Saturday, January 31, 2015


I've had a juicer for a couple of weeks now and thus far have followed recipes from Joe Cross' book. 

This morning with the end of the fruit bowl and vegetable box I made my own with what was available...

2 carrots
1 cucumber
1 orange
2 pears
2 sticks of celery
2 generous handfuls of spinach
4 cabbage leaves
Half a gem (small) lettuce 

Not surprisingly it tastes great! Just needs a name now...

Friday, January 30, 2015


I have been tapering since Monday, it has been awful. My longest run has been a little over 4 miles and this week i have run 18 miles. I have had 2 days off. This morning i was run-commuting and felt awful. No rhythm, no zip or power, no flow. I felt really laboured and clunky. A bit like when you have a sports car that's used to being driven hard day after day, its tuned, ready and responsive. Stop driving it and maybe use it for a few miles on a weekend and ​​it's like a different car. Unresponsive, sluggish, slow to get going. 

I'm no sports car but that's how it feels. I'm really looking forward to Sunday morning and 10 miles. Next week is really low mileage week, obviously, so now, for me the race cannot come soon enough. Maybe that's what tapering is actually about, resetting the mind...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

But that's further than a marathon?

I had a conversation a little while ago with someone that I work with.
I didn't know them very well and we were talking about what we were
doing that weekend while waiting for other colleagues to join us.
After listening to their weekend plans I said that I was running my
first ultra. This was met with a bemused look so I explained, anything
over marathon distance is called an ultra. The ultra I was talking
about was the 2014 Born to Run ultra at 40 miles.

There was then a strange exchange between the two of us that went
something like this...
- but that's further than a marathon?
- yes that's right, it's a 40 miler
- but a marathon is a long way?
- yes it is but there are longer races...
- wow so you're running a marathon?
- er yeah a marathon and then a half marathon...

She really didn't get it. To the uninformed and uninterested a
marathon is a long way and the longest you can run. It has a name too,
marathon. Not like an ultra that can be any distance. I actually think
she thought I was making it up. We were joined by colleagues and she
never mentioned it again and I didn't either. This blog aside I only
really talk about my running when I am asked. Mostly.

I've been thinking about this more recently as I have started work
with a new team and when they find out that I run to work and that I
run a lot at weekends they ask why? Not unreasonable. I explain that I
am training for a 50 miler and they shudder.

They cannot fathom it. They think it's a long way to drive let alone
run. Hell even cycling it is hard. They ask how far I run each week,
how far are long runs, what do you eat? It seems funny as running is
the simplest of sports, sure I have a lot of gear but actually some
correct clothing and shoes and you're good. I'm terms of simplicity it
doesn't get much more simple.

It's all about what you understand. I know nothing about a lot of
things and do turn my nose up at them as a result. Motorsport and golf
for example. You can probably add cricket to the list too. Oh and
professional rugby, i like watching my son play but that's as far as
it goes. People that get them understand the skill, effort, technique
and bravery involved. The training and practice that goes into each of
those sports.

Running, or even worse jogging, is seen as something you do to play
other sports. If you run then you must be a footballer? A hockey
player? Or any other field sport? I've seen t-shirts worn by runners
that say "my sport is your sports punishment".

No one runs for fun do they?

Well er yes they do - quite a lot of people as it goes. Races fill up
in record time, park runs across the country and world are achieving
massive attendance because people like to run and want to feel part of
a community.

Race for life started as a 5km event, now with women's running in a
real boom it's a 10km event. Half marathons sell out, marathons are
increasingly popular. Like the interest and participation in ironman
triathlon events people always look to push their own boundaries if
not the boundaries of a generation.

Someone running their first anything is a big deal, their first
marathon is a huge deal and pushes their boundaries of what they
thought possible. It is a unique experience in a shared environment.
Someone running a 200 mile race is pushing their own boundaries and
also opening a door to possibilities for every other runner out there.
Yesterday the couch, tomorrow a 5km but in 5 years who knows?

