Race to the Stones 100Km Trail Ultra #racetothestones #lunasandals

After UMCB in Mexico I was looking for a Summer Ultra, but something a bit closer and easier on the pocket when I saw Race to the Stones. It was pitched as:

“The Race to the Stones is a fully supported 100km trail ultramarathon following in the footsteps of Romans, Vikings, farmers and traders along the iconic Ridgeway. You will pass Iron Age forts, ancient burial chambers, cross the mighty Thames and the mystical down-lands of Salisbury plain on your way to the finish line at the 3,000-year-old stone circle at Avebury”

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Here’s even more info for any history buffs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avebury

100km along a the Ridgeway ending in Avebury Stone circle sounded good, I just needed to sort out the logistics and start planning .

A day of so before, I even cleaned my Luna Leadville pacers which fit like a glove having done around 1,000 miles. They are a bit thin and I’ll probably replace them with the new Oso trail sandal when it is out, but it should be ok (or so I thought.)

I’ll be wearing Injinji toe socks with them which will give me a bit of padding, but mainly so any stones that fly up don’t open cuts on my feet so will give me a bit of skin protection.

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I drove down to Avebury on Friday night, had a dinner (Salmon) in the pub in the centre of the village and retired early as I needed to be up at 4:00am to get the coach from the finish (where I was camping, or sleeping in the car) to the start at Chinnor almost 2 hours away. At least this way when I finish I can crawl to the car.

Breakfast was 2 bananas as I got on the coach at 5:00am which with 3 hours before the start was just about right.

On arrival at the start it was get registered, attach timing tag to my ankle (a short piece of Luna leather lace usually does the trick) and fill up my camelbak & bottle.

Then a cup of tea, and join the queue to the usual little blue houses!

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I knew it was going to be a hot day probably 30C / 86F so my plan was to keep drinking from my hand bottle and refill it every Pit stop / Aid Station (roughly every 10-12k). I had 1.5 litres in my Camelbak should I need it (and I certainly did later on).

For nutrition I was using the following:

  • Clif Shot Bloks (caffeine version) – pretty much from the start, and at the latter stages when I needed the caffeine
  • Justin’s Nut Butters (Peanut & Honey) – They were great, just had to have them at aid stations due to the amount of water required to wash them down.
  • Quesadillas with refried beans & cheese – These I got the taste for in Mexico and were great, not too filling but with high carbs, fat & salt really picked me up
  • Banana Malt Loaf – small pieces to snack on and not as sticky as the normal stuff
  • S-Caps (Salt tablets) I was taking 2 tablets at every Aid Station

(I did have cups of tea and water refills at the excellent Pit Stops / Aid Stations, and a couple of flapjacks but that was all. I wanted to be pretty self sufficient on food I had trained with to avoid any errr …..shall we say “digestive distress” and I had none at all, hurrah)

Then we were off, as usual I started at the back as we were a mixture of people doing 100km non-stop and people doing it in 2 days camping overnight who were a bit more sprightly (though many of them paid the price later as only 60% of them finished).

The scenery was gorgeous and difficult to capture on a phone camera but I did try.

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One became very grateful for any shade as obviously on the “Ridgeway” there was not a lot of trees for shade.

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I did notice after a few hours that the “fluid” was looking a bit “strong” so I increased my water intake a little and upped the salt tablets to 2 an hour after starting to get “sausage fingers”. It was about 10 hours before my next loo stop by which time everything was back to the right colour and my sausage fingers were back to normal. (I seemed to have to stop every 20 minutes for the last few miles of the race as I was clearly emptying my fingers!).

I was also soaking my wrist and neck Buffs in water and pouring water over my head to keep my Visor Buff wet which was refreshingly cooling (and something I learnt in Mexico to keep cool).

Did a couple of Heart Rate checks during a few hiking stages (Normally my Resting HR is 55bpm & Max HR is 194bpm) and it was around 96bpm so not too bad.

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Run to the Stones 2013

 

Run to the Stones 2013

This was around halfway at 50k in 7hrs 40 min something like 16:30 Saturday afternoon.

I had hayfever tablets in my pack in case this field of rapeseed set me off but luckily it didn’t.

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Crossing the Thames at Goring & Streatley and seeing the ice cream vendors was very tempting (as were the pubs)

The Bad

I got to 75k around 23:20 and I was suffering.

