Richmond – Teddington Lock 9.5 mile circuit – 4th July 2012

Having failed to go for a run on Tuesday I was definitely going on Wednesday night and arranged with my neighbour James (Race Director of www.ringofire.co.uk) to meet up around 8pm and fit in a run.

I intended to do my my usual 9.5 / 10 mile river circuit (but maybe I should have told James first ….oops)

We started a few minutes late but wearing my Luna’s and carrying  a water bottle we headed into Crane Park. Having been training alone for months I’d normally settle into my comfortable 10:15 min/mile “ultra” speed but with James I know it will be faster so we settled into around 9:30 min/mile.

It was nice when we finally cut through Twickenham and reached the Thames, where we ran along to Richmond Bridge. Once over the bridge we turned right and headed past a few restaurants on the river, Gaucho’s always smells wonderful (http://www.gauchorestaurants.co.uk/restaurants/restaurant.php?id=richmond), before reaching Petersham meadows.

The path is quite rocky and muddy on this section so we hopped over the wall into the meadows and ran along the grassy path that runs parallel, before joining the river path again a few hundred metres later.

We passed a few people walking, but the light was starting to fade, and we had to do a fair bit of navigating mud and puddles at times where the tree canopy above is quite dense so it is pretty dark. Much later and I would be wishing I had my headtorch as it is far too easy to kick a rock, and in sandals that hurts a lot!

It was a fairly warm evening but having neglected to tell James exactly how far we were going (else he would have brought water as well) meant we shared my water bottle as we got quite thirsty.

We discussed “The Wall”, how beneficial my kettle bell training was for hill climbing and and how some of the race arrangements that I viewed as successful may be relevant to James’s event. We also talked about me having to make a decision soon about running the 50 mile Copper Canyons Ultra Marathon (CCUM) in Mexico in early March 2013 as entries have now opened.

We reached Teddington Lock, crossed the river, and headed back through Teddington to home. Running on pavement is always a real “downer” after the trails along the river.

It was a good run and nice to be able to chat with James as we ran, which is also a good check that we were running aerobically!

Thanks James.

Advertisements

The Wall Ultramarathon 69 miles – 23rd June 2012

On Saturday 23rd June 2012 I ran the furthest I have ever run, 69 miles and 4,700ft of altitude, and I did it in my Luna Leadville Pacer Sandals (https://www.lunasandals.com/), and with the weather on that day they turned out to be the best footwear choice I could have made.

The race was called “The Wall” (http://thewallrun.com/) and was a 69 mile Ultra marathon along Hadrians Wall, a 2,000 year old wall which was the most northerly permanent component of the Roman empire.

(The race finished in the middle of Newcastle but alas my garmin battery died after 20 hours)

I set off from Kings Cross station on the day before, nervous and wishing I had some “magic” to help me complete the distance, but alas this is as close as I got (Harry Potter fans will understand).

The start was from Carlisle Castle at 7am on Saturday (there was another start 1 hr later for those runners completing the race in 2 days, but the thought of running 32 miles, camping, and then getting up next day knowing I had another 37 miles to run didn’t appeal!).

I was staying at a hotel close to the castle so after a light dinner (no exotic or spicy food for me that evening…….) I headed up to bed after setting 4 alarms on my iPhone and booking a hotel call for 5:30am (they had laid on an early breakfast for 6am as there were quite a few runners staying).

RRRRRRRRRiiinnngggggg

Ugh, my various alarms went off and I pulled back the curtains to see …….. rain!

I showered (whilst thinking why am I doing this, I’m going to be getting wet for the next 20-24 hrs?) dressed and went down for some toast & tea.

The topic of conversation amongst the runners was….you guessed rain, and what to wear / carry.

On return to my room I surveyed my 3 bags, my running rucsac, my drop bag, roller bag.

I was running in my Luna Leadville Pacer sandals (traditional leather laces), shorts and a short & long sleeved technical top with my OMM waterproof on top. I was in trouble if it did stop raining as I had nowhere to put all this stuff as my bag was already full!

My running rucsac had food (Clif Shot Bloks & Clif bars), 2 litles of Nuun in my Camelbak, mandatory first aid and safety kit, spare warm top and waterproof trousers for when I get cold in the early hours. I had also packed my headtorch, just in case my drop bag (with spare clothes and more food) didn’t make it to the halfway pitstop at Vindolanda. I was also carrying a pair of Mountain King “Trail Blaze” running poles (http://www.mountainking.co.uk/) which were so light I intended to run with them folded in one hand, getting them out for any steep climbs (I did an ultra earlier in the year where I was picking up bits of wood to help me up steep climbs in a forest, so I was not doing that again) and when I slow to a walk for the latter stages of the run.