As the idea and imagination of what is possible extend and reach more
and more into the public consciousness so the understanding will grow.
I think people that know me think I talk about nothing but running and
I possibly do but only because they ask me.

Thames Trot Preparation...

With the Thames Trot ultra now a mere 10 days away I am in that
frustrating period called taper. Low mileage and not much by way of
running. It's nice to have a break for a day or two but I know come
the weekend the planned 10 miles is not going to cut it with me.

Looking ahead to 10 days time I am fretting a little over what gear I
will need to wear. The lower half takes care of itself, 99% of the
time I run in shorts I don't see that this will be any different. I
also always wear calf guards and Inov8 socks. My shoes will be my
Adistar Boosts. So far so simple.

The doubt I am having is with the top half and how to keep warm? What
if it rains?

The forecast (on the BBC weather app) shows that currently on the day
before the race, as far ahead as it goes currently, it will be cloudy
and around 6 centigrade. Pretty good conditions and hopefully it will
be like that.

In preparation, over the last few weeks, I have experimented with
various combinations of clothing. Compression short sleeve under a
heavier running jersey. Two long sleeve thinner tops, a running gilet,
buffs, a running beanie, a cap and even both.

Then there's the rain? What if it rains? I have a Salomon s-lab
running jacket that's meant to be water proof and to a point it is but
not enough. I've even tried a merino wool cycling t-shirt under a
running top - that was way too uncomfortable.

Temperatures could be by then anything from minus 4 to plus 8 such is
the changeable nature of our weather. There could be wind and rain
maybe even snow! I can carry some gear in my race vest (Salomon s-lab
5ltr) but if it's wet there's the issue of how to keep that dry too.

I have a plethora of kit but cannot get my head around what I will
need to wear and carry come race day. I will likely be on course for
at least 8 hours. Should I carry some dry kit to change half way? As
performance deteriorates and movement slows will clothes damp with
sweat just serve to make me colder?

If the forecast remains as is I will probably go for a long sleeve
thin running top underneath the heavier running fleece style jersey,
with then a gilet (Haglofs) buff and hat. I will carry a spare thin
long sleeve top in my pack so that I can swap it half way. That should
help with warmth. As and if I warm up I will make sure to remove them
as I will definitely need them later in the race. The same will be
true of gloves, if I don't need the at the start there will be a pair
in my pack. I'll also pack my rain jacket that I can use later if I am
getting cold. They can be a bit boil in the bag but an additional
layer may be necessary at some point. It also has the advantage of
being able to fit over the top of my race vest making it easy to use.

To keep stuff dry in my pack, as much from sweat coming though as any
weather conditions I will use a plastic bag, roll my dry kit up as
tight as possible into a plastic back also rolled up and then added as
comfortably as possibly to the pack.

Mandatory kit is quite light, a compass, phone and head torch - I
think that's it. There will also be a map book/print-out.

There are a number of aid stations and checkpoints so fuel should be
fine. I will also be loaded up with gels and some bars and Clif
shot-blocks. I have come across a gel that I really like - made by
Cliff - called a shot. It's much thicker than a lot of gels and while
the taste is typical of that type of product the texture is much
improved being something you can almost chew. I have used them on my
last few long runs without issue. In terms of water I will carry two
half litre soft flasks on the front of my vest. I tend not to drink
that much when running in colder conditions but will make a more
conscious effort on a run such as this.

I'll also be carrying my blood monitor and insulin (for type 1
diabetes), I will need to keep track of my blood sugar and will test
at every aid station. I don't anticipate needing to administer insulin
but I need to be prepared. Consuming that much sugar may cause a spike
that will not do me much good. If I need anything it will be baby
doses to keep me on an even keel.

Writing this has been a useful exercise as in doing so I have ordered
my thoughts a little. I still expect that I will take a load of gear
and then get into a cycle of decide-change and decide again come race
morning. Like a teenager getting ready for a night out...

