Tuesday, 26 November 2013

JFK 50 miler

After the world champs I wanted one last season finale to sign off with. Looking around there wasn’t much in Europe but I knew of the JFK50 miler which I thought suited me well. It's one of the oldest and biggest ultra’s in the US and perfect for making an impression on the US ultra scene with the aim to be living here by next summer if all goes well. I’ve ran 3 ultra’s in the US now, won 3 and hold records for at least 2 if not all 3, but have yet to run one of the classics. Being the 50th anniversary of JFKs death, and the race never having had a non-US male winner I did hold out hope of grabbing a win, but a good time was my main aim.

The JFK 50 miler is basically a mix of terrain, from an initial road climb to the loose rocky Appalachian trail section, onto the almost flat marathon length section along C&O canal to finish on 8.5 miles of undulating road. To do well you need to have attributes of a mountain, trail and road runner. Some say it is a road runners course, I don’t agree. the first 15 miles along the Appalachian trail impact on you and without a trail background it can take out more than it should.

The logistics for the race were all pretty easy, regular food stations were along the course, stocked with Gatorade, fruit, gels, coke, water and almost anything you’d want, on top of that I had Gwen meet me at 3 points with options of changing clothing, Vaseline, and the old ibuprofen..

Training had gone as well as I could hope.. following my DNF in the 50k, I missed Berlin Marathon and slowly built back up to 90 mile weeks following a strength and stretching programme set by Leanne at Meadowhead Physiotherapy in Sheffield (http://www.meadowheadphysiotherapy.co.uk/view/about). I’d been slowly adding distance and managed three 20 milers with one at 6:40 pace which suggested I’d be OK for the 50 miler. Another month and I think I’d hve been 100% but was still pretty confident I was 95% back to normal. I’d ran a pb of 73 mins at the Philly Half the week before so at least over that distance I was quicker than I had been, the big question was just how I would hold it together.

It’s a race of over 1000 people but despite that the start was pretty low key and it was easy to get a good start line spot. I’d kept out of the who was who really, I knew there were a good 10 quality runners in the field but 50 milers are short enough to throw in surprises but I didn’t want to focus too much on who was who and just run my own race. Initially I thought sub 6 was a formality, but reading the race reports and looking at splits I revised that to 6:10.. Ellie Greenwood, one of the top GB ultra runners now living in Canada had run 6:12 there last year so that was useful information, we have fairly similar times over shorter distances, mine are slightly quicker but she’s a more seasoned ultra runner so I thought over that terrain we’d not be far off time wise.

The gun went and the front 10 seemed to pull clear quickly, I was sat at the front and Dave James soon joined me and we had a quick chat about things, the pace was pretty easy as we slowly pulled out of Boonsboro, the first mile was 6:43 then low 7’s as we climbed towards the trail where Jason Wolfe took the lead. Its then an initial quick section along the Appalachian trail until a much steeper road section to join the more technical part of the trail. Here we were still pretty much as a group, maybe a few hundred yards separating us, but with 45 miles to go and plenty of food stops its essentially one group.. as we started on the trail I felt the pace was a tad too slow so picked it up and moved into the lead. The others seemed quite content to really take the descents slow but I felt I could go quicker without taking too much out of myself. Josh Arthur and Matt Flaherty soon followed and we kept together until the first aid station. The trail is actually pretty technical, once you are on it there are no major climbs but its rooty with many projecting rocks, on top of that this race is held at the end of the fall so leaves cover the ground. The sun was slowly rising and casting shadows through the trees, I was actually a stunning morning and was just really enjoyable knocking through the miles early on like it was just a training run with mates. At the first aid station I grabbed some drink and Josh and Matt pulled away.. the food early on is pretty minimal so I think I made a mistake not starting with a gel in hand. As I climbed out from mile 9 I took a toilet stop and then made a concerted effort to catch the leaders who were now 400 yards ahead.. enjoying it so much I looked up and caught my toe on a rock mid stride and went flying down, cutting my leg and yelping out more in shock than anything. Luckily all was OK so I set off more gingerly but soon caught up with Josh and Matt; there was no real desire to race each other so soon so as soon as you or they pulled up behind we’d all offer to step aside but I was happy sat in with them having a brief chat about our back grounds. Due to a toilet stop and then Josh dropping his sun glasses I think I soon got in front and descended the 1000 ft down to the road in first place but with a good 5 runners or so within a minute or two back. The early section is quite dangerous because of the leaves and rocks you almost certainly roll your ankle a few times along the route..

Hitting the start of the canal in 1:58 was about bang on schedule, the plan was sub 2 to there then see what happened. It felt pretty easy so far and I was pleased to be in the lead pack but knew it was all going to change from now on as this was where you could really drop the pace. The only worrying thing was my quads, from pretty early on I just didn’t feel 100% in the legs, a few seemed to find this, I put it down to the almost zero Celsius conditions and cold wind we were running in but it was also the end of a long season.

