Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Sunday morning run (with difference)

Well I have to say Sunday's long slow run was a slightly different and enjoyable affair. I rose at 4:30am as per usual woken by Jasper wanting his early morning feed. I had the usual hungarian coffee and bowl of porridge which always sets me up for a long ride or run. And off I set out my door and after a mile onto the Grand Union Canal towards Tring.

Two miles in I spot 3 runners in front of me on the canal path. It is most unusual for this time of day to see 1 runner let alone 3! They weren't so much running though as walking/hobbling/swaying along. I caught up with them and immediately noticed their race numbers. I had unknowingly been caught up in the middle of one of the longest Ultra races in the UK - the Grand Union Canal (Ultra) Run which is a 145 miles from Birmingham to London. I knew of the race and had even been on the website before but had no idea it was this weekend.

I felt quite privileged to suddenly be a part of it in this very small way. The funniest thing that many runners I stopped to talk to said to me is that I was moving very well at this stage in the race! Whilst it was tempting to go along with the suggestion that I was comfortably keeping a 10 mpm pace after 100 miles of running I couldnt do it to them... I explained that I was actually just on my normal Sunday morning run. I wished the 3 of them the best of luck and went about chasing down the next runner ahead of me.

And this became my motivation for the rest of my run which instead of being a long slow run was now in comparison to these guys a very short slow run! Its funny how context changes everything. I was planning to run 25 miles which I did do and normally I would think of this as a long run (and indeed it is being that it is only just shy of a marathon), however today it really felt short and because of the distraction of the GUCR, far easier than if I had been plodding down the canal alone.

The GUCR itself is in my opinion pretty brutal mentally! Not brutal in a Lakeland100 sense of continuous climbing and descending mashing the quads mountain after mountain, but simply because it is SO flat and SO long and quite frankly the terrain underfoot and scenery around you doesn't really change a great deal. Both races have the same 45 hour cut off, but I would have to say that I'm far more drawn to the L100 than the GUCR. Half of the 98 starters of the GUCR dropped out which is very high for a race whose only real challenge is the distance. I thought whilst I was running along if I would like to enter this race and perhaps I will, but I've said before that the reason I got into ultras in the first place was to run beautiful trails and witness amazing scenery. The GUC just doesn't offer this element! But it does offer a real challenge. My friend Dino was running the GUCR - a very good ultra runner (came 3rd in the Lightning12hr) and training for the L100 but he dropped at 108 miles. He'd had enough and simply couldnt face the prospect of putting even one more foot in front of the other. The distance and mundane route broke him, not the physical terrain, and mentally he had had enough. And said himself he didnt want it hard enough to keep going.

I'm a little surprised that the drop out rate is so high on the event. You surely know what you are getting yourself into when you sign up. Without passing too much judgement on the preparation and training of those that enter this race surely they are simply bitting off more than they can chew, and are under prepared. The very small field of 100 starters surely brings into question the entry requirements for such an event. Its over subscribed year after year so perhaps it makes sense to provide the opportunity to those that are truly prepared and stand a good chance of finishing... or perhaps I'm simply under-estimating the magnitude of this event and the challenge. Either way, if and when I enter the GUCR I will only do so knowing that I am fully prepared to take it on and will finish.

I met some other nice people out on this run - John was on the GUCR reserve list and only found out he was racing 6 weeks prior! His longest training run was 45 miles, but he seemed extremely determined to finish when I spoke to him at the 95 mile mark, and was raising money for cancer research having lost 2 friends to the illness last year.

I ran with a guy called Iveagh for a mile or so just before I turned around to head back. Iveagh was from Ireland and running a very good race. This would be his longest ultra and he finished in 38hrs having checked on the website. That's a long time on your feet down one canal and takes a lot of guts and determination to carry on.

And if Ultras teach you one thing its too never judge a book by its cover! I passed a v. senior lady called Debbie on my way back home who was moving slowly but still moving and looked quietly determined. Debbie finished in 43 hours! Amazing. It simply serves to show that running ultras and pushing ones limits is not about speed, or strength, or age, or ego but just about a complete single-mindedness to continue and push on to the very end. My favourite quote which I take with me to every event for when I may need it is 'pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever'.

For what it's worth I completed my measy 25 mile training run scraping just under a 10 mpm pace. An extremely enjoyable run. My left foot is grumbling ever so slightly due to the lack of running but hopfully as I fit it a knew more runs (not just the long ones) it will strengthen and see me good for the NDW100 in August.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Back in training...

It's been quite a while since my last post but this week has seen me get out there and log more miles than in a long while (and some actually on foot!) so thought I would fill those of you who are interested on my week so far...

... On Sunday morning I left the ElliptiGO at home and did something quite novel... a RUN! 4:30am start and out the door by 5. Its definitely the best time to run... Much cooler plus the sunrise plus no body about as I went on my way down the Grand Union Canal from Leighton Buzzard to Hemel Hempstead. It's a great route with open views and a quietness that one can just lose yourself in. Glorious! I feel so sorry for those still in bed at times like these.

Having not run properly (e.g. anything over 10 miles) for months this would be something of a test. I covered 22 miles in total. 20 down to hemel which was a very leisurely 10min mile pace then the train back which took just 14 minutes to cover the same distance that had just taken me 3h20! So fact of the day: trains are 13 times faster than running! But I still know what mode I would rather take.