My Luna Leadville Pacer huaraches were just not man enough for the gnarly rocky flint trails I was going along. I’m pretty light in them but the sharp stones just kept bruising my feet leading to a blister just forward of the ball of each foot. I stopped and changed my socks (which seemed to have collected a cup of trail dust each), cleaned my feet with the irreplaceable baby wipes (should be renamed “Trail wipes”), applied blister plasters and put on my clean socks, wonderful.

My other source of pain was chafing which I treated as best I could with my Bodyglide stick (oooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww).

I was now slowed to a half jog and “cowboy” type walk.

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This little guy made me smile in the early hours!

By now my Garmin 910XT had finally given out after 20 hrs 26min (which was pretty impressive as it is only advertised as lasting 20 hrs) and I was feeling really tired. The morning sun had come up and I was now walking slowly over rolling hills, each time hoping for a glimpse of Avebury or some indication that the end was near. I knew it couldn’t be more than 8k but it was taking forever.

Then I had an idea, in the last few Pit stops / Aid Stations the same runner would arrive (with his pacer) and snooze in a chair, I’d leave and later on he would pass me seemingly refreshed after his 10 minute sleep. Maybe it would work for me?

I came upon a fairly flat rock at the side of the trail, took of my rucsac and using it as a pillow laid on the rock backwards with my feet still on the floor. It wasn’t that comfortable which I was hoping would prevent me from falling asleep for too long. It was nice and warm in the sunshine and I must have dropped off, hearing some runners walk past as I drifted off.

As my Garmin was dead and my iPhone was in low on power and in airplane mode I wasn’t aware of the time but I reckon I must have dozed for 10-15 minutes, either way when I awoke I felt a lot better. I threw on my rucsac, popped a caffeine shotblok and headed off, with a bit more spring in my….err delicate stride!

I could see 2 runners ahead who kept disappearing and reappearing as they descended and ascended and each hill. Then they didn’t reappear! I kept walking hoping that meant they were descending off the Ridgeway towards Avebury and the finish, but trying not to  get my hopes up. I reached the point where they had disappeared from sight and there they were, descending the Ridgeway towards the little village of Avebury and the finish. I was nearly there!

Now I knew that the last bit of the route involved going into the middle of Avebury, between two of the stones and then following the shape of a letter “U” back the way we had come and then finishing down a long straight path ending in an Finishing arch and the farm where I had left the car.

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As I approached Avebury I pulled out my iPhone just to see the time, I wasn’t particularly bothered (as I didn’t think there was a cut-off time for getting 2 UTMB points, or at least my questions regarding that hadn’t been answered) but I wanted to know.

I glanced at the time and a cold shiver went down my back, it was 7:45am Sunday morning and the race started at 8:00am Saturday morning, if there did happen to be a cutoff for UTMB points it would be at 24 hours, shit thats 8:00am!

I started running, declined the offer to have my picture taken between the stones and headed back the way I had come and the two left hand turns that would lead me to the finishing straight. I glanced again (I was now holding my phone) 7:50am and I was picking up speed across the field towards the final turn and what I guessed to be 500m to the finish.

The pain in my feet and my chafing was fading as adrenalin was kicking in as I accelerated down that straight, mentally I was back in Bushy Park parkrun, throwing everything into that last 100 metres, except this was several times that distance and I was tired, but that tiredness was leaving me, being replaced by a fierce desire to beat that cut-off. I could think of nothing worse than missing the cut-off which I could have made if only I had speeded up for that last mile.

I was now 100 metres from the finish, it would be close, I could see people and the circa 7 minute mile pace I had been doing, gave way to sprinting which I knew from experience would cover the final distance in 16-17 seconds, whatever state I was in.

I crossed the line at 7:57am, stamped on the chip sensors just to make sure the tag I had tied round my ankle registered me finishing and staggered into the shade where someone hung a medal round my neck whilst I tried to get my heart rate to leave the dizzy heights of 190 bpm or so for something a little more sedate.

 The race had started late so my finishing time was 23:45, but better to be safe than sorry.

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My tired old pair of ‪#‎lunasandals‬ Leadville Pacers that got me through 100km of gnarly rocky trails (5,000ft ascent / descent) in temperatures of 30C / 86F are probably due to be replaced with a pair of Oso’s just as soon as I can afford them!

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All in all a great and well organised event, in fact brilliant for their first time running the event under these conditions.

Roll on next year’s, I’ve registered an interest already!