As we descended towards the canal I grabbed a banana, some Gatorade and some ibuprofen and followed Josh down to the canal. I knew others would be hitting 6:10 – 6:15 minute mile along here but that’s only 10 seconds off my marathon pace so I planned to sit at 6:30, anything sub 7 I was happy with.. run my own race and see what happened. Soon enough Matt Flaherty, Rob Krar and Zach Miller all caught up and with Josh all 4 and pulled away. Rob especially was enviously smooth. With only 20 miles gone it was important to just run at my pace and see what would happen. I knew enough about Rob, Matt and Josh that they were top ultra runners and wouldn’t be getting their paces wrong so it was really important I didn’t try to race them at that point. The canal tow path is 26.3 miles long, people say it is boring, it’s nice enough, you run between the Potomac River and the dry bed of the old C&O canal which ran between Ohio and Chesapeake Bay along the wooded banks of the river. By now the wind was picking up but despite its strength the woods shielded us and it seemed pretty much ideal conditions for me. The one hard thing is you run up river, hardly noticeable but there are no descents and the occasional short pull up but its essentially a flat trail marathon.

My pace did slow but I ran the 26.3 mile section at an average pace of 6:53 having hit the canal with an average pace of 7:23.. I knew I needed sub 7:12 pace to beat 6 so slowly worked the average pace down but I was worried how much my pace would slow on the final hills along the road which I had no real idea about. The marathon actually flew by, with the food stops it was quite easy to forget the bigger picture and just run each section and clock through the miles with Gwen scheduled to meet me at miles 30 and 40. It must have been somewhere before mile 30 where I caught Josh who was struggling with his legs but apart from that I saw no one until mile 34 or so when predictably Mike Wardian caught me. I was pretty sure I’d hit the canal ahead of him but he’s a class ultra runner, numerous times USA champion at various distances with a marathon pb of 2:17.. so I knew he’d be hitting the low to mid 6 min miles along the canal. Only 6 days before he’d ran 2 marathons in the same day in Texas and Las Vegas in 2:31 and 2:57 so I did wonder how much that would affect him but soon enough he was on my shoulder and moved past. Luckily for me he was going at a pace just quicker than mine so I was able to step up and get pulled along and for the rest of the race Mike stayed within sight. I’d not been out of the top 5 all day and was keen to hold that. Despite sore quads I was still running sub 7 for most miles bar the odd stop for food. I was doing the Maths and if I ran 7:30 to the end I had my sub 6..

Irunfar were tweeting updates of the race and it was funny reading back through.. this was the update just as we approached one of the final aid stations on the canal: “At mile 38.7, Mike Wardian (+13.5') looks great in 4th, while Iain Ridgeway (+14') not so good in 5th. #JFK50mile”

I actually felt OK but was definitely starting to hurt. I felt marathon fit but hadn’t run over 20 miles since the world champs and was now pretty much in the hold on camp. At the 100k in March I’d lost 8 minutes over the final 20 miles when my average pace suddenly dropped to 7:20-7:30 but even that would have been enough to get my time.

At the end of the canal section we passed Rob Krar who was walking, I was pretty surprised as he looked so comfortable just a few hours before but now I knew it was between Mike and I for 3rd which I still held out a faint hope for but I know Mike’s pedigree so wasn’t overly optimistic that he’d suddenly come back towards me and he never did.

At the end of the canal is a steepish road section and I tried to push up there to keep my pace low and it was actually not as bad as I feared. We then entered the final 8 miles along the road and Mike was maybe 200-300 yards ahead. With the undulations I kept thinking I was catching but by mile 45 he seemed to have pulled ahead. Sub 6 hours was now pretty much a formality if I just held it together, my only worry was how long the actual race was as I’d seen a few different distances from 50 to almost 50.5. at the final aid section a sign said 1.5 to go of the 50.2 so now it was all done.. the final 3 miles were 7:00, 7:00, 6:50 and 6:31 for the final section which I was pretty happy with and finished in 5:57:26, two minutes behind Mike. Zach Miller was 1st in 5:38 and Matt second in 5:44. My 5:57 puts me in the top 20 JFK performers of all time and not mamy more have broken the 6 hour barrier in its 51 year history. US based UK runner Ian Sharman ran 5:51 there last year and in better conditions, with that bit better run up I think sub 5:50 could be attainable, so all things considered it was a successful race.

Along the road I actually held it together OK and averaged 6:57 min mile, and 6:54 min mile for the final 35 miles so I was pretty happy overall and suggests a sub 7:15 100km could be a realistic target next year.

My aim for the race was just be competitive, show that the world trail champs performance wasn’t a fluke and hopefully compete with some of the top US runners. The wind and cold weather certainly affected times but I agree with Matt Flaherty, it was probably just a matter of minutes, 2-4 minutes for the front runners, but as the wind grew later in the day it would have affected the later runners more. I still need to work on my short distances, most of those at the front, if not all are sub 70 half marathoners, sub 2:30 marathoners and if I am to compete at their level I need to work on those times as well.