The plan will be to increase the mileage in the build up to the NDW100 on 13th August. In a month or so I should be running back from Hemel too, and saving £7 on the train fare in the process, which I can spend on energy bars instead! :-)

So that was Sunday. Rest day monday.

And then to Tuesday where I clocked up 92 miles on the ElliptiGO. 22 miles to work in the morning for a half day, tand then a 70 mile Chiltern100 training ride in the afternoon. This time I had some company on the ride in the form of my mate Dave who was on his high performance Alu-Carbon road bike. The difference in performance was very noticable on the very first climb of the day as Dave stormed ahead with me left in his wake. I'm getting more use to climbing now with all the training miles clocked up in recent months, and there is a very noticable improvement in my performance and fitness.

It was great afternoon of me just trying to keep up with Dave! The highlight was actually overtaking Dave on a mega long and steep downhill section into Chinnor, where in his own words he 'lost his bottle', whilst I clenched my butt cheeks and just went for it, holding on tight and putting all my trust in the bike as I zoomed down reaching 38 mph. What a rush!

This out and back ride is a real test knowing that every downhill would have to be repeated going up the other way. The return leg was a real killer. My legs were screaming out for mercy on the 10% + inclines. Painful yes but so rewarding when you finally reach the top even if Dave had been waiting for 5 minutes already. Unbelievably Dave stayed in the large chain ring on the front for the entire ride! Awesome effort mate.

Wednesday rest day with the family (although 'rest' with a 3yr old and 5 week old baby perhaps isn't the most fitting description!)

And today (Thursday) I repeated pretty much the same 70 miler with my mate Idai from MK who works for ElliptiGO. This ride was a far more leisurely affair than Tuesday's frantic energy zapping pace. Including a well planned and timed pub stop for lunch. Jacket potatoe and chilli went down very well indeed :-) plus we avoided the first of several downpours of the day. On leaving the pub however it didn't last and we were soon pretty soggy including one downpour which was so heavy all you could do was laugh. If it wasn't for the cycle helmets the rain and hail would have been pretty harsh. However none of this could put a dampener on what was a great ride across the toughest part of the Chiltern100 route. Another 69 miles logged too which makes the week's total 161 miles.

The fall out of this ride is two broken spokes (one was already broken before), but luckily the GO was already booked in for a service tomorrow where it will be restored to new, including a new puncture proof rear tyre which will ensure there are no annoying hold ups on race day. Brakes have also taken a battering on the steep downhills so they should come back far better with more response and stopping ability.

To wrap up...  my training is most definitely ramping up now and I hope to get the balance right on foot and on the GO in the build up to the NDW100 where I should be as fit, if not the fittest I've ever been. Lets see as family life must also be balanced which is never easy. Pictures of the Blofeld family and today ride below.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Baby business sorted... Hello ElliptiGO...

It's been a long while since my last post mainly because time has demanded other things of me than telling the world about my non-descript running and ElliptIGO'ing exploits. The birth of Jasper 4 weeks yesterday has of course meant a change in priorities with running taking a back step. But actually I stopped logging any significant milage off the back of the Lightning12hr qnd didn't want to run too much since then, not with any real focus anyway.

In April I recorded just one 5 mile run but more than made up for it on the ElliptiGO with over 300 miles logged. It's such a blast to ride and have been upping the mileage on the GO in the build upto the Chiltern100 cycle sportie which is on 5th June. It's actually 111 miles and climbs 21peaks across the Chilterns. This past Sunday saw me get in my longest training ride to date. I'd previously got up to 50 miles in training using the Chiltern100 route as my training ground to get use to the mega steep climbs. I covered 71 miles on Sunday morning setting off at ridiculous-o'clock (5am) so as to get back by 10 ish and not eat into Sunday family time. The route itself is great mainly on nice long winding country roads which are not too beat up (the ElliptiGO hates rutts and poor roads as do I as it sends uncomfortable vibrations up the steerig column and had he foot plates jumping around).

I've covered the 50 mile route four or so times now so have become very ascustomed to the route and each climb and what gear I would need for each and even when I need to change up and down in the climb. A cycling/ElliptiGOing/hill climbing machine of sorts! The climbs are steep, and some long too. The steepest at 14% incline but most averaging 8-10% + I would say. Early on it's not bad at all and the ElliptiGO climbs so well and with ease (all things considered) that you think you could go all day. But of course fatigue changes all that and on this 71mile out and back route the hills on the return leg started to test me. I was fuel depleted too as my schedule bottle change in Chinnor village didn't happen as the village was COMPLETELY closed for business. Ok it was 7:30am on a Sunday morning but I had at least expected a sleepy village newsagent to be open. No luck there which meant that I had to survive (it turned out) 52 miles on about 500 ml of enegy drink plus my energy bar. On a flat course no problem but the hills... Did I tell you about the hills!! Oh yes I think I did ;-)

So all in all a very good training ride. 71 miles covered in 5hrs5mins averaging 14mph. On a conventional bike this will sound truly pedestrian but believe me when I say that the ElliptiGO is far from conventional. And did I mention the hills. 

Ok that's it from me tonight. When I get on a real computer (typing this on iPod) I will try and upload a few pics of little Jasper and the family. He's doing really great and a marathon runner for sure!! And why am I so certain of this... He was born on the day of the London Marathon!! :-D