Last Blog before the long awaited UMCB Mexico running adventure begins

Well after months and months of training in rain, snow (and sometimes even sunshine) I’m on the last 6 days before I leave to journey to Mexico for the Ultra Marathon Caballo Blanco http://www.ultracb.com/ made famous in the book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall (http://www.chrismcdougall.com/).

It is expected that there will be around 120 international runners travelling from all over the world to run alongside 100 Mexican and 300 Tarahumara runners.

I’ll try and update my blog wherever I can get WiFi access as I’m sure the scenery will be stunning.

Its been tough keeping the miles up over the past few months with the UK weather and trying not to pick up an injury.

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Alas I had a twinge on my right calf after doing 30 miles in the snow on two consecutive Sundays (with my mountaineering neighbour and http://www.ringofire.co.uk/ RD James Bingham) a few weeks ago (suspect it was partly due to wearing heavier “minimalist” shoes than my Luna’s causing a slight running form change). After which I halted running and moved to just working on my quads using my Wife’s steps (whilst furiously massaging my calf so it’s fixed in time for the run). With the amount of ascent & descent (10,000 ft) the inevitable walking should give my calf a bit of time to rest during the run.

Alas the only thing I cannot train for (aside from the ascent & descent) for is running in temperatures of 35-40 degrees C at midday!!

Here’s a quick summary of my itinerary:

I fly out from London on Friday to El Paso, Texas (2 hr flight change in Dallas) and then on Sunday start a 2 day van journey (with an overnight stop at Cuauhtemoc) with 25 other runners to a hotel at the top of the canyons (http://www.mexicohorse.com/).

Tuesday some local hikes and a tour to Cerocahui and in the afternoon we will visit the local Tarahumara school where I will be giving a 10 year old laptop I’ve brought from Twickenham a good home!

Wednesday we commence a 24 mile trail hike down into the canyon whilst our luggage is transported down by van. Followed up by dinner with the runners in Urique at Madam Tita’s restaurant (of “Born to Run” fame)

Thursday we walk part of the course and in the evening 20 of us are going to a Temazcal Sweat Lodge at Cabañas San Isidro. Several hours of sweating later I’ll be glad for the swim in the waterfall.

Friday we walk another part of the course and pick up our race packets and in the evening attend a Pre-Race Runners Dinner with the Raramuri runners.

Saturday is a run for the Kids of the Canyons! Over 400 Children from all over the Canyons will participate in this run. All children finishers receive a Medal and a Shirt donated by Marathon Kids and a bag of School Supplies donated by the Runners and Supporters of the event.This is followed by a Pre-Race Festival in Urique Town Square.

Sunday at 6am the 50 mile Ultra marathon Caballo Blanco starts!!!! Presentations start at 5pm which I would really like to be back for, but 11 hours for 50 miles is 2 hours off my best time so we will see……..

Monday we all leave (walking very delicately I imagine) and start the 2 day drive back to El Paso where I catch a flight on Wednesday afternoon back to London having (hopefully) achieved the number 1 item on the top of my “Bucket List”!

Now what was number 2 on my “Bucket List”……….. 😉

.Oh yes, and I need to recover quickly as I’m pacing James for the last 30 miles of the Thames Path 100 Ultra (http://www.centurionrunning.com/thames-path-100-2013/) on the 23rd March!

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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…..

Morning runs, Thames and Boats

At 51 miles, last week was probably the most training miles I have run in a week and all in my Luna Sandals!

Monday – I continued my early morning runs through Bushy Park and along The Thames which I really enjoy and will miss once I find some gainful employment again. That 10 miles for the day increased by another 8 miles as later that evening my friend Phil stayed over (we are running Bristol Half on Sunday though he will beat me by at least 5 minutes!) and we went for an 8 mile headtorch run round Bushy, which can be a bit unsettling seeing lots of pairs of eyes reflecting your light back at you and knowing their are very pointy antlers a few inches above those eyes!

Wednesday – Another 10 mile morning run via Bushy and The Thames.

Friday – A 9 mile run via Bushy and the Thames due to starting from Fulwell station rather than home as I walked Oliver to the station first.

After crossing Kingston Bridge and heading along the Thames towards Teddington Lock I saw the following barge towing another barge carrying large pieces of wood. I was trying to work out what they were but finally realised they were lock gates. Probably to replace some further up the river, and what better way to transport them. You get an idea of scale by the 2 guys sat on the 2nd one in Hi-Vis jackets.

 

Sunday – As I was taking Sam to judo at Budokwai in Chelsea and would have 2.5 hours to spare I decided to pass the time running from Chelsea to Barnes & back along the Thames Path which is 14 miles.

The weather forecast was rain so I threw on a jacket (which proved useful later). It was a good run and I had just reached my turnaround point at Barnes when it started to rain. But the path was fairly well protected from the rain as the trees still had a lot of leaves on. Having run the path in the winter parts get get very muddy which can be a challenge running in sandals.

I made good time and got back early so I had time for a wonderful vanilla latte whilst waiting for Sam to finish. The Starbucks staff looked very glad this sweaty, muddy runner wanted his latte to go!

 

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!