Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Breaking 3 Hours

Just over 2 weeks ago I broke the 3 hour barrier at the Amsterdam marathon with a time of 2.59.20. This has been a goal of mine for around 3 years and something which I have been gunning for and thinking about a lot. I feel like running the sub 3 marathon is the holy grail of marathon running. Having spent most of my running life running slow marathons and ultras with no speed work I wanted to give something different a go.

Sub 3 Marathon attempts

Brighton 2014- 3.12
London 2015 - 3.08
Paris 2016 -3.05
Brighton 2017 - 3.16 
Milton Keynes 2017 - 3.04

Brighton Marathon 2014

My first attempt was at the Brighton marathon in April 2014, going into this race my current personal best was around 3.13 from the Amsterdam marathon in 2010. I trained moderately, I didn't do any speed work which is something you have to do but I wasn't aware at the time. I ended up going out pretty hard and blowing up at around mile 16 - I didn't just blow up I actually struggled to finish the race but managed to jog/walk in but then collapsed on the line and ended up on a drip. The inexperienced marathon runner!

London 2015

2nd attempt, trained a bit harder but still no proper speed work. I ran the Rocky Racoon 100 miler at the end of January in 17 hours 51 mins so had a good endurance fitness level going into the race. I ran the North London Half marathon in 1.24 - this is where I thought I could have a chance as put this race in and a big half marathon P.B. This was my first London Marathon and what a race it is, people cheering the whole way and an electric atmosphere. I ran pretty good to start with but blew up at around mile 19 and struggled in with a time of 3.08 - a 4 minute P.B so not a bad result but still way off the sub 3 target.

Paris 2016

At a friends wedding I met Steve Hobbs a great runner (Marathon time of around 2.35ish through memory). He offers running coaching through his company http://www.themilestonepursuit.com. I decided to work with him in the run up to Paris and try something different. He set me a detailed training programme Jan-April over around 11 weeks with detailed training sessions running 6 days a week including an interval session, threshold session and a long run including marathon paced miles. This probably got me to the fittest I had ever been at the time and including the speed work, marathon paced miles definitely makes sense. You need to train harder/faster than you're going to run in a marathon and also train at the race pace on the longer runs to make it feel comfortable when it comes to race day. Steve doesn't just offer a training programme, the programme is adapted week in week out based on your needs but constant communication around how you're feeling and advice, etc. He also offers advice in terms of nutrition, mental and general preparation for a marathon which is all essential when going into a race. I trained pretty well for Paris hitting all the sessions and we thought this would be the sub 3. I started off well and ran an evenly paced race - unfortunately some stomach problems occurred (An aggressive stitch) at around mile 22 and ended up having to walk for a bit and struggled in with a time of 3.05.45 just missing out on the ''London Good for Age''. Again another PB but another disappointment. There is a massive difference in running a marathon for pleasure and putting yourself under pressure for a time as you put so much into training in the 3 months leading up to the race, it all comes down to that one day and if you miss that goal you set you have to pick yourself up again and decide whether you want to do it again. I ran the Autumn 100 in October that year so trained over the end of the summer/autumn mainly logging slower miles.

Brighton 2017

I decided to work with Steve again. Trained really well, better than the year before and a few races acted as great confidence boosters such as the Finchley 20 (A 20 mile race in Spring used as a training run in race conditions for Spring marathons) which I ran in 2.17.15 - spot on marathon pace. Brighton came and unfortunately for me the weather was ridiculously hot (Into the 20s) and my head went at about half way - it was just way too hot and I wasn't going to do it. I think I could have probably put in a better performance but the heat killed me physically and mentally. Ended up jogging and walking for a 3.16. I was absolutely gutted!

Milton Keynes 2017

After chatting to Steve he said whilst you have the fitness you should enter another marathon. It made sense, I had a stag do mid May so the best option was the Milton Keynes marathon 4 weeks after the Brighton marathon early May. My mate Paul Rowlinson was also running this so would be good to catch up with him. The plan with Steve was to try and recover quickly from Brighton and keep the fitness going into Milton Keynes. Race day came and ran a good race - paced well, unfortunately I threw up at mile 19 after consuming too many gels and I think the mix with gatorade pushed it. I ended up finishing with a time of 3.04.21 and had to work hard for that over the last 5 miles. Again not a sub 3 but a P.B and more importantly London GFA for 2 years guaranteed.