Great race and the atmosphere all day was great even if I didn’t show it towards the end as I was really starting to hurt. Despite our obvious competitive natures the front of the field is typically really friendly, in an ultra you just run your own race and there's time to chat before, during and after and it was a very friendly race. Obviously I wanted to finish as high as possible but sub 6 was more important to me than a slower time and higher position. Run of the day was from Zach, stunning debut at the 50 mile distance. Of those who pulled away from me on the canal I thought I’d most likely see him again, he was unknown (he does in fact have a strong running pedigree (31 10k etc) but looked young and you always doubt the stamina but he just ran a stunning race and in better conditions could have probably taken the record set by Max King, a former olympian, so certainly someone who will be at the front end for a good few years yet. Also worth mentioning he works on a cruise ship , so when we moan about not ideal training conditions he copes with a lot more and still operates at that level. It’s been a long season and the race battered me so it’s now an easy few weeks and then build back up and target London Marathon in April and then look at the ultras for next year.

Thanks to Gwen for supporting me, I don't think I was too grumpy, just a few diva moments.. Mike for putting on a great race and all the volunteers at the various aid stations.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Philadelphia half marathon - new pb

This was thrown in as a late race.. Having been injured in September and not had a good race since the World Champs I wanted a confidence booster before JFK50 miler the following week..

September was a mess, following the 50k I had more and more hip issues and eventually saw a UK physio who diagnosed me as chronically fatigued with tight, weak, glutes, piriformas, psoas.. basically anything which stabilised me during running.... and gave em a programme to follow, but it meant Berlin was out for sure..

This was arguably far too close, but I was training well. Having worked through my hip issues I was back to 90 mile weeks and had done 3 solid 20 milers, with one around race pace of 6:40 minute miles, on top of that Ts’otleho and I had been hitting the heide again.. we’d done two runs out there at 7:30 am and had done them at around 6:15 minute mile pace, around as quick as we’ve ever done them before. Add in a few nice interval sessions and I knew I was back to my fitness levels before the world champs.

My current pb was 1:15:09 set in wind and on my own at the front so in an elite field I thought 1:14 something possible. I emailed the race director and sorted a seeded spot meaning I started with the elite field. Despite having flown in the day before I felt pretty good and had semi tapered to 75 miles for the week.

The only hiccup was Gwen forgetting her GPS watch so at 6 am I gave in and offered her mine, as this wasn’t a crucial race. Despite the time of year and early hours, mid November, the weather was good and it was perfect temperatures. Toilets were an issue but it was all good by the time we started. The atmosphere in the front corral was great, there’s no real competition because we all care about times, not positions at such a big race, so it was great to chat to other runners, and meet US based UK runners.

Having no watch I started conservatively, it felt easy and before long we went through 1 mile in 5:25. which was way too quick.. I eased off got chatting and asked for paces and everyone was aiming for around 72-73.. so I decided to hang on. We went through 3 miles bang on 16:30.. every mile marker has a clock. I was now sat in with a girl from Burundi, a lad from NY and a girl from Kenya and the miles ticked by. almost bang on we were 5:30-5:35 to the 10k point in 34:18.. only 25 seconds off my 10 k pb.. averaging 5:31 pace but I felt OK. We pushed on and soon hit the hills as we entered Fairmont Park.

I feltw e all slowed here but kept the miles in the5’s and clicked through but the group started to dissipate which may have cost us a tad. Knowing I was on for a pb I tried to hang on in and use anyone overtaking me to pull me along. The course drops back to the river, and is then a flat 2.5 miles back to the art gallery, with a final short climb and descent and I finished in 1:13:36.. a pb by just over 90 seconds..

With the hills, no huge taper, trans-atlantic flight the day before I’m confident 72 something is attainable and will look for that at Bath half in March.

A nice confidence booster before the JFK 50 miler, demonstrates I am fitter than I have been its now just about if I can hold up following recent injury issues.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Winschoten 50k

So went to this classic ultra at the weekend..


Its a strange event, at some town near the German Border and is 5 (or 10 for the 100k) loops of a neighbour hood.. the support is really great.. and good prize money.

I went there to run a 50km pb, sub 3:20 and try to qualify for the world series in the 50k.

Midweek I had a bad run and struggled with a numb leg, that was collapsing on impact. I just thought it was a one off so ignored it and did a hard run late wednesday, 6 miles 5:52 pace and felt good.. but for the last two weeks its been 12 hours a day at work, then late evening runs.

The race also provides accomoation so I stayed with a nice family just outside the town. So good sleep, nice meal and breakfast so felt well set up.

The start was pretty low key, only a few hundred runners so start line was no issue at all. I chatted to one of the dutch runners from the worlds and set off - I knew he was going for sub 3:10 and I was shooting for 3:15 ish so let him go but set off steady enough, high 5's and felt fine.. lap 1 was around 37:30.. so just sub 1:20 half.. so happy enough. Lap 2 I started to struggle with the chopped stride again and had shooting pains down my leg.. by mile 11 I was really struggling and finsihed L2 in 39.. still OK but I had three laps to go.

Things got worse and I was soon mile lapping in the upper 6's.... after only 13-14 miles which is what I'd run a training run in... later it was 7 pluses.. over my 100k pace, where I average around 7:05.. so decided to just run the 30k... strava profile here: http://www.strava.com/activities/82719058

I had gone for a sub 3:20 but was now on for over that and also threatening Berlin, so stopped after 20 miles and jogged back. Really need to sort the numbness, pains. Chatting to the lad I stayed with, whos a physio student, he thinks it sounds like piriformis syndrome http://www.rice.edu/~jenky/sports/piri.2.html, from sitting too much at work. Felt a fraud walking back as I was fresh.. which I should be at 20 miles at 6:25 pace on average. So not too concerned about fitness.. but this can be a big injury unless it is nipped in the bud now..