I grabbed my bags and headed down to the start at Carlisle Castle.

It was pretty miserable at the start with around 200 people (around 200 are running it in 1 day and 600 are running over 2 days) muttering about the rain and unpacking waterproofs.

Fortunately I had bought my Aquapac waterproof iPhone case so I should be able to take pictures, even if the quality is sometimes not that hot (see below).

As usual I got lots of strange looks due to my footwear, but I did see one person in VFFs.

The start was delayed for around 20 minutes but we eventually got under way (after some “stuff our lawyers make us say” type talks by the organisers) by around 7:20am.

The first few miles wind around streets and parks next to the river, which I got my first inkling as to what was in store. Water, lots of water. The river had flooded (and was about to break its banks again), the result of which was all the paths near the river were under 8-9 inches of water.

I had great delight in running through these flooded areas whilst all “shod” runners queued and tried to thread their way around the water trying not to get their clean trainers and socks wet.

It wasn’t long before the looks of puzzlement at my strange footwear turned into looks of envy as I ran through the water, shook my feet dry, and continued running on the paths (accompanied by cries of “stop rubbing it in!” ).

Here are a few videos taken during the run.

My nutrition and fluids seemed to work well (I was drinking about 0.7 litre per hour and eating 6 shot bloks per hour) from all indications (I’ll avoid further details you’ll be glad to hear).

In the latter stages when the paths were alongside the river we were wading knee deep through the flooding (when we told the staff at the next aid station they said that the first runners through earlier in the day had to wade through water waist deep!). I was almost using my poles as a depth gauge as knee deep water was ok but I didn’t want a swim.

I managed to last until 10pm before I had to get out my headtorch at which point I put on my warm top as I was slowing down and starting to get a bit cold.

I reached the 62 mile pit stop at around 3:00am by which time I was consuming anything with caffeine in (Gu’s, shot bloks I mean anything to stay awake). I had a wonderful slab of chocolate flapjack and nearly fell of the chair with sugar rush. In fact I really did fall off the chair(I think I fell asleep for a second before the sugar hit). A quick cup of tea and then I and another runner who was continuing (we left several “youngsters” behind who were dropping out) left together to cover the last 7 miles that seem to take forever. Boy was I glad I had poles now.

It even started raining again as the sun came up so I stopped to put on the waterproof trousers to fight off the cold for a few more miles. It was ironic that the warmest part of my were my feet, and they were bare!

I crossed the finish line in Newcastle at just after 6am, exhausted, hungry but grinning from ear to ear at what I had accomplished, and very impressed with the organisers of the event (http://www.ratrace.com/run/) who had to cope with some appalling conditions on their first Ultramarathon along “The Wall”.

Now this event was entered with one objective in mind, to prove that I can run over 50 miles, and why? Because I want to travel to the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico to run the Copper Canyons Ultra Marathon (CCUM) in March 2013 (made famous in Chris McDougall’s book “Born to Run”).

I met the main character in the book “Caballo Blanco” in London last year and he referred to me as the “2013 guy” (he tried to get me to run it in 2012 but I declined as I needed more training). Regrettably Caballo Blanco (Micah True) died whilst running trails several months ago, making it likely that the event in 2013 will turn into a celebration of his life, the native Tarahumara people and place that he loved.

Now to sell the idea to my Wife…………

Sunshine at last, Thames path, Bushy parkrun, Barefoot and midges – 12th May – 2012

At last, it has stopped raining and I can run in sunshine, for today at least!

After several weeks of constant rain (mind you, we are still in a drought with a hosepipe ban) it was good to head down to Bushy parkrun on Saturday and see Heron Pond back in sunshine again.

I’ve been rather remiss and not updated my blog for a week or so, during which I’ve done:

A 16 mile run on a Sunday morning along the Thames Path from Chelsea to Mortlake and back (whilst Sam was doing Judo at Budokwai). It was a great run, lots of people running and rowers training on the Thames.

A couple of 10 mile runs to Sunbury & back alas in the dark with headtorch

A few more 5k barefoot runs on road to harden my feet

and of course the usual parkruns

I’m probably going to volunteer at Bushy parkrun for the next month or so, as I can’t do a parkrun without a full out sprint for the last 100 metres, and on Saturday I felt a twinge on my right calf as I had to weave in and out of runners in my final sprint. It will be ok after a few days rest and massage but I can’t afford the risk of doing it again closer to my Ultra in June.