Amsterdam 2017 

Post Milton Keynes I took a bit of time off and went to Italy on holiday had some fun throughout the summer. I was still running but not training for anything and keeping it simple. I started putting in a few more miles towards the end of July running a marathon for fun on Saturday morning with a mate. I started building up to 50 miles a week over August and starting to add in the Threshold and Interval sessions. On August 20th I decided to enter the Amsterdam Marathon with only just under 2 months to go. At the time I just wanted a race and having run Amsterdam before I thought it could be a good one and Sam (My fiancĂ©e) had never been so we thought we would make a weekend out of it with her running the half marathon. So having put in around 5 x weeks of 50 miles and some good sessions I started to wonder whether I could have a crack at the sub 3. I started putting in the long runs with the marathon paced miles and started to up the mileage. For 4  weeks I banked 70 miles a week, I have never done that before in any training. 

Mileage in the run up to Amsterdam

W/C - 24th July - 53.7 
W/C - 31st July - 50.1
W/C - 7th August - 50
W/C - 14th August - 52.1
W/C - 28th August - 70.1
W/C - 4th September - 70
W/C - 11th September - 70.2
W/C - 18th September - 70.2
W/C - 25th September - 51.9
W/C - 2nd October - 44
W/C - 9th October (RACE WEEK) - 39.5

Total - 621.8 miles (11 Weeks)

Strava data - https://www.strava.com/athletes/7003533  

With about a month to go I thought I'm going to have another crack here. I ran the Southend 10k in 37.56 - a massive PB and a good confidence boost with 2 weeks to go. Race day came and we started in the Olympic Stadium. My race plan was to run slightly faster than race pace (6.51 min miles) - every marathon I have run I have slowed up in the last 10k so I wanted to run at 6.45 min miles for a 20 mile time of 2.15 giving me 45 minutes to run the last 10k. As we started in the stadium it was quite congested, so it took a while to get going but managed to thread myself through and helped with a slower mile first mile. I had to stop after mile 2 for a quick wee annoyingly but then settled into my race pace. After about 10 miles I was spot on where I needed to be, it was starting to get hot and a few negative thoughts did enter my mind but managed to block them out and carry on. The first 10 is in the city and then you go out to the river for about 10 miles which isn't the best part but there were crowds out supporting and music plus plenty of runners around. My nutrition plan was to stick to one gel every 25 mins and take on the Isostar energy drink every 5-6 miles. This worked really well and I didn't get any nauseas feelings. Once I got to 20 miles I hit the time in 2.15 and I was thinking in my head I have now got this. I was starting to struggle naturally but kept thinking in my head all I need to do is run the last 10k in 45 mins and keep the pace going. I just kept going and knocking off the miles moving into a 6.50/6.55 pace. I have was ruined that I don't really remember the last few miles, all I remember thinking was it was going to be close. When I got to mile 25 I was in a world of pain but had to keep pushing - I thought there is no way I am going to run 3.00 something - I ran the last mile in 7.12 (The only mile in the 7s), I crossed the line in the stadium and knew I had done it but collapsed and went straight into the medical tent. I had overheated so they just cooled me down with sponges. I knew I had done it but I didn't know my time (2.59.20) until I switched on my phone when I picked up my bag 45 minutes after I had crossed the line. It was such a relief, I felt so happy and still do now.

Race stats - https://www.strava.com/activities/1231215546 

Why did I do it this time?

A few pointers on why I think I did it this time.

