Tuesday, March 28, 2017

More than a Medal: Bolton Abbey Trail Marathon 2017

Bolton Abbey Trail Marathon  (Saturday 25th February 2017)

I'm writing this a month on from what was my first 'Marathon' of the year, and in the middle of tapering for my next race the DT20 km of the Dale Trail Series Grand Slam for 2017.  I hadn't done a marathon for a while as a race distance so it was nice to get another 'Marathon' as an event under belt and pick up my first running medal for the year - which felt like a novelty as most of last years races didn't come with a medal at all, just memories and the occasional mug and of course the race number which I just can't seem to throw away.

I feel like you take more away from a race than a medal, it's the friendship gained, encouragement given and received, the knowledge of persevering and willing each other on to do well and exceeding  estimations of ourself and of others surprising us. These races can become the 'norm', but in the ordinary there is always the extraordinary at work.

To go back a little, I booked onto this event as a friend Pete Harrison was running the ultra and thought I would go along and cheer him on as the races started together and it would be great to run together even though we would be doing different distances and be an 'unofficial pacer'. I had known Pete when he was growing up in Malawi and hadn't seen him for about 6 years. He came in 2nd on the Ultra-marathon with a brilliant effort; I managed a 6th place on the marathon which I was happy with as I had not trained specifically for a marathon distance event... it's all been focused on the longer and hillier routes. I should really try and do one of these properly one day. The promise of rain never really materialised and after some brief drizzle it was cool with the occasional drop, which was appreciated as the course though mostly on track by the river, did loops over some grass fields and a couple of muddy sections which needed good trail shoes on what was an undulating trail along side the River Wharfe with an accumulative elevation gain of around 2000ft its definitely not flat... but still runnable.

The event was low key but enjoyable with the added extra of starting with the half-marathon runners who always shoot off at a pace, which means if you start as if your in a race you will be at the front of any of the longer events happening at the same time. Running with the half-marathon runners and a few others marathon and ultra runners which were few are far between, checking out peoples colour on the number to keep track if they were in your event becomes a bit compulsive, not that I'm competitive at all! I had a bit of a niggle which was fine for the first 15 miles but started to slow me down from about 18 miles... so Pete carried on with out me as I just dug in for the duration and was happy with a sub 4 hour time. I did an extra mile to cheer Pete on at the end so I felt like I had done my own 'little ultra'.

Running as a Hyde Park Harrier and with it being a relatively local event to Leeds, there were a few Harriers out in the half-marathon and marathon - here is Phil Hammond our very own Marathon Man on his way to complete this 114th or 115th marathon, (I lose count, he will let me know),  he used to be my neighbour 20 years ago and who would have thought we would end up running a marathon together...the first of many to come I hope.

Job done... there is always a great goodie bag to take away with 'It's Grim Up North Running' and with it being a low key event great if you want to give the marathon distance a go without the crowds but still making friends. I would recommend the event, and you can even run it again the next day which many seemed to be doing. I had other plans, the Ilkley Fell race awaited.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Up and Not Out: Upping the Elevation gain

End of second week of training, which has been primarily based on upping the elevation gain... which of course if it goes up it must come down. Week one consisted of 60 miles and a tad over 13,000ft.
Week two was planned along the same lines with a roughly planned 9-10,000ft at the weekend with about 52 miles and 12,700ft accomplished.

'Up and Out'

The first weekend of training started with a 'Up and Out' to the top of the Rombalds Moor, Ilkley. A 6:30am start  hitting the first trig point at just before 7am, a fantastic way to start the weekend, this was planned for the following weekend, but I just hadn't got all my gear together the night before, and where I had been sipping Mountain Fuel -Night Fuel hot chocolate the week before - which was really good, and was made with just hot water and a dash of milk, a great substitute for a normal hot chocolate and with the added benefit of mentally preparing you for the next days run.

Week 1
  • Lunch run hill reps
  • Lunch Trail run
  • Lunch hill reps / after work hilly run
  • Rest
  • Rest - (I was itching to get out for a long run)
  • Ilkley Moor x5
    • I like to mix up the running, with trail, road, bogs and dirt paths, this is a favourite descent on Ilkley Moor.
  • #EastChevin10 + Surprise View 

'Up and Not Out'

Anyhow my grand plans of an early start this weekend, never materialised...overslept my ambitious alarm time, the snooze button is my friend Monday-Friday, but on the weekend its my nemesis!!
The sunrise run will have to wait for another day.  Life and family can fill any time left remaining, I re-arranged for an afternoon outing to hit the hills and get the weekend running off a little later than planned. Time to sort out the 'Stuff' that gets left for another time as this running malarkey takes up a lot of time. Having watched some footage of the Hardmoors 55 lot setting off just after 9am this got me re-focused.

During this second week of training I've had been testing Mountain Fuel without the Night and Morning fuel added in, just using the Extreme Energy and Recovery Fuel. (Bought the trail pack and trying to make best use before getting more.) I think I could have done with more Night and Morning fuel!

Week 2
  • Lunch run hill reps
  • After work hill reps - Is this some sort of 'Urban Felling Running'? -comment made by passer by who stopped me half way up the steps! Which are well known to the Hyde Park Harriers as the 'Burley Steps' for those HPH Speed and Strength' sessions.
  • Lunch hill reps
  • Rest
  • Rest  - (Not keen on the second day rest -but seem to recover well)
  • Ilkley Moor
  • #EastChevin10 + Surprise View - with a welcome flapjack to finish off the training accompanied by a sunset. What is there not to like about this running malarkey?
Couple days rest now to recover then it will be time to find the racing legs again.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Opps I did it again x10 - Hill Reps #EastChevin10

I've been doing hill reps again... I just love them! I might be crazy but I thought I would share my take on the mental endurance of a hill rep session. (Disclaimer x10 is not mandatory...just me!)