So its lots of stretching from now on, lots of glutes stretching.. I also played squash last monday which may have been a contributing factor.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Sierre Zinal

Went down to this classic race this weekend, meeting up with Noel, Ali and a few other Brits, Craig and Fleeter. Didn't have a great run, 79th in 3:19.. a long way off the front, expected in a top class field but expected to push close or just inside the 3 hour mark. However the opportunity to run in the mountains was too much so the first two days were spent getting miles and elevation in..

Friday was a 12.5 miler with 1000m of ascent and descent, and Saturday was a recce of the race in glorious weather, reversing the last 20km of the route to Chandolin.. 15.5 miles, 1200m of ascent and 1400m descent.  Camping and running from 1700m altitude made the running hard going, plus sleeping at night seemed disturbed by that and the cold.

By the race Sunday I was shattered, sore quads and never really got going. Classic race though, stunning area. Some pics of the recce below.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Rostock Nacht Halb marathon

This weekend was one of Rostocks biggest races, the Hella Nacht marathon and halb marathon...

We were running for the sponsors team, Hella..

A very warm day was followed by heavy rain, cooler but very humid conditions. Undulating route, twice through a tunnel under the river, and lots of trail. I was 2nd in 1:17:44, Gwen 8th in 1:39, Fane won in 1:09..

Top Picture Fotocredits: André Pristaff ı Rostock

Rest from Fane

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Karwendal Berglauf

Classic up hill in the Bavarian Alps this weekend.. from Mittenwald on the Austrian/German border..

6.8 miles, 1381m ascent finishing 2300m high.

Great route.. runnable trails til 1600m when it gets steeper and climbs scree and snow fields..

Results: http://www.karwendel-berglauf.de/daten/gesamt.pdf

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Beinn Fionnlaidh

A week in Scotland followed the trail.. so an easy week and a chance to bag another munro.. on the edge of Glen Etive.. bit of a trudge up but stunning views...

Aye... that's me in the distance....

Monday, 15 July 2013

IAU World Trail Running Championships

The preparation

Having been selected to represent Great Britain back in May I came into the World Championships in good shape to run well in the 77km trail race with 2500m of ascent. I’d managed a good 6 week blocks of 90-100 miles a week and that came after another 6 weeks of 80 miles a week, which followed a good 12 week block running up to the 100km back in March. Racing wise I’d ran 3 marathons (1 road, 1 trail and 1 mountain race – winning 2 and running a pb), 3 half marathons (2 trail and one road – also winning 2 and running a pb) and the 100km (finishing 3rd in the UKA championships and running a pb) since Christmas, so racing results were backing up solid consistent training. My training is now much more actual running, less time in the fells, and at a much higher pace so I do think I’m a lot fitter and results have backed that up.
The race was back in North Wales so I was really relishing going back there fit and putting in a good run.

Unfortunately the selectors at Welsh Athletics aren’t so convinced I'm fitter so I missed out on selection for the World Long Distance mountain running championships due to not running the trial because of a clash with the world championships.. this was another plus really as it then really fired me up to have a good run.

When training goes well its really hard work as you never get a respite, I’ve felt on the edge of an injury for a while, really tired but still managing quality but was desperate to start tapering so did the standard 70%, 40% reductions in training load over the final two weeks with maintaining the efforts; running my last km reps session on the Wednesday before the race. But my last hard run was great, I finished a 12.5 mile trail run with the final 2 miles sat around 5:40 pace.. which a few years ago was my 10k pace. Training works and positive feedback pushes you on.

On Tuesday before the race my kit finally arrived, running for GB is obviously great but everyone knows that the kit makes it that bit special. You get every type of kit imaginable, all with ‘Great Britain Athletics Team’ emblazoned on it and that really builds the excitement. Being a Welsh Athlete I’m still running in the same vest I was given back in 2009, I have no shorts, and an old  fleece, we all have different generations of kit and we look like England’s poor cousins, it just makes such a difference to all turn up, wearing good kit, looking like a team.

Meeting team GB and the opening ceremony

Gwen and I flew over the Thursday before and met up with the team late Thursday night in Llandudno, at the (once) Grand Hotel… I knew most of the guys in the team but only knew Tracy from the females and then also had Andy Walling as team physio, who I knew from North Wales. From the management team I only really knew Adrian Stott but right from the off it was very relaxed.  Both the males and females stood a good chance of gaining individual and team medals.

Friday was to be a busy day, being one of the last to arrive I’d been nominated to carry the flag for the opening ceremony, so we had that, met lots of the other athletes and coaches.  Jo and I headed to the press conference out at the course as Jo and I were nominated to represent GB, Jo was third in Comrades and a class roadrunner, and I was an ex-local. To be at the press conference with the reigning world champions and the top performers from the last world championships was a tad daunting and we were constantly referred to as the top 8 ultra runners in the race. but I did feel fit, knew I was in good shape and running a course that suited me. Maybe over confidently I finished the press conference by saying I was fit and was looking forwards to it, but I felt good and was enjoying the pressure.