1) New Nike Vapour Fly 4% trainers - without a doubt the best trainers I have ever run in.
2) I didn't have any ultra marathons in my legs, hadn't run an ultra for over a year so felt stronger.
3) Upped my mileage slightly but still stuck to similar sessions Steve had set me in the past.
4) I ran Amsterdam 8 years ago and broke 3.15 for the first time so mentally I knew it was a good race for me.
5) I took on a lot of beetroot juice in the 2 weeks running up to the race.
6) 10k P.B
7) Mentally stronger - It was bloody tough but didn't give up at any stage, even at mile 25 when I felt terrible.
8) Started doing core work 1-2 times a week.
9) Every failure has made me stronger.

What's next?

I would like to do a few cross country races over the winter, I have the Country to Capital 45 miler in Jan, Big London Half in March then the London Marathon in April. Time goal for London hasn't been decided yet, it will depend what I can fit in training wise. 

Final message

Anyone out there who has tried for a time and has failed, if you want it you will get there. You just need to keep going, adapt and you will get there.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Centurion Autumn 100

On Saturday I ran the Centurion Autumn 100 mile race. This race was a series of 4 'out and backs' starting in Goring and Streatley.

Below are the 4 spurs:
Spur 1: (Thames Path): Streatley to Little Wittenham and return
Spur 2: (Ridgeway): Streatley to Swyncombe Farm and return
Spur 3: (Ridgeway): Streatley to Chain Hill and returnSpur 4: (Thames Path): Streatley to Reading and return

In the run up to this race I put in a 10 week training block averaging around 50 miles a week with my longest run being a marathon on my own. I felt pretty good going into the race and was excited about starting my 5th x 100 mile race. 

I headed down to Goring from London on Friday night after work on the train and checked into a Hostel (had my own room) which was 5 minutes from the start. Friday night involved an early night and the usual thoughts going through your head - "Why am I doing this?"

The race started at 10am, this is quite late for a 100 miler (most start at 6am and some at 4am). The challenge with this race being mid October and the nights drawing in - was that the majority of this race would be run in the dark.

I woke up on Saturday morning at 6ish, had some breakfast (croissant, pain au chocolate and a banana) then headed to the start of the race for 8.30am to register. Registration involved the guys checking your bag for a water proof, gloves, hat, 2 x head torches, whistle, 1x litre of water and a mobile phone - this was mandatory kit and had to be carried at all times during the race. We made our way over to the start line and James did a race briefing for a few minutes. 

The race then kicked off and we headed off to Little Witteham on the first leg, which was the flattest of the 4. We made our way along the river and it was a lovely morning in terms of a nice temperature and blue skies. I ran with a guy called Tim for a bit and chatted away. We then reached Little Wittenham and turned around at the aid station. There were aid stations every 6.5 milesish and these were stocked with sandwiches, sausage rolls, wraps, chocolates and biscuits. When running a 100 miler I always try and eat something at every aid station plus take on a gel every 45 mins and an S CAP every hour.

I managed to run the first leg in 4 hours and went into the HQ to stock up on gels, I was greeted by Paul Rowlinson (an old running mate) who topped up my waters then I was off out on the 2nd spur. As I headed out on the 2nd spur I didn't feel good at all, this was probably the worst I felt in the whole race, I felt hot and sick so walked for a bit. After a while I started running then I got going again. This leg was great with a few more hills and more running in a forest versus by the river. I eventually reached the turn (Swyncome) and made my way back.

When I approached 37 miles, I saw Sam which was a great boost for me as I ran across a golf course. I made it back to HQ (50 miles) just after 6pm as it was getting dark. I was feeling better now and knew I was half way which is a massive boost in an ultra. I changed my top, Sam made me a tea and I was off again.

The next leg was now dark and we were heading out on to the Ridgeway to Chain Hill - this was a hilly section. I ran the first half of this leg with a German guy called Marcus and it was good to chat through the miles. I turned at 62.5 miles and it was just before 10 and decided to do a Facebook live video as never had done one before plus thought it would be a good bit of Saturday night entertainment. Thanks to everyone who tuned in!


I managed to finish 75 miles in just over 14 hours. I again stocked up with gels at HQ and grabbed some food then headed out to Reading on the final leg.  This was a long lonely leg, there was noone around. I headed out to Reading along the River and then along some wet fields which were making my blistered, swollen feet wet. I managed to get to Reading in 17 hours and 35 mins. This was a good confidence boost and with 13 miles to go, I knew I had this- just had to make it back to the HQ.