  • Rep1: Oh good I'm off...Why am I doing this?
  • Rep2: I'm not thinking about this... I find this one hard...mind wanders.
  • Rep3: At least that's a good session...don't give up....
  • Rep4: This is taking a long time.
  • Rep5: Yeah, I'm half way!
  • Rep6: Did this one actually happen...blank. Tough it out.
  • Rep7: My favourite, achievement and hope mixed together... Re-determined to get this done.
  • Rep8: Dig in.
  • Rep9: Almost one to go so I get a bit giddy... danger of complacency, keep it consistent.
  • Rep10: Finish well... the last few hundred metres seem a long way, but run through the finish. That was great... forget all that went before!
There is something about the repetition and the step by step building up of miles and of elevation that I like; as well as the resistance of the up hill climbs.

This weekends training was a go to training session for me: 10reps of 400ft+ my own training segment #EastChevin10.  This weekends effort was 14.4miles and just over 4600ft in total  taking me over 500miles for the year as well; 60 miles for the week's training with 13,000ft. 

I had planned to run the full session without pauses, hiking, or walking...it needed to be all running; the overall pace was slower than usual, but was consistent with the running up hill and there was no boom and bust...which felt like a goal achieved. By not blasting the downhill sections I can keep training this week.

I might be a bit crazy but I added an extra hill to a view point at the end as a reward.

I find I concentrate on the running up, but on the downhill's there's time to think, sometimes too much.

I'm not at the level of my inspiration for these hill rep sessions, that is I'm not the 'SuperTrooper' yet #Ben10 Ben Mounsey, but I'll at least give it ago and look for those gains.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Sunrise to Sunset... Tour de Helvellyn 2016

I've always loved Helvellyn so the chance to do the Tour de Helvellyn winter ultra last December was just to good to be true. A winter ultra with plenty of elevation to test the legs and 38 miles of navigation between checkpoints and 7,000ft+ of elevation. The Recce a few weeks before was full of snow but on race day it had cleared.

After sleeping in the village hall the night before, meeting folk and discussing ultras and the route, lovely atmosphere. I was amused to see that the team organising the event, spent much of the evening fixing with planks, hammers, and bricks the beer keg tap in place. It needed to to be straight. Brilliant team effort and I can't rate Nav4 Adventures enough for their down to earth, real attitudes with hearty hospitality. They make great soup too!

Once I got my head down and it was lights out I hardly slept. I kept waking up having dreamt I had lost my 'orange' raincoat and couldn't find it for the kit check! I don't even own an 'orange raincoat' so I told myself, 'the kit is fine, get back to sleep'. Well I was still up super early, gear on, porridge collected and eaten.  I had met another runner the night before and we decided to set off just after 7:40am to get through the kit check, which is thorough, then it's dib in and your off. Still dark, but enough light to not even bother with the head torch. The sun beginning to rise as we headed up the road, through a few gates and on to the moorland, the days adventure had begun with the plan to make it back in before he sun goes down. Sunrise to Sunset was my goal.

My plan in general was to take the first section to the CP2 really steady and let the miles just pass by in the early morning...this is how it went with plenty of chatter.

Coming down from Boredale to CP2 it was well worth a stop to take in the morning views with plenty of the route to go and the big climbs still to come. With the first check point and a welcome cup of coffee and snacks ahead could it get any better.
Pic taken by Ian Heywood my running buddy

Sticks pass on the recce had been a foot deep in snow, on race day it was near perfect, the sun was shining; it just goes to show that you need to be prepared for any kind of weather. I had planned to run the early sections of the climb then power hike the rest, this seems to work well and I enjoyed the climb.
Joe Faulkner (NAV4 Adventure) 

Reaching the highest point of any race is welcome and with a photographer near the top, best running stride required; seeing these pictures puts into context the glorious views that during an event can if your not careful just pass you by.

At the top of Stick pass the route takes you down at times steeply to the footpath which runs along to the carpark and one of the other CP's that had food and drinks available..I had a festive mince pie at this one (CP5); this short section running wise was the most difficult underfoot, with on the day a muddy but rocky path, making it at times difficult to get a footing and much slower going than expected. Coming off the top of Sticks Pass noticed more some runners taking better more direct route on the mountain, saving time, with some local knowledge definitely an advantage.

After the checkpoint, it is along a newly graded path, up and down for a few miles until its up Raise Beck with a nifty water crossing. This was the only point on the day where the cloud misted up and it became quite atmospheric. This climb is a tester with 21 miles already on the clock.
Once at the top of Raise Beck Grisedale Tarn awaits for some rocky view points down the valley back to Patterdale, which at this stage of the event getting back to Side Farm for some might be the end of the event if they didn't make the cut off - this is about marathon distance and there is plenty running left to do and the last section shouldn't be under estimated as the evening draws in and the legs get tired and the requirement to navigate your way in fading light.
view near Grisedale Tarn towards Patterdal

Don't forget Boredale Hause!
On the way past CP8; CP1 on the way out, you can choose which way to go, behind St. Peter Church which is the way we took earlier in the day, better under foot in reflection and less descent, keeping the elevation gain. on the way back I opted for the route which is a steeper descent, picking up some road sections and passing Howtown to connect again with the footpath.

This final picture sums up the day for me, my goal had been to get back before the sunset and I did, and here I got a glimpse of the end of the day coming to spur me on to the end (8hr 45mins), heavy legged but well pleased to have taken part; I'm going to be back for more, next with the Lakes Mountain 42 in April. I should mention the after event chat, drink and food was awesome, a truly friendly bunch of runners, with tales going on into the night.
Sunrise to Sunset - looking back at Howtown