I do enjoy Funnel (I normally jump in to help out the Bushy funnel after I finish the run as with 800+ runners each week help is always needed and appreciated), as its good to see my “double funnel” design working and gives me a chance to see how it can be improved.

I’m starting to think about my footwear for my Ultra in June (http://thewallrun.com), my Luna Leadville Pacers (8mm sole) were really comfortable on the rocky Thames Path run, but I may put in my Luna Leadvilles (10 mm sole) in the drop bag for halfway as I will probably appreciate that extra 2mm of sole thickness after 32 miles!

I’m also trying to find my old mosquito net head gear as running at night (that close to Scotland) wearing a headtorch may result in me eating large amounts of midges! Ugh!

My first ‘Barefoot’ 5k run – 26th April 2012

I had been meaning to test my running “form” for ages, to see if everything was looking good for my Ultra in June, so when It stopped raining and the sun came out I thought I’d give it a try.

I picked up my Luna’s (as backup in case things got ugly) and headed off to do 6 circuits of the nearby roads (5k). That way if it went bad I could drop out and not be far from home.

I started my Garmin and headed off “barefoot” down the road!

The first thing I noticed was the different temperature and texture of the various road surfaces where the road had been repaired at different times.

Lap 1 went ok, so did lLap 2, after which I just kept going, spurred on by a mental picture of Dr Mark Cucuzzella’s impressive barefoot video (except a hell of a lot slower).

Well at 30 minutes it wasn’t the fastest 5k I have ever done, but it was certainly the first I have done completely barefoot!

In case you wondered, no blisters so I must be doing something right!

I’ll try and repeat this once a week, with the aim of toughening up the soles of my feet to reduce the chance of any blisters when wearing my Luna’s on the Ultra in June.

 

 

‘Why are you running in those funny shoes?’

‘Why are you running in those funny shoes?’.

20120120-094326.jpg

Now if only I had £1 for every time someone asked me that, or else stood just beyond my peripheral vision (or so they thought) at a race start and pointed at my feet. My journey to ‘barefoot’ or ‘minimalist’ shoes started whilst on holiday in Vermont, USA in August 2010. We were on a family hike through woods that brought you out at the top of a ski lift that was closed for the summer. As we started to descend I saw a family group still ascending the mountain but didn’t pay much attention. A few minutes later it was pointed out to me that the kids were not wearing any shoes or boots and that their Mother had some of those toe shoes things on. Toe shoes, what are they I asked my Wife, who then explained she had read an article in the scientific journal Nature about barefoot running and a new type of shoe that had pockets for each toe. ‘It’s supposed to be better for you, something about normal running shoes distorting how your body would naturally run, which results in injuries” she said.

I was now curious and once back at the house we were renting (which fortunately had WiFi) I began surfing these shoes and the Harvard scientist (Prof Daniel Lieberman) who published the paper in Nature. I also nagged my Wife to get me the full paper from Nature.

Crouched over my little iPod Touch I read and read, watched interviews with Daniel Lieberman on YouTube and was, ok I admit it, probably a bit obsessive for a few days. By the time we were due to spend our last 3 days holiday in Boston I had already found out where the nearest store was that sold these Vibram Five Fingers things (CitySports).

On the evening before I intended to visit the store I planned a nice stroll around Boston that just happened to go past the store (so I knew where to go as I would only have an hour tomorrow).

They day arrived and I headed down to the store, Amex card in hand. Wow, it was a huge store covering all sports…. and over by the running shoes a display stand of Vibrams. After 20 minutes with a knowledgeable assistant I walked out with a pair of Vibram Bikilas and a book titled ‘Born To Run’ that I had never heard of, but was strongly recommended to read. Between them, those 2 items have had a tremendous impact on my life as a runner.

20120120-081223.jpg

Fast forward 19 months and I have met 2 key characters from the book (Barefoot Ted and Caballo Blanco) and have been running in Barefoot Ted’s ‘Luna Sandals’ for over a year (I love them).

20120120-081432.jpg

Even my office shoes are Vivobarefoot ‘barefoot’ shoes as I found that it accelerated my transition from normal running shoes and enabled me to run a half marathon 2 months after first switching to Vibrams.

I’m now training for 2 ultras in 2012 (50 & 69 miles) and will enter the Copper Canyons Ultra Marathon (the race featured in ‘Born to Run’) in 2013.

Here’s a video about the Copper Canyons Ultra Marathon, the scenery is stunning and running it will definitely be an item to tick off my “bucket list”.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIyEvomUz14&feature=youtube_gdata_player

So basically, that’s why I wear those funny shoes!