It was a massive slog but I made it home in 20 hours and 44 mins with a small sprint finish :). The last 25 miles were a massive mental battle and took over 6 hours. When I ran over the line it was great to be greeted by Sam and to sit down and collect my 5th x 100 mile buckle. This was a great race and I would recommend to anyone who wants to give a 100 miler a go. I'm typing this with some sore legs and a little tired but still buzzing. Who knows what is next!

Monday, 4 April 2016

My journey to the Paris marathon

This weekend I ran the Paris marathon with Sammi, Ash and Balmer. It was a great experience and one I feel I need to write about as haven't blogged in a while and would like to look back and read this back, one day. 

We entered the Paris marathon back in September. I was after a flat marathon in spring which I hadn't run before - Paris looked ideal and managed to get a few others involved. We got a great deal on flights and hotel organised by Sammi- I think all in it was £150 each for flights from City airport and 2 nights in a hotel, so would recommend to book early to get great rates. 

Paris was a sub 3 target for me after two attempts before- Brighton mara 2014 - 3.12 and London 2015 - 3.08. I decided to take it a bit more seriously this time with a coach who I met at a wedding back in November. 

My year started off with the Country to Capital ultra 45 mile race in early January, which I have run 3 times before and I managed a pb dipping under the 6 hour 30 min mark. After that my coaching started and a few things Steve (coach) introduced into my weekly training regime was one interval session, one threshold session and a long run including miles at marathon pace which worked really well- all the other runs around this were recovery runs.

In my 6-7 years of running I had never really done any speed work sessions or different types of training- it was always just miles and miles or 'time on feet' as we like to call it. So this was great to mix things up and also learn off a
coach who has a marathon time of 2.36! 

My first couple of weeks of training after the C2C 45 miler were recovery trying to get my legs back to normal. I had a 11 week training period with Steve which was broken out into recovery, introducing speed into the routine, going hard and taper then race. I really enjoyed the sessions, at some points they were really hard when felt like I pushed myself to the max. The great thing about having a coach makes you do the sessions to your best. As you're paying for it, you want to get the best out of the sessions and you're reporting into a coach daily/weekly etc so you feel like you have take on every session to your full capacity. I pretty much made every session apart from a couple due to illness. I also limited other things like alcohol consumption (I still drank but tried to keep to moderation) and tried to eat healthily. 

I ran the Brentwood half marathon 2 weeks pre Paris to see where I was and managed a 1.24 which put me in a good position for the sub 3 I wanted - I then tapered pretty well post Paris.

We flew out on Saturday morning, landed and went straight to the expo to pick up our numbers and then Saturday involved hanging around eating lots and trying to get an early night.
Race day- I was sharing a room with my mate Ash and Sam sharing with Balmer. Ash and I decided we wanted to go the race a bit earlier than Sam and Balmer so we set off at 6.45 with a race start of 8.45 to allow plenty of time. We got the tube and arrived at the Arc de Triomphe at 7.20 and then had a 10 min walk to the bag drop on Avenue Forc which is where the finish was. After dropping the bags off Ash and I made our way to the start line which had various different pens depending on your time. As we were walking down the Champs Elysee there was music playing and the atmosphere was epic. I must admit at points I felt goose pimples and my eyes nearly watered but they didn't! I dropped Ash off in his 3h 30 min pen and we said our goodbyes. I walked a bit further down to the 3h pen and then made my way in with about 20 mins to spare. I just stood there soaking it all in thinking about the race, the last 3 months of training and various things. There were different starts for each times for each time section with the first start for the elites at 8.45 to the 4h 30s starting at 10.15. I started at 8.47 - my aim for the first half of the marathon was to come into halfway as near to 1.30 as possible and run the 2nd half quicker as a negative split- this is what Steve wanted and I was willing to give this a go as I have blown up a few times in marathons at the end hitting the wall. I had 5 splits written on my hand- photo below and the aim was to stick to them and keep to 6.50 minute miles as much as possible. 