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Lots of running, some chilly weather and preparations for Mexico begin

I really seemed to have settled in to a bit of a running routine of late as I try to maintain a decent mileage (by my standards that is) in the remaining months before Mexico, so a normal week is generally looking like this::

Tuesday – 10 or 14 mile run through Bushy Park, along the Thames to Teddington Lock and home via Teddington (10 mile route) or continue to Richmond Bridge and back along the Thames to Twickenham and then home (14 mile route). Although I did get carried away last Tuesday as it was such a gorgeous wintery day I just carried on and did a loop of Richmond Park as well taking the distance up to 21 miles!

Thursday – 10 or 14 mile run through Bushy Park, along the Thames to Teddington Lock and home via Teddington (10 mile route) or continue to Richmond Bridge and back along the Thames to Twickenham and then home (14 mile route)

Saturday – Bushy parkrun 5k

Sunday – 17 mile run from Chelsea along the Thames path to Chiswick Bridge and back whilst Sam is doing judo @ the Budokwai

So generally I’m running around 40-45 miles per week in my Luna Sandals (Leadville model) unless on days when the trails are really muddy which is when I have to resort to my Vibram KSO Treks.

I was fortunate to win a competition at Luna a few weeks back that resulted in me receiving a free pair of their Tabi Socks which have been great for keeping my feet warm when it got down to -5C (23F) recently.

Here are some photos from my runs in Bushy Park over the last few weeks during the cold spell which was great for both running and photos:

The Bushy Pom Pom tree (Mistletoe)

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Toasty feet (thanks Luna)

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A quick play with the Panorama feature on my iPhone

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A few photos from my Sunday morning Chelsea to Chiswick Bridge runs before the cold spell:

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I think I was definitely warmer than this guy!

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and one from the Saturday morning 5k parkrun in Bushy Park where the wildlife can get a bit close at times:

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Mexico & Ultramarathon Caballo Blanco

I’ve had a Hepatitis A & Typhoid jab and I’m due for a Tetanus jab in January which will be all my innoculations over with. I’m now starting to think about what stuff I need during the trip and items like water purification.

In my next blog I’ll probably go into a bit more detail on how I will be getting down there, and hopefully I’ll be able to blog as I travel down and upload anytime I reach free wifi but we’ll see. I can see that my Powermonkey & solar panels are going to get a lot of use keeping my iPhone charged up.

Thames Path 100 (Richmond to Oxford along the Thames Path)

3 weeks after Mexico I’ll be pacing my neighbour James for the last 30 miles of the Thames Path 100, so sometime in early February we’ll probably run the last 30 miles of the course into Oxford to familiarise ourselves (well me anyway) with the course, as it will probably be dark when I’ll be running it in the early hours of the morning (unless James is really really fast!).

A Roman Camp in snow and mist, a 62 mile week, autumn runs along the Thames and yes more deer!

I can’t believe its almost a month since my last blog post.

I’ve been busy with a friends 50th birthday weekend in North Yorkshire where I was able to fit in a morning run “in snow” (Saturday morning) and in mist (Sunday morning) running through a Roman Camp (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cawthorne_Camp) on the North Yorkshire Moors! It was definitely time to start running in socks with my Luna Sandals

I’ve had a quite a number of early morning 10 and 14 mile runs through Bushy Park and along the Thames to Richmond with the obligatory deer of course.

My highest mileage week was 62 miles, partly due to a 23 mile Sunday morning run (6:30am start!) with my neighbour James where we ran through Bushy, Kingston, along the river to Richmond Park, where we did a lap and then ran back along the river to Teddington Lock and back home via Teddington. Unfortunately it was pouring with rain for most of it so we ran through an awful lot of mud which can be pretty challenging in Huaraches.

Finally my run last Sunday was a beautiful autumn 15 miles along the Thames from Chelsea to Barnes and back whilst my Son Sam was doing his usual Sunday Judo training at The Budokwai.

Oh, and here’s one from Saturdays Bushy parkrun where one of the course marshall’s looked a bit more fierce than usual.

Goodbye Man-flu, 10 mile training run, Misty parkrun, and 20 miles along the Thames

At last it seems that my cold has almost gone, so to celebrate I went for a 10 mile run on Friday morning, taking advantage of some sunshine. It was my usual circuit through Bushy Park over the Thames and along to Teddington Lock where I head home through Teddington High St and past all the coffee bars with people sat outside eating breakfast. Oooh the coffee smells good!