 The French dominated this event in the past so we wanted to beat them, I’d told one of the TV interviews that this was possible so was maybe getting a bit confident…

Then we grabbed a spot of lunch and did various TV and media interviews with ITV news, Trail running and Dream TV and then finally late in the afternoon had a quick 2 mile walk around the start and the end of the course, the two bits I didn’t know.  It was pretty non-stop for the day which did concern me, I’d been on my feet for a good 5 hours and still had to shop so we headed Betws to buy gels then to tesco’s to buy 20 banana’s, lucozade and coke and some flapjacks, nuts etc…

I managed a quick massage with Andy before heading to the hotel for our team meeting. I’d had a slight hamstring issue over the past few months, just a tightness.. but going to work on my calfs and gluts Andy somehow freed up the hamstring considerably without even touching my hamstring.. it’s incredible how much difference a good physio can make. The management and supporters were great at building our confidence, making sure we knew to enjoy the moment but also seize this opportunity. We  grabbed some lunch and headed out for some quiet time. Gwen and I first sat on the beach but migrated up to the headland on the start of the Orme to have a relax and get my feet up. With all the activity in the day it was nice to have a think about the race.

It was three from five to count in the teams, I fancied Ricky to win, class runner, an unknown really in ultra’s but a strong pedigree on the mountains, unfortunately we’d lost Lee kemp late on who would also have been a contender. We then had Andrew James, Craig Holgate, Matt Williams and myself. Out of them I classed myself as the weakest actual runner but the terrain and route suited me but knew this was a fairly short ultra so a hard start was essential and normally I'm a slow starter. Despite the heat I didn’t see any point in an overly safe race. Race day was scheduled to be fairly hot, 22 C so a fast start was warned against, but I wanted a good run and decided to go off at marathon effort and try to hold on. As long as I finished knowing I’d given it everything I was OK no matter what happened. I was also fairly confident that I was more heat acclimatized that most and could gamble. While Rostock is not known for its heat we do have many suny days in the low 20’s in the summer so I was pretty comfortable in the 22-23 Deg C forecast for race day.

We then retired to the George Hotel for a quick hot chocolate, usual wild Friday night, and then I went back to my hotel. Surprisingly I slept well.

Race Day

The race was to start at 9 am  so I was up at 5:45, quick shower and down for breakfast for 6. Luckily I only eat honey and toast before a race and that was provided. We left the hotel at 7:15 and headed to the race 30 minutes away.

The usual stress is the old toilet but the bowels were behaving and I was off a fair few times before the race so it was good to relax and plan the race. It was hard not to get too distracted chatting with old friends but I was pretty switched on. Gwen was racing the 10k which started later so she was off getting ready too.

We then had to do some coordinated team walk to the starting area, various photos but were soon at the start. Ricky clearly set out his attentions by standing on the start line from the off wanting a good start. I stuck with him as I reckoned a quick first mile could put you with a nice open run up the first climb.

The gun went off bang on time and we went off, already Ricky took the lead, some followed, Julien Rancon (one of the best mountain runners around) and Erik the then reigning world champion. My plan was sit in around the top 10 and build, we passed the first aid station hit the first hill and that went quickly.

It’s then a long switch back before a much longer more gradual climb, some narrow trails, a short climb, descent to a water station, swing by the lake side on technical trails, a short climb, a long undulating traverse on single track to a short climb, descent and twists to the first aid station then largely good running with some short sections of single track before a long descent and final traverse on single track back to saw bench and the first aid station. One lap was around fifteen km. At the first aid station I could see the other GB runners so we’d all had a good start.

The first lap was a breeze, I felt superb, I had two French guys on me and then and Aussie and an American soon joined. The second was harder and around 10 miles in I did get concerned. I was sat around 10th/11th though and was passing people. After the first lap I heard the announcer say Andrew James was coming in so again knew we had three runners up in the race, but with two French guys out front and two with me it was still all to play for even if Ricky won.

As it was Ricky had a stormer, dropping them all and went on to win by 11 minutes. The second lap was a bit of a blur, it’s too early to hurt, and the end is too far off so positions don’t matter. The main thing was my feet felt good, I was running well, knocking out low 6 minute miles on trails where possible and was climbing well. I was wearing my tried and tested Adidas Adio Adizero’s.. just a superb comfy shoe, a road shoe but with enough grip and support to cope with the conditions on the trail. Interestingly most, if not all, of the French team opted for the same shoe.

The third was where things began to change, it was here I caught the Norwegian, 4th in the world last time, and then soon after Erik, the reigning world champion… there’s not many better feelings in sport than having the current world champion on your shoulder and knowing you are in control, this gave me a great boost and I kicked on. One French runner breezed past me here which was a concern, but I still felt good and tried to ignore any negative thoughts. Food wise I was eating bananas, taking on water, coke and lucozade. I was sweating heavily but pouring water on myself and felt in control.