We kicked off at 8.47am and it was amazing running down the Champs Elyesee. The first couple of miles felt easy - I had to duck out for a wee at around mile 3 but easily caught up on my pace. By around 10k I was spot on and then half way I came through just over 1.30. 
On my watch I was under 1.30 but with the course my gps was ahead so had to play catch up. It was also starting to heat up and the forecast was 21 degrees - not sure what temp it reached but it felt hot. 

For this marathon I was aiming to take 8 gels - one every 20 mins to really fuel up which I had never done before and a couple of electrolytes - I managed to stick to this. Getting back to it- so between mile 13-21 I felt ok, a few ups and downs but all good- I was still concentrating on the green line in the middle of the course and the minute mile pace. I did fall slightly behind but not too far. 

When I hit mile 22 I hit a massive low and probably walked for 30 secs then picked up again slowly. I knew now that sub 3 was out of reach and just wanted to get to the finish and was thinking I'm still on for a pb here so carried on - for people who haven't done a marathon the worst bit is the last bit- if you have pushed yourself you pretty much have nothing left just trying to get to the finish. I came in with 3.05.45 and 26.4 miles on the clock. 

Bit gutting as London good for age is sub 3.05 but I sat down and was happy as my pb before was 3.08- I've had a day to reflect on this and I've got to think I've achieved a 3 min pb and I'm moving in the right direction. I then waited for the others who all achieved what they wanted - we had great support from Sam's parents and Claire (Balmer's mum). We celebrated with some beers and burgers which all tasted very good. 

Paris was a great marathon- well organised, amazing atmosphere, scenery, lots of water stops and great to spend time with family and friends- I would recommend this race to anyone wanting to run their first marathon and looking for a pb.

I would like to thanks Steve for being a great coach! I would recommend him to anyone looking to better themselves or train for a race. 

For me now I'm taking the next few weeks to reflect and think about future races- I'll be back raring to go again soon. 

Splits pre race & Ash and I

The Running Squad

Sammi and I 

Monday, 7 September 2015

My 4th Kent Coastal Marathon

Yesterday was the 4th time I have run the Kent Coastal marathon in the 7 and a half years I have been running. In 2008, my second marathon ever, I puked heavily after 17 miles having downed 2 litres of water pre race (you learn as you go along....) so I have some good memories of this race! 

I decided to run it only last Wednesday as I fancied a marathon to see where I was with my fitness. This year has been a bit of a mixed bag; starting off the year strong with my best ever 100 miler performance at Rocky Racoon 100 in Texas with a time of 17.51, North London half 6 weeks later - 1.24.57 (Half marathon P.B), London Marathon in 3.08 (P.B - wanted sub 3), entering Spartathlon, a DNF at the Harp 24 hour due to a bad back - rest and then back didn't approve so decided to pull out of Spartathlon as I didn't want to go into the race not at 100%. I put in a few miles over the last 3 weeks so decided to run with no time pressure.  This was really nice as most marathons I turn up to I am gunning for a time.

When we turned up to Margate the wind was blowing big time and it was very cold. I entered the race at the desk and then straight back to the car to warm up- I recognised some of the usual UK marathon suspects who turn up to marathons week in, week out. I got out of my car and ran over to the start line with a few minutes to go. My girlfriend had kindly driven me down to Kent and spectate (AKA go shopping) whilst I ran. The race was a mix of people running the marathon and the half marathon. 

We started at 9.30 running a mile away from the start line towards Kingsgate and then we turned around after a mile and headed back past the start line towards Margate/Westgate. The wind was behind us for the first 5/6miles and was along the seafront with a few up and down hills- it was really nice to start a marathon with a few low 7-7.30 minute miles and not gunning for 6.45s. 

We ran out to Westgate and at about mile 7 we turned around and ran a similar course back to the start into wind so the next 12 miles, up to about mile 20, were all into wind so slowed us down a bit. I still managed to keep up a leisurely pace and chatted with a few runners about their goals, races they had done, etc. I was starting to feel a bit of fatigue at around mile 18 but knew if I could get to 20 I would be fine as would be running the last 6 miles with the wind helping.