Sunday, January 25, 2015


I remember thinking some time ago, possibly this time last year when I
got my first Hoka's that the running durability that if was feeling
was due to the shoes. Actually what I have realised over the last year
is that it was down to me and that it was false anyway.

Sure, Hoka's help with fatigue and recovery. The soft shoe reduces
fatigue and means you can run again perhaps sooner than in a normal
shoe. What it doesn't do is ensure you are conditioned and for me that
was the problem. I was fit enough but not conditioned. My lack of
stretching and maintenance on my body was masked by shoes that allowed
me to rack up the miles.

Eventually I broke. Not majorly in terms of needing surgery or
anything dramatic like that. I broke in my knee because for years I
had neglected some very simple stretches that work preventatively. Yes
runners, take a seat, you can do things to prevent injury! Prevention
is better than cure. Who knew right?

Since being fixed, and it took a musculoskeletal specialist to
facilitate this, I have come back feeling stronger than before and
more durable. I stretch regularly and it takes but moments. I also
foam roll and have a new one with teeth - nasty. This durability feels
different in that it feels like it is built on a solid foundation. It
is not built on a platform of foam runner but on solid physical

I will test this properly in a couple of weeks with my first 50 mile
ultra. I am excited and nervous simultaneously but feel that I can do

Oh I ditched the Hoka's too.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

2014 Fledgling ultra runner review...

As a review of 2014 and also a bit further back too I thought I'd write it as an A-Z. It covers some of the issues and highlights of 2014 and how I got into this sport initially. Thanks for reading....

A - At last.....
In 2011 I entered my first ultra, the Born to Run at Llanelli. Injury, surgery and rehabilitation meant that it finally happened in 2014. During that period between 2011 and 2014, obvious frustrations aside, I immersed myself in the sport of ultra running, reading books, magazines and online articles and listening to the full range of podcasts. There was a lull in my enthusiasm where the frustration of not being able to run and hearing about people doing nothing but became a little too much. As I recovered from surgery and resumed running again I quickly got back into my stride and my passion rekindled. 

To toe the start line in March this year at my first ultra was just incredible. A little overwhelming and completely inspiring. Unfortunately my year ended with that race as, yet again, injury took hold. The difference now is that I am addressing the issues that caused injury and taking a preventative approach. This basically means stretching, doing it regularly and properly even if I don't need to ;)

B - Boosts
After falling in and then out of love with Hoka due to issues with shoe durability I found a new love in Adidas Boost. A marvellous shoe.

My review of the shoes is online here... 

C - cake!
It's why we run isn't it? Or one of the reasons. I love cake, all varieties all types in fact I'm going to go and get a slice now...
There are some recipes on my site here.. 

D - Dog
I have a fox-terrier/mini-schnauzer cross called Frankie. I take her on runs with me where we go over Leckhampton Hill.

(Strava here four legs are definitely better than 2 going up and down hill and running with Frankie is great fun. It is impossible not to smile when you run with a dog. 

What I have learned is that the route needs to be up and down hills so that she has time to recover. She bombs off up the hill and waits for me to catch her up. If it was just a flat route then she would struggle to keep the pace consistently.

E - Elevation
Trail runs and trail runners are measured and measure more in terms of vertical than miles. This is difficult when you live in the uk and in Cheltenham in particular. Over the year I achieved 51,992ft / 15,847m elevation. When you consider that a single race, Hardrock, has 66,000ft in one race this is frankly embarrassing! 

F - friends and community...
Whether it be real or virtual, the running community and the friends along the way make this a great sport. Social media in all it's constructs make keeping in touch with runners, races and brands so easy. Everyone's a blogger too so there's always something to read. The ultramarathon community is so incredibly supportive that even when the same questions get asked on the Facebook group people are tolerant and reply. Again. Explaining how you should fuel a 100 miler.... It's a pretty niche sport but the world is a smaller place...