The 4th lap things got really hot and hard. The Australian and American had now fallen away so I was on my own, sections of the forest were like a furnace with no wind, other sections nicer. Despite our rivalry with the French I have to say their support in the forest was great and cheered us all on, regardless of nationality.

The first major climb was mainly ran but I was now walking the odd steep section and could feel twinges of cramp, but my feet were still good and I was still hitting the 6’s so nothing was majorly wrong. Towards the end of the 4th lap I finally re-passed the French guy who had got me and was now in 4th place.. I was pretty shocked and determined to hold this position.

This was where the confusion started. Julien Rancon had fallen badly and lost his number so was off the results… yet still in 3rd. A German 2nd, Florien, and Ricky comfortably out front. All the support team knew I was 4th and seemed to be closing Julien, but all who followed online, including the start and finish area had me in bronze. At the end people seemed to think I’d had bronze yet had it snatched away, but I was shocked when Steve Eds asked me about that at the end.. I had no idea Julien had a) fallen and b) lost his number, I was always 4th.. credit to the race organisers for having the systems in place to sort that quickly; things can go wrong in races outside of their control, like a runner losing his number, but they had chips on our back numbers which then sorted the issue.

The last lap was a hard, hot lonely affair but I was pushing on trying to catch Julien but every person I passed was another runner being lapped.. but still no one was behind me, that was the main thing. If I could hold 4th, with Ricky out in front and by all accounts the team doing well we had Gold.

I kept hearing Julien was only 2 minutes ahead but I never saw him, I pushed on at the end but finished 2:10 behind him in 5:56:31 and 4th place… I was pretty shocked, battered and happy. Andrew James finished around 6:15 to give us the gold medal in the teams, with Craig and Matt finishing soon after 6:30. Ricky won  in only his 4th ultra in 5:32 ish, just a superb run.

Looking at the splits I took a chunk out of Julien when he fell but he recovered and over the final lap was just edging into his lead and really needed another lap to get bronze. Still I can’t complain, a GB vest, team gold, 4th in the world championships.. it doesn’t get much better than that and I exceeded my expectations but was also happy with how I approached the race both in training and over the final 24 hours. I was much more aggressive in my start than usual and felt that my final position and time justified the risk involved.

I was also pleased to send a message to Welsh Athletics that I am fitter this year and running better.
The support from the GB management and supporters around the squad was superb, but so was the attitude amongst the GB athletes. It was just so laid back - still a lot of psyche but in a good way.. typically British.., I think we were all nervous but looking forwards to it, I knew I was fit and just wanted to run well, with no regrets.

Running for GB is huge, getting selected for Wales was big but GB is different – it just is. As I’d not ran the fling I was worried about the reactions of other runners who missed out so was determined to have a good run and justify my selection. My goals this year were run pb’s in the marathon, sub 7:30 100k at least and make the GB squad, so it’s been a nice first 6 months of the year.

Great to see North Wales show cased like that. The event went seemlessly, it was a late call on where the route would be but you'd never have known, so full credit to the LC for the event and all those involved.

Berlin Marathon now dominates.. I’ve a few fun races in the next month: an uphill race in the Bavarian Alps and then the classic Sierre Zinal mountain race in Switzerland. I feel recovered, immediately after the race I saw Andy for a massage and then had a dip in the river and have had a steady weeks running every day, but steady pace and just a 50 mile week which included a few hikes in the Highlands and Lake District - pictures to come...

Results: http://www.tdl.ltd.uk/race-results.php?event=1386

Strava profile and my run: http://app.strava.com/activities/65837858 (watch stopped late)

Photos: www.fellrunningpictures.co.uk & http://www.sportpicturescymru.co.uk/pages/gallery/2013-gallery.php?gall_id=154

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Rostock Firmenlauf

Today was the Firmenlauf.. firms race basically, a team race over 7km. The course is 2 x 3.5 km loops up and down Rostocks waterfront. It was an absolutely scorcher of a day, 27 C but really humid, I'd been out for 7 miles at lunch so spent all afternoon drinking water, trying to rehydrate.

I was running for City Sports, the local sports shop in a mixed team, organised by Carsten, one of my regular training partners, and Marie from the gym and another girl.

With Paul and Ts'otleho running 3rd was going to be as good as it got, we set off at 3:30 min k's and I felt comfortable, a few came with us but after a 3 k we were on our own and eventually they pulled away to finish in 22:50, I finished 3rd in 24:10, with Carsten 4th. We won the mixed and Paul and Tsotlehos team won the mens team event.

I held 5:25 for the first two miles and felt fine, but the last 2.4 miles were 5:50 or a tad slower, the heat and humidity really affected us all.

City sports provided us with a nice vest, bag and nice socks for the running the event which was nice of them.

Our running group filled 5 of the top 6 so it was a good show. We finished with a swim in the river. I saw 4 people collapsed after the race, it was pretty brutal conditions, but with 500 runners in that heat it was probably to be expected.

Results: http://my3.raceresult.com/details/results.php?lang=de&page=6&eventid=15521&contest=0&name=Ergebnislisten|Zieleinlaufliste_einzel&format=view

Event website: http://www.rostockerfirmenlauf.de/

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Heide trail running

A core part of our training in Rostock is the Rostocker Heide, a huge forest which spans for miles just outside of the city. The forest has a wealth of fantastic wide trails, some sandy, some soily, some grass, some metalled. With the costal setting we often have strong winds but the forest provides us protection from the wind, shelter from the sun (so bad it can even affect our GPS signals) and soft trails to get the miles in.