No matter how hard or easy you run a marathon the last 6 miles always hurt.

Once I reached 20 miles I turned around and headed back toward the finish. I wanted to come in around sub 3.30 so was on for that going through 19.5 miles at 2.30. I ran the last few miles with a guy called Keith who was 50 years old and we were both feeling the heat and pain as we cruised into the finish line. I came in with a time of 3.25.10 and collected my medal. I was so happy to finish and laid down, even after running 31 marathons now I still get that buzz for finishing. 

I am happy with my time and now thinking about another marathon/ultra for Q4. I am disappointed that I won't be going to Greece to run Spartathlon in 2 weeks but I think I have made the right decision - it's not the sort of race you can turn up to unprepared. 

Finally, I'd like to say thanks to the race organisers for accommodating my late entry on the day, the marshalls/volunteers who were pointing people in the right direction and handing out water/jelly babies and the various spectators. It is a great marathon and has a real personal touch, even calling out your name as you cross the finish line which means a lot. 

After running 4 Kent coastal's I always say I won't go back with that head wind but I definitely probably will be back again one day.

Strava Stats - https://www.strava.com/activities/386340582S

Monday, 16 March 2015

Vitality North London Half and run up to the London Marathon

Yesterday I took part in the Vitality North London Half marathon. I was running this race as my girl friend Sam was running and using it a fitness test in the run up to the London marathon in just under 6 weeks time. Having run the Rocky racoon 100 miler 6 weeks ago I wasn't sure what to expect. Over the last 6 weeks my mileage has been as per the below.

Week 1 - 0 Miles (Recovering from Rocky Racoon)
Week 2 - 33.4 miles
Week 3 - 58.5 miles
Week 4 - 19.4 miles
Week 5 - 53.6 Miles
Week 6 - 40.3 Miles (Including Vitality Half Marathon)

Sam and I set off at 7am to the Saracens stadium in Barnet, we got there at 8am but with a big queue into the car park and managed to park up by 8.30am. The race was starting at 9.30am so plenty of time to get ready. Sam dropped off her bag and then we made our way to the start which was 10 minute walk from the Saracens stadium. It was really cold just in shorts and a T-shirt but I knew that once I started running I would get hot. I lined up in the 1.15-1.30 pen and had view of Mo Farah who was starting this race - he was giving the Mobot signs and dancing to a few songs (Must be getting paid a few quid to do this...). I didn't know what to expect time wise, I thought I'll go off and see how I go. I started with a 5.59 minute mile, 6.10, 6.25, 6.07, 6.20, 5.53 taking me through 6 miles in 36.54 feeling pretty good so I thought I am on for a pb here - current pb 1.25.17. The course was undulating and set up well, good water stops. The half way point took us around Wembley stadium and then through the stadium which was pretty cool to run through and then we headed back to the Saracens stadium for the finish. I felt pretty good on the way back, there seemed to a be few more hills which slowed me down a bit and slight fatigue but still felt strong. Half marathons go so quick which I love compared to ultra marathons, once you're on 8-9 miles you know you're nearly done. I went through 13.1 miles in 1.23ish and was thinking where is the finish. Ended up crossing the finish line with 13.3 miles on my watch and a time of 1.24.52. Still a p.b but was measured slightly over and I spoke to a couple of others who had the same on their watch. I was over the moon with a PB. I then waited for Sam who came in with a P.B - 2.08.59 - I was so happy to see her cross the line and a sprint finish! All in all it was great race and really well organised. With just under 6 weeks until London I feel good about the prospects of running it, just need to carry the training on and get a few longer runs in. Really looking forward to running my dream marathon.

Race Splits

Sammi and I with our Medals

Sammi finishing

Monday, 2 February 2015

Rocky Racoon 100

We set off on Thursday 29th January catching the 1.40 pm flight to Houston- it took just over 10 hours. We then drove from Houston to our motel which was an hour from the airport,  in an area called Huntsville. One thing I noticed when driving down the motorway was all the big restaurants and flashing lights all the way down the sides of the motorway- you would never have that in the UK. The motel was pretty basic and about 15 mins from the race. 

