with technology-just run-steady and long.

I returned to the carabanger pretty late tonight and fixed up a quick dinner-polenta and vegetable balti.I enjoyed the silence.The last few weeks,instead of turning the tv or radio on ,mainly cause of habit-I haven't bothered.The silence is sort of pure.With just a low light on,curtains closed,wind whistling outside,but inside warm-the banger felt so inviting and cozy-like a long term friend you know would never let me down.Its times like this I love the simplicity life has to offer.I feel like Dean Potter in his cabin in Yosemite or somewhere equally remote and its at times like this that I dream of drifting to the edges of society-a place where wealth and possessions have no meaning-a place where people are only judged by the colours of their heart, and running long,slow miles through beautiful countryside.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Friskney Half Marathon


Today was our clubs own Half Marathon ,held at Friskney.That race holds good memories,as running the event years ago,actually lead to us joining a running club for the first time.When me and my brother,Chris were in our early teens,the runners we followed and wanted to emulate were not so much the track stars of the day,but the road stars.The US edition of Runners World,complete with those classic Nike ads ,that adorned our bedroom walls,was our bible-where we would get inspiration by the leading US runners of the day-Alberto Salazar,Jon Sinclair,Bill Rodgers,Craig Virgin et al.We wanted to run marathons,but we were too young to do those,so decided on Half Marathons-which we were still too young to do!However,despite being 15 at the time,we just lied and said we were 17.Friskney was our 2nd or 3rd Half Marathon and again were just lied.With hindsight that was a stupid thing to do-the RD's daughter went to our school-knew how old we were-and eventually the RD would find out.A few weeks after the race we recieved a knock on the door.It was the RD.OH no-we've dropped our selves in it now.However he explained that he had found out our age after the race,noticed we ran as unattached,and asked if we would be interested in joining the club.That lead to a long association with Friskney Harriers,which then combined with Holbeach A.C,to become our present club-Boston and District A.C.


The weather yesterday was great-hot and still.With the London coming up in a couple of weeks,and wanting to keep up my mileage,I debated whether to run or rest for Friskney.In the end,after realising that my best performances never involved any sort of taper,I decided on a steady 2 hours,on top of a hard and fast 2 hours on the friday.The weather today was ok-not as hot as yesterday,and with a tricky wind,that would play its part on the flat and exposed countryside of the area.I was aiming for something around 1hr 25mins and so was very pleased with my final time of 1 hr 23 mins 20 secs.That was good enough for 12th place and also resulted in my being 3rd counter in the Boston winning team.Not a bad day overall!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Banyan Trees and the single track out of the canyons




Yesterday I recieved a friend request on facebook from Robin Harford.I recognised the name-he ran a website called EatWeeds.co.uk,and also organised foraging courses near his home base in Devon.The ability to live off the land,and the sheer multitude of free food which is available and growing wild is vast.Living where I do the scope for foraging is doubled-woods etc and also the sea and beach.I must have left my name on one of Robins sites.While scanning through the information on Robin's profile ,I came across a character who has ,today,captivated me-a tall,striking man with wild locks by the name of Frank Cook.Unfortunately the information was a report of Franks death in August of last year from a tropical,parasitic infection.

Frank graduated university in 1985 ,with a degree in computing,but his primary passion was plantlife.Over the years he became of of the worlds leading authorities on wild plants,both for nutritional and medicinal purposes.He travelled the world,leading a simple life,seeking out plants he had not yet seen,in basic clothes and sandals,more than often walking everywhere-his few possessions in a rucksack.To fund his travels,he often taught on his field of expertise-plants-but ,rather than charging a fixed fee for this service,relied on donations-allowing people to pay whatever they could afford.He was a passionate advocate of a reconnection with nature-a path I am seeking to explore.Several people have questioned my acts over the past few years-a bemusement at wanting to escape the excess materialism and consumption of the traditional western world.They view my journey as a backward step.On the contrary,I view things in totally the opposite way.People like to believe that they are moving into the future with faster cars,more advanced televisions etc,etc.They seem to want to cocoon themselves from nature.However there is nothing more technologically advanced than nature-millions of years in the developement and every plant,organism and animal serving a self supporting purpose.If we want to move to the future-the move towards reconnection with nature is the way we should be heading.