G - Groundhog track marathon
Booked for early March 2015. This will only be my third race at marathon distance - I have run more marathons in training than in races, the last one being on New Year's Eve in 03:46, it's on strava here

This is a bit of a departure for me as I had vowed to not enter the next race until I had completed the imminent one. This simply because I have lost so many race entries due to injury and issue. With my new regimen of prevention rather than cure I have two stacked up of which this is the second. Beyond March I have no concrete plans.

H - Hoka
As much as I loved them they were simply not durable enough. After 300-325 miles the rubber was gone and the sole evaporating leading to knee issues. Shame.
My review of the shoes is here...

I - IPA 
This is my favourite entry - the beer entry! A couple years ago when travelling through Europe I started a 'thing' where whenever I had a beer I would have a different one. This was easy in France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg as there's so much variety. What I discovered was a passion for IPA's that I have been able to continue exploring thanks to a local off licence, Favourite Beers. I have since that trip in 2013 collected 126 beers.

More recently I have seen a change in that beers that were once all bottled are now being sold in cans. Typically, certainly in the uk, lager came in cans and proper beer in bottles. There were some ales that came icons with widgets to create the head. IPA in cans works, tastes great, looks great and why not?

My favourite beer? Punk IPA by Brewdog. I also like the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. 

J - JustMMB
Instagram is my social network of choice these days and my handle is JustMMB (inspired by a character in 'for the win' by Cory Doctorow). Instagram feels less troll-y and less confrontational than twitter does which is what has turned me towards it. Plus sharing pictures is way more fun and creative than simply tweeting that 'i am bored' or something. With most of my runs not being about pace but more time on feet it means stopping to take a picture is not an issue. It makes running creative and means I can capture some of why I se to share when I get home...

K - Killian Jornet
THAT performance at Hardrock. Cruising around the course, chatting at aid stations and having a good time. At mile 70, some 20 minutes behind the course record, he picks up the pace and with Ricky Gates pacing him breaks the course record by some 45 minutes. Making the incredibly tough look pretty simple. 

L - Llanelli 
The Born to Run ultra. My first ever ultra-marathon.

Race report is online here...

M - Mileage
2013 saw me run 1,652.83 miles in 221:21:25 hours, gaining 51,992ft and burning an incredible 193,676 calories (this is around 55lbs of fat!)

I started the year averaging 50'ish miles a week and felt durable and strong at this. A mixture of short commute runs with longer weekend efforts. As injury took hold in the middle of the year the mileage dropped off - as I recovered I quickly got back to the level again and finished the year with a 3:45 self supported marathon. At that mileage I feel good and strong and it's sustainable. 

N - North Face
I know it's The North Face but I was struggling for an 'N'! I have seen a lot written and heard about their Better than Naked shorts and always been put off by the price. £75 for a pair of shorts?! 

My local Blacks store had a spring sale and they were selling them for £20. They are quite simply the best shorts I have, the fit is excellent, no seams no pressure in the sensitive under carriage area and some clever pockets and pouches. Great shorts.. 

O - Olympics
Wouldn't it be fantastic if the Olympics included an ultra distance event?

A 100k race would be an incredible spectacle and propel this sport into the public consciousness. Watching runners cover 62 miles at sub 6:30 pace would surely capture the imagination of the sporting public. In the way that we marvel at the mile splits for elite marathoners surely this would be the same? The challenge for organisers would be what sort of race to make it? Would it be a road race like comrades? Or a trail run? 

I have heard an idea suggesting that the course be broken down into 25km segments, with a quarter on each of the following terrain road, uphill/mountain, technical trail and then groomed trail. To find the most complete runner.....

P - parkrun!
I love parkrun, the structure, the sentiment, the way the community supports it, the event pops up and disappears as quickly. It's free, happy and supportive. I did three last year with a PB of 19:28. 

My most recent effort was on 03/01 and I finished in 21:02. I am actually prouder of this run than my PB as I started near the back and then made my way through the crowds... My mile splits reflect this... 7:19, 6:20, 6:06 and the final .2 mile at 5:55 pace. I'd like to do more but it doesn't really fit with my training structure where I tend to keep Saturdays completely free of running.