On Friday we woke up at 4am as in Huntsville (6 hours behind UK) and went to Wallmart to get a few supplies and breakfast. James then went back to sleep whereas I stayed up hoping that I'd be tired later as we had to be up at 3am on race day. 

We then met up with Chris and John part of the UK contingent who James knew. We then went to the park and ran 2 miles through part of the course to keep the legs going and check out the trails, it was a nice a day and the trails looked great. We then had a pasta lunch and Ian Sharman joined us who ended up winning the race - he ran Rocky Raccoon in 12.44 in 2011 - unbelievable really. It was great to hear his views on the race and running as he is now a full time athlete who coaches people and has various sponsors. We then headed over to the park again, dropped off our drop bags and registered for the race. This then followed by the race briefing where all 400 entries gathered and listened to the race director and his team talk through the rules, aid stations, cut offs, how the race would run, etc. We then headed back towards the hotel had a subway and got into bed at 7pm (1am UK time) - my body clock was all over the place and I hadn't slept much at all. 

The alarm went off at 3am on race day, I was awake at 2.50ish and then it hit home. I had a shower and got ready, the race park opened at 4am with a 6am race start. To ensure that we got a good place near the start line we headed off and got there just by 4am. It was then a waiting game, having a bit of breakfast and counting down until 6am. At 5.50ish we made our way to the start line, it was pretty chilly but knew it would warm up so had a hat and gloves on which I knew I would get rid of after 6 miles at the first drop bag point. We lined up on the start line and the count down started from 20 seconds and we were off. 

My strategy for this race was to start off slow and conserve energy so started off with a few slower miles jogging through the trails in the dark with 400 other people all on their own little journeys. It's pretty amazing watching all the head lights go on. As we began running I noticed the roots through the trails, it only took me a couple of miles before I tripped and went head first over one, so had to be careful- especially when running in the dark. I heard later that Travis, a guy from the UK, broke his ribs and someone else broke their ankle on these roots. 

This race was 5 x 20 mile loops, on the first loop I ran a few miles with a guy called Tim who was from Canada, this was his first time at Rocky so had a chat with him whilst running, also ran a couple of miles with a guy called Paul. I then took off and settled into my own pace. After around an hour it was light so the head torch had gone, I was feeling pretty good. I went through the first lap in 3.09 which I was happy with, I then made my way through the next 20 miles in 3.07 so slightly quicker which was great. After 40 miles still feeling good, miles passing by and the 3rd lap done in 3.27, I went through 60 miles in 9.46. 

In a 100 miler I can't describe how mental it is. It was starting to get slightly hotter at this time and I was starting to feel slight fatigue, you always go through some bad times in a 100 miler where you think you're not going to finish or things aren't going to get better - you just need to ride it out. So I slowed up a bit through these few miles and then felt okayish again. I then came through mile 80 in 13.26 and I thought I am nearly there with 20 miles to go. I also started thinking I would love to have a time starting with 17. 

The last lap was all in the dark. I must have gone over 5-6 times on the roots so had to be careful as didn't want to injure myself.  Due to darkness and obviously fatigue this lap would take longer than the other laps. I managed to go through around 95 miles in 17 hours ish so I had an hour to get it done. 

I crossed the line in 17.51.45 in 25th place, I was absolutely delighted with the result - really shows what good training can do and how much I have improved as a runner - I definitely think there is a lot more in the tank as well. 

The thing I love about running is you can still improve as the years go on up to a certain age -whereas in most sports, athletes seem to go the other way. If you said to me pre race that i would finish in 17 something - I would have been over the moon. 

Rocky Racoon is a great race, thanks to the race director and all the volunteers who gave up their time to make this possible. 

