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 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 am going to camp on the free state 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 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.



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'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


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


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