The footage of Franks funeral is very moving-hundreds of poeple surrounding a large lake and all holding hands.According to people who meet Frank,he was a gentle,kind man,with a obvious passion for passing on knowledge and a good soul.Sounds like a good bloke.


Life seems to be going great at the minute.When Scott Jurek split from his wife a while back ,he compared life to running the trails.There were always beautiful mountain summits to make you feel great and deep canyons to have to run out off.Sometimes ,through the general twists of life,you may find yourself at the bottom of the canyons,trying desperately to find the single track ,which will give you the means to make an escape.The single track is always there,but sometimes may be obscured by trees or rocks-but if you keep looking you will find it.I'm just starting the long ascent-my legs feel great at the moment-and I'm enjoying it.


Running is going ok.Sometimes it seems that running is an afterthought to this blog.However thats how I wanted it.Although I love running,90% of running blogs out there are plain boring.I like to read facts on mileages etc,but love to get a glimspe into the mind of the runner-to see their fragilities ,as well as read off their triumphs.Its nice to get something personal from these runners-thats why I like to go on abit!The last couple of days I,ve been really tired-a combination of pretty big hours for the last two weeks and a few pretty late nights.I'II probably do the normal 2/3 hours tomorrow,and probably the 4/5 hours on Friday-but only slow!This Sunday is our half marathon at Friskney-a freshener for the London Marathon,2 weeks later.Will see how it goes!

Monday, 5 April 2010

Return to Nature



One thing I love about running is the sheer rawness of the experience-to be out among whatever nature has to offer.I love the days in mid summer-hitting the beach at the top of the North Shore Golfcourse and just getting taken back by the views afforded.Those days when its hot,the sky is blue,the crowds are out by the pier,but the beach infront of you is deserted and the tide is in-the water still and so inviting.These things are free and the ability to absorb and truely appreciate these things give you a step up from normal people,obsessed with the latest four wheel drive or outfit for the night.But this step up is not limited to anyone-but is available to everyone.
It's like running.Essentially its an act of freedom.You only have to watch kids or dogs when they first hit the beach-the first thing they do is run-an uninhibited run and an expression of joy.It truely is a return to nature,yet so often people and runners try to place artificial barriers in the way.Yesterday ,in town,I was passed by some guy running.It wasn,t hot,but he carried 2 water bottles-I don't know how far he was going-but the previous day I ran 4 hours with no bottles-he had a gps watch on-no doubt logging the exact distance to be ran at a preset pace-shorts and knee lenght compression socks,and an ipod strapped to his arm.I thought to myself that it was all a barrier to the essential freedom of running-to run at a pace that may be too hard or too easy on the day(who knows how you feel day to day!)and place himself in an artificial world of music.I have never ran listening to anything.I love music,but for me,running and music don't mix.It is a beautiful experience to get out and actually hear nature and just everyday things-snippets of peoples conversations when you run pass them etc.It also allows for some valuable head time- chance to think and rationalise things,in a near meditative way.Many of my running inspirations behave the same way-Anton Krupicka sites his minimalist approach to running ,and indeed life ,to allowing a reconnection with nature and the similarly minimalistic approach of Caballo Blanco allows for the whole running experience to become a source of joy ,not pain.Anyway-each to their own,I suppose!

Running since my return from Mexico has been good.Sometimes when you focus on one thing for a while, you can get swept up in a wave of ,not exactly demotivation,but certainly not motivation.Running for the first week of return left me very tired,but a sense of hunger was still there.The London Marathon(3 weeks to go)was on the horizon-and although I have never placed the race as a priority-that goes to the longer races later in the year-it still gives you something to look forward to.The Sunday after returning,I competed in the Lincoln 10k and was pleased with my time of 38mins31 secs-must be a pb, I don't do many.It was certainly not fast,in traditional standards-but I was satisfied.After that training has been similar to pre mexico-one run a day,Monday to Thursday-normally between 2hrs 15 mins and 3hrs and then one or two runs a day ,on my three days off, of any thing between 2hrs and 5hrs-all run relatively easy-with no GPS or ipod!