So next for me I have the London Marathon where I'm going to have another bash at breaking 3 hours. I now also have automatic qualification for Spartathalon, which is 153 miles across Greece in September in 35 degree heat with cut offs at every check point - average around 130 people finish out of 450 and takes most people two attempts. I have until the 16th Feb to enter it, but at the moment not sure - I have a few people saying I should give it a go. If not, I will do another 100 this year hopefully as I've definitely got the taste again. 

I would also like to say thanks to James Elson for mentioning to me about running this race and put in a stellar performance with a time of 14.50 which he is amazing and he finished in 8th place - shows how much improvement he has made as a runner. Great to meet Chris and John and see these guys finish as well so always good when you have 4 finishers. 

I would also like to thank everyone for the good luck messages and all the well done messages! It really means a lot!

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Rocky Racoon 100 build up and a few thoughts

I haven't blogged since last April and over the last couple of years I haven't blogged much at all. I would say over the last 2 years I haven't run as much as I used to with the odd marathon and a couple of ultras - 45 miler and a 50 miler. It's been 2 and a half years since I completed a 100 mile race. I entered a 100 mile race - the Thames Path back in March 2013 and pulled out at 22 miles due to the cold,snowy weather and in all honesty my heart not being in it. Last year my main goal as a runner was to break 3 hours at Brighton Marathon, unfortunately this didn't work out the way I wanted it to with running with the 3 hour pacers until mile 21 and then completely losing it having to jog and walk the last 3 miles to come in with a time of 3.13 and collapsing on the finish line and needing a drip - scary but all good. Towards the end of last year I did the Great North run, Chelmsford Marathon, was running a bit more and I felt like I was ready to enter a big ultra again - I needed that challenge back in my life. James Elson my friend has run Rocky Racoon 100 in Texas (100 mile ultra marathon) 3-4 times over the last few years and he mentioned it to me and after a lot of thought I was like yes! - bring it on! So I entered the race on the 31st October. GIving me just under 3 months of training and time to ramp up. There were a few concerns - December being a boozy month in my job and socially with friends/family but managed to get through okay.

Training since w/c 27th Oct.

W/C 27th Oct - 44.5 Miles
W/C 3rd Nov - 33.5 Miles
W/C 10th Nov - 43 Miles
W/C 17th Nov - 30.5 Miles
W/C 24th Nov - 33 Miles
W/C 1st Dec - 24.6 Miles
W/C 8th Dec - 45.5 Miles
W/C 15th Dec - 58.8 Miles
W/C 22nd Dec - 68 Miles
W/C 29th Dec - 100.4 Miles
W/C 5th Jan - 50.1 Miles
W/C 12th Jan - 50.5 Miles
W/C 19th Jan - 18.8 Miles (So Far - likely to finish between 25 - 30)

Total - 601.2 Miles to date.

I feel really happy with where I am with my training and have put in some good weeks. From the 15th Dec I have run nearly every day with taking the odd day off here and there. I have also included some double run days, back to back long runs, a 30 miler and a marathon. If you would have asked me on the 31st Oct if I think I would have run this much I would probably have thought not. Amazing really with everything going on life you can make time to run whether it be before work, post work, running to pick things up instead of driving - it is possible people! I never believe in the excuse " I don't have time". So between now and the race I will run Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday then maybe a couple of miles on Friday the day before the race to assess the course. I fly out Thursday to Texas and the race is on Saturday then back by Monday lunchtime so it's all a bit of a whistle stop tour to maximise holiday days. I am really looking forward to it now, fingers crossed on the weather. Just looking at my weather app it looks like 13 degrees next Sat with light rain but I think it's a bit far out to be looking into the weather. The race starts at 6am US time so will be Midday in the UK and 5 x 20 mile laps with 5500 ft climbs so pretty flat. If you're interested in following the race you can by this link - http://edsresults.com/rr100/. So all in all I am feeling pretty good about this race, It's just making sure now that I get to the start line with no colds and injury free. Sam took this photo of me at a marathon in Folkestone a couple of weeks ago and overlaid this quote " A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of Glory". This is from a film which we watched a couple of weeks ago called Unbroken. I highly recommend it, it sums up everything in life and how lucky we really are - based on a true story.


 Happy Running!