At least twice a week Ts'otleho, Carsten and I run in the forest, normally Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings for 20-30 km runs; following an easy 2 miles we then pick up the pace and normally run 6:10-6:20 minute miles for the various loops that we now have sorted. Just excellent training. The first time in there with Ts'otleho we averaged 4:00 minute k's (about 6:30 min miles) and it killed me, and today we averaged 3:52 (6:18 min miles), the aim is by Berlin we're covering the same loop at an average of 3:45 min km (6:02 min miles).. we'll see.. great running in the group and we're getting the miles in.

Today was the first day of week 6 of a 6 week block of structured 90-100 mile weeks before I start the two week taper to the World Trail Running Champs (with the standard drop of 70% and 40% load over the final 2 weeks, maintaining sharp work), it always feels hard work but its been 90 miles with a lot of quality, so I should expect to feel fairly battered.

Strava link for today's run is in the RH column, only 20k today but pace built throughout, the others have Hamburg Half Marathon next Sunday - Ts'otleho is aiming for sub 65 minutes, and it's only a week after Chojnik Marathon for me, so a shorter hard session suited.

Photos from a recent recce of new areas of the Heide.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

GB selection

My aims this year were run sub 7:25 in the 100k and target GB selection.

I've probably missed out on the GB selection for the 100k but submitted my resume to be selected for the GB team for the IAU World Trail Running Championsips in Llanrwst, North Wales. A 75 km race with 2000m+ of ascent

Its now been confirmed that I've made the GB team for the event.


Hence Chojnik. And hence high miles again.. the weeks have been spent running 90-100 miles a week and I'm feeling good for it, 2 more high miles weeks then start the taper for the event on July 6th.

After that Berlin Marathon will dominate my planning.

I have a regular weeks training now, this is:

Monday steady 10 miler,
Tuesday, 12 km in a group, 8 km at 6:20 min miles, 4k at 5:20 min miles
Wednesday, 20km 6:20 min miles in the forest
Thursday: track session.. km reps.. 2 k’s that sort of thing
Friday: 10 mile trail run, hilly trail loop.
Saturday: 15 mile trail run or race
Sunday: If no race 16-20 mile trail, 6:30 min mile pace.

Chojnik Marathon

Plans have changed a lot this year and I wanted to find a good long hilly run as training for an upcoming event. Searching the web I found a mention of a new mountain race in Poland, in the Krkonose Mountains, called Chojnik marathon, 46km, 2200m ascent.

I drove down Friday after work, getting there around 11pm, at first I couldnt find the village, then I struggled to find the race HQ.. eventually I saw the start line and parked up, spending the night in my tent in 2 foot high grass.

The race started at 9 and it was a lovely sunny morning, from 6 am I was lay out on my thermarest sleeping and reading my book, relaxing ready for the race. I felt tired but I'm in a 6 week block of 90-100 mile weeks so that was expected. The start is always daunting at new events, you are trying to work out who's a threat and everyone looked scarily fit..

I always keep to myself before a race and don't really get caught up in the hype and bullshit at the start line, as the pre-race briefing was in Polish I skipped that.. it turns out he was explaining the course was different to the one advertised and the one on the map I printed out... I ran with a bumbag, we had to carry a phone and ID because of the border. There was 5 food stops, now 4, with plenty of fruit and drinks at each one.

The start was fairly quick, I sat in third an two guys went ahead, it climbed pretty quick and I felt good, it was a few minutes up then a quick descent, where I dropped a place and then a steep climb where I got my place back, already I'd noticed my descending was shite. On the next flat section I caught the lead pair and we ran together up the first major climb of 1000m. The two opened up a gap, but I felt good, comfortable but didn't want to push too hard. The hill must have been about 10% gradient, very runnable, some steeper sections. Despite not having run on a hill in months I felt good climbing and this continued all day.

The temps had now dropped and thunder filled the skies. In the forest it was muggy so I was topless for most of the race.

I followed the two as we climbed over a col, into the Czech republic and a long 3 mile traverse with a final short climb to the highest point on the race, around 1450m elevation. In the cloud I could no longer see the leaders but when I popped out they were gone. From the vantage point i could see a good few km and noone was in sight.. I thought I'd slowed but it turned out they'd missed the turn.

The route was flagged, but only sporadically, but all major turns were flagged, but often only once, so if you missed one you were gone. On this long descent I lost quite a bit of time but I was careful not to get injured. We then entered a technical river bed, covered in moss, wet rocks, roots, it was awful. Soon enough, as I expected I heard foot steps as the lad behind caught me as we approached the third food stop. I soon opened up a gap and as we ascended the 2nd major climb I opened up a good gap which was my aim as I knew he'd catch me but I felt confident if I could stay in touch I'd get him on the final climb to the hill top finish at Chojnik Castle.