 

Bushy parkrun

On Saturday it was off to Bushy parkrun as usual, though I was just going for a run rather than a race (oops sorry, I mistakenly said “parkrun” and “race” in the same sentence so I’ll be expecting a knock at the door any time now from the parkrun police!) as having done 10 miles the day before and possibly a long run the next day with James.

It was the first of many misty mornings to come in Bushy as the temperature starts to drop.

Sunday run with James

So Sunday morning and James Bingham (my neighbour, mountaineer and RD of RingO’Fire Ultra) and I met up at 7am to go for a longish run as part of our aim of increasing our mileage in preparation for my 50 mile Ultra and James’s 100 mile Ultra  in March next year. As I’ll also be pacing James (in the dark) for the last 30 miles of his event it is good that we get used to running with each other.

We headed down to Bushy Park, along one of the West side perimeter paths and out Hampton Court Gate and over the Thames. We then turned right and continued along the South side of the Thames West towards Walton. It was a chilly morning, but the clear skies held promise of sunshine later. We were travelling pretty light a few energy bars and some water and a jacket in case the weather turned bad (plus I had a surprise in my Camelbak for later). I was wearing my Luna’s but had put on Toe Sox as my toes took 2 miles to warm up on parkrun yesterday

We were early enough to miss most of the rowing clubs getting their boats into the water, but we’d have that obstacle course of dodging around “eights” as they are lifted out of the water on our way back.

We got to our 10 mile and halfway stop at Weybridge Ferry (photo below) where a small flask of tea (the surprise) helped the Clif bars go down and after a quick break at our improvised “Aid station” we turned round and started to head back along the Thames Path.

 

We got home after a great 20 mile run in (mainly) sunshine with no ill effects on either of our legs (James ran 19 miles home from The City on Friday night as well) and I can see it being a regular run, when we are allowed to disappear for 3.5 hours early on a Sunday morning.

 

It was ironic that one of the conversations on the run was the breakfast we would have when we got back, particularly as James was locked out (family at gym) when he got home, so his breakfast consisted of a large mug of tea and 2 slices of toast and jam I took over to him as he sat on his doorstep in the sunshine.

It was still a great morning run and I look forward to next time!

 

 

Training, parkrun interloper, Bristol Half Marathon and no more road races (probably)?

With my last race of the year approaching on Sunday I reduced my training to a 9 mile morning run through Bushy run on Tuesday and a 10 mile on Thursday.

I was a volunteer “funnel marshal” at Bushy parkrun on Saturday and had to cut some of the finish funnel tapes at one point (whilst the runners were over at the start) due to the fellow below wandering rather close to the finish!

Sunday at last, I had driven down to Bristol on Saturday night and my friend Phil and I arrived in Bristol about an hour before the start. It was already starting to get crowded.

It was a bit chilly but pretty good for a run.

My target was to beat my PB/PR of 1:48:55 which I set in 2010 and I was hoping the increased miles I had been putting in would help.

I set off at around 8:15 min/ mile pace with an intention of pushing up to 8:00 min/ mile after the 1st mile. Of course I had forgotten that there were a few hills on the course.

I ran with my water bottle and a few shot bloks so I was able to avoid the rush and all the water on the floor at drink stations (which are a bit of a pain in Luna Sandals as they can get a bit slippy).

I felt fine all race and I finished in 1:47.52 beating my PB/PR by just over a minute and averaging 8:12 min/mile.

What I did decide after running up and down streets, round traffic islands etc was this was not that much fun any more.

The two Trail Ultra’s I did earlier in the year (  EcoTrail de Paris and The Wall) , and the training in Bushy Park and along the Thames that I have been doing is so much more enjoyable than running with thousands of other people up and down town streets and round and round traffic islands.

So for now, at least, I will not enter any more road events. I’ve already entered my “Bucket List” event Caballo Blanco Ultra Marathon in Mexico in early March 2013, and I’ve offered to pace my neighbour (and Race Director of Ring O’ Fire Ultra) James for the last 30 miles of his Thames Path 100 Ultra later on in March 2013. So maybe I’ll just look for another Trail Ultra later in the year. I must admit this one did look rather nice ……South Downs Way 100

We shall see…..

Bushy parkrun, training experiments and Caballo Blanco Ultra Marathon

Well its been an interesting few days on the running front.