This second climb, in the pic below, was steep, walking steep, but we climbed fast, the map showed we had a short traverse then descend right.. as it was the new route went  the other way along the ridge, and then down left after a good few K more.. I was a bit thrown here and at the next col, unsure of the route waietd for the lad in second, as I now realised we decending the way up, which wasn't on the map I had.. this was the new route. The long 3 mile descent was very quick but non-technical so we ran together to food stop 4 and for another few km. Then on the latter climbs I really started to push and he fell back. It was then a final quick descent before a short steep climb to the castle, even at the end I felt strong on the climbs so that was pleasing. Getting the win in 4:11.. I reckon sub 4 would be comfortable if I'd have known the route, running a race blind is a gamble.

Great race, well organised, nice prizes, full support and for an on the day price of 160 zloty, around 35 quid, its quite reasonable.

Photos below of the race and finish off the race Facebook page.

Monday, 27 May 2013


This is Germany’s biggest off road trail event and possibly one of the biggest in Europe with 10-15,000 runners and walkers at the event. A series of trail running (73k ultra-marathon, marathon and half marathon) and Nordic walking (17 and 25km long walks) are held on different sections of the Rennsteig, a long distance footpath running through the forests and hills of Thuringa, in central Germany.
The start is crazy, lots of dancing and signing.. all a bit OTT for a Brit but they do like a song in Germany.. the worst part about the race was lack of toilets at the start, nowhere near enough, plus no toilet paper.. in the end people were just shitting in the local woods at the back of the school so they really need to address that. The logistics were all fine, you drop your bag at the start and get it back at the end.

Initially I’d wanted to run the ultra but due to other events I opted for the marathon. Looking at the times I assumed it was all on the road, but it’s in fact mainly on the trail after the first 5k. I got chatting a Brit, Solomon sponsored Chunky Liston who lives over here, and a German runner as we started running and they saw my Britsich club vest and Chunky was aiming for 2:45 and reckoned it was 15 minutes off a pb course. Last years winner ran 2:38 and had ran 2:24 in Hamburg 2 months prior so it made sense. I felt Chunky’s pace was that bit too quick for me so backed off and tried to hold 6:05 min mile sort of pace for the more  runnable miles. I never saw him again, but he finished in 3rd just under 2:45.
The race starts in Neuhaus am Rennweg and climbs up a road for a k then 4 k along a main road to access the trail. With 3000 runners the start was a tad congested but I managed to push through to the start line and got a good start, if anything a tad too good and my early few miles on the descending road were possibly a tad quick. The route then follows a cycleway which traverses Sandberg and after 10k you hit the second climb along muddy forest trails. As soon as the gradient hit my pace slowed, not overly so but I now realized how hard it would be to hold low 6 minute miles.

The aid stations were great with coke, energy drink, water and fruit and then a large sign letting you know how far to the next station. From the off I’d got into the top 6 but was soon caught by 2, then a 3rd runner as we hit half way and I was down to 9th but soon got that position back. The runners in 7th and 8th were often visible ahead but to be honest as we entered the latter miles I was feeling tired and was happy in 8th, 3rd in my age group, in a time of 2:51:10. As a rough target I’d had 2:50 and top 10. I knew I was looking at around 2:50 but wasn’t sure on the length, I’d seen 43.1 km listed but you never know with trail events how accurate the measurements were.

From 12 miles to around 20 miles in the hilliest part of the route and that was tough going but I knew most of the last 10k were downhill so mentally that helped. The route is never overly rough but there is one long fairly technical descent. I wore road shoes and for a few miles had wished I had trail shoes on, but then again for the roads I was glad of my adizeros. No shoe is perfect as it’s a mixture of everything but the trails I largely firm trails, even in a wet year like this it was OK in road shoes.

Pretty happy with the run, felt tired but I had no rest before hand and it was just a hard training run. Great series of events though.

On Friday night you can stay in the local school in Neuhaus for 2 euros, just sleeping in the corridors and then on Saturday I got the bus back to Neuhaus and camped in the festival field. The local pub had the game on (CL final) and there was an excellent band on in the tent. You can stay the whole weekend in Schmiedefeld am Rennsteig, where the race ends and get the bus out to the various start locations in the morning.

After the race I drove back down the course and took some photos to give an idea of the terrain.. below..

Video of the post-race party now uploaded on youtube which should be visible..

Some more photos on the blog of a runner who finisihed just behind in 12th.


Monday, 6 May 2013

Binz Half Marathon

So Saturday Tsotleho, Uta and I went out to Binz for the half marathon. We thought it would be a quick course but its a hilly trail race.. nice route.. basically sandy forest trails.

With good prize money, 6590, 450 and 250 euros for 1st 2nd 3rd there was a good chance of a strong field.. which there was. I came 6th, 1:18:57 just felt awful throughout but 5th was a good 3 mins ahead so that wasn' going to happen anyway.. nice area. Great to get some sun for once.

Worst I've felt in a race for a long time, couldn't even hit my marathon pace on the flats so maybe hard training, last weeks race caught up.. Tsotleho won in 1:09:02 which was a great time for the route.

race website: http://www.ostseebad-binz.de/?id=151

results: https://tollense-timing.de/meldeliste_binzer_promenadenlauf.htm