I did a couple of 9 mile morning runs, not fast averaging around 9:30 min/mile. But what was different was that the 2nd run was on Friday morning, the day before parkrun. Now normally I would always leave the Friday free of running (to avoid feeling stiff & tired) as parkrun is my speed session as the rest of my runs (as you can see) are fairly slow as I tend to follow MAF so run to heart rate, rather than speed. Basic principle is as your aerobic system improves you go faster at the same heart rate.

So there I was at parkrun on the usual beautiful Saturday morning (along with 955 other people apparently), having run 9 miles the day before, wondering how I would get on, and I was pleasantly surprised. Although I was nowhere near a PB (which is no surprise as my speed has taken second place to endurance recently, aside from the finishing sprint) but I felt great during the run, legs lungs everything. I came in at 23:10 after a good sprint where I hit 4:08 min/mile pace in the last 100 yards.

This needs further exploring I thought, so on Monday morning I went for a 10 mile run and in the evening I went for an 8 mile run with Phil who was staying over (and I normally do Bath & Bristol Half marathons with every year).

10 Mile Run

8 Mile Run

Again usual speed, no aches left over from the morning run, felt great (even though it was dark, needing headtorches and it rained).

I’m starting to wonder if it is time to start adding extra runs as no sign of any injuries appearing, my Luna’s are still great, feet and legs strong as ever.

I’m now about 6 months away from my “Bucket List” race Caballo Blanco Ultra Marathon (CBUM) in Mexico, so I am conscious of the need to start increasing the mileage and particularly adding some hills, as the 50 mile course includes 10,000ft of ascent / descent. This is twice what I had to cope with during “The Wall” Ultra I did last June. I also need to lose at least 1 hour as I took 13 hours to reach 50 miles then as well, and the CBUM cutoff is 12 hours (but not that strictly enforced I am told, but you start to miss the awards and evening celebrations which would be a real shame).

I’d better get back to booking some accommodation and transport to get to the bottom of this 6,000ft canyon  in Urique, Chihuahua, Mexico or else I’ll be sleeping on someone’s floor!

Training, River Relay and Bushy parkrun

What a great 7 days weather for running. I managed to get in 37 miles of running, most of which was even in sunshine (alas a few more weeks and I’l be glad if it is in daylight)!

A couple of 9 mile morning runs last week, no running at Bushy parkrun http://www.parkrun.org.uk/bushy/home on Saturday (more on that later) a 5 mile run on Sunday to the start of my 5 mile river relay (and the 5 mile race back in the midday sun and 29 degrees C) and this morning’s 9 mile run (where the photos are from) after walking Oliver to the train station (which is not far from the entrance gate to Bushy park).

My aim was to have a nice run for around 90 minutes so getting home around 9:30, I had a water bottle (as the sun was already quite strong) and set off running from Fulwell rail station in my Luna’s. For some reason the gate I was going to enter the park was closed so I carried on through Hampton Hill to the next gate (alas having to pass bakers and coffee shops with people sat outside eating pastries….the bas***ds!) which was open and entered the park.

The deer were hiding in the long grass & bracken but I disturbed them as I went past and got glared at by at least one of them.

It was a glorious morning to be running in the park, which alas my photography skills and an iPhone just can’t capture, but I have a go anyway.

On reaching Kingston bridge I crossed, looking upriver towards Hampton Court with the Thames Path on the right of the picture.

After crossing at Kingston I headed downriver along the Thames Path towards Teddington Lock (the only river crossing between Kingston and Richmond bridges, and pedestrian only) where the Thames becomes tidal. The photo is looking from Teddington Lock back towards Kingston.

After running past some of those river boats wafting the smell of bacon & eggs onto the towpath I finally got back home hungry after a great 9 mile run.

As for Bushy parkrun http://www.parkrun.org.uk/bushy/home, as I had a race on the Sunday I volunteered for Funnel on Saturday (my usual practice when I have a race the next day). Rodney McCulloch and I had decided to be on Funnel together (along with many other volunteers needed to run such events) as we expected to have a large field, with the combination of Olympic fever, sunshine and the fact it was pacers (people running with the time they will finish held aloft on flags for people to try and keep up with!) this week.

Well we were right, we had 981 runners (2nd largest field ever) so after an hour of directing tired runners into the correct lane (more like herding exhausted cats) I had almost lost my voice.

Although I must admit I almost get as much of a buzz from “funnelling” the large fields at Bushy as I do running it myself! I think Rodney feels the same.

Next Saturday I’ll be running, though I’ll probably jump into the funnel to help after I finish, just for a 2nd buzz!