The strava file from 03/01/15 is here... 

I'm making two entries for 'P' so I can talk about podcasts. I love my podcasts when I am running, the three ultra ones I listen to are Ultrarunner Podcast, Talk Ultra and Trail Runner Nation. It's difficult to pick a favourite but Eric Schranz and Ian Corless, the hosts of the first two mentioned, have it pretty much nailed. Not sure what happened with the Ultrarunner podcast guys but two of them host the Trail Runner one. It's good with very good guests and a different style but I struggle sometimes with their banter. It's not about them. Additional podcasts of note are the Rich Roll Podcast which is incredibly diverse in terms of the guests and has a more holistic approach to what's going on and how we can all improve. He's so prolific that keeping up with the listening can be a problem!

Q - Quadricep
2014 has not been without its injury woes and did stop me completing a race I had entered, the Cheltenham Challenge Ultimate - a 75km race. The injury was my own making which made it worse. 

I've had three knee operations, a cartilage trim on each and an ACL reconstruction in my left. Consequently I do not stretch my quads as this involves putting pressure through the knee to fold it up and I have never felt confident doing that. I worked out that I probably had not stretched my quads for 4.5-5 years. Staggering really. 

Also hardly surprising that my quads eventually couldn't take any more. Luckily the remedy was identified and I was able to resume training pretty quickly. Yes I do now stretch my quads, and hamstrings, and calves and glutes...

R - Racing
Not something I do a lot of at all. In fact hardly ever. In 2014 I raced, if you count parkrun, 6 times in total. Only one of those was an ultra, the others were the 5kms a couple of 10kms and a sprint triathlon. All good fun but hardly in the league of some of the runners out there. I run constantly and do not need to race to prove what I am capable of or to get the enjoyment. It is, for me, enough in and of itself to keep me balanced and nourished.

S - Salomon
great products. Not cheap but excellent quality. I have the race vest, a couple of pairs of their trail shoes, the race beanie and the new S-Lab rain jacket. Quality, quality, quality.

T - Thames Trot
A 50 mile ultra that I have entered for February. My plan is to do a couple of 50's this year and depending on the experience move to the 100 mile distance the following year. Maybe. 

U - Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes
This is where it all started for me. I don't remember the date or even the year but I remember where and how. I had heard about Dean Karnazes and seen his book advertised online. At the time I was working in Telford, in the Waterstones they had a single copy. I looked at it a few times, I think it was £10, that put me off buying it. Eventually after a few days of looking at it an umming and aching I bought it. I then went to Costa Coffee, bought lunch and a coffee and started to read it. I could not put it down. Deans story was incredible and seemed simultaneously achievable and totally unachievable. It set me on the path I am on with wanting to go long. What it also did was make me realise that everyone is capable of this (whatever this is for you) and that the only limits are what we put on ourselves. Try it out, tell a non-runner that you are training to run 50k, 50 miles or more. Tell them you ran a marathon in training. It is unfathomable and yet we make it normal because we can and do do it. 

Much like 'P' I am making 'U' a double to include Ultra Running Magazine. Again I am not sure of the year but it was a January as the issue had a calendar in it. Browsing magazines at the local post office there was tucked away, a single edition of Ultra Running Magazine. I bought it, again after some umming and ahhing and then pored over it reading it cover to cover more than once. Along with the Dean Karnazes book my interest was confirmed and the path set...

V - Versatility
Another letter that I struggled with. I've put versatility as i feel pretty versatile as a result of the training that I do. The strength that you get from ultra training with some tuning can be turned to speed. Most of my runs are at 7:30-8 min mile pace. In March 2014, just before my taper, I did a 36:30 10km which was a PB. On no real speed work just purely on the strength gained from long distance running and, relatively, higher mileage weeks. 

In context I know that I am not fast, this is fast relative to me! 

W - Wales
Bala actually and Lake Tegid specifically. The idea was to complete the inaugural Bala-Athon. A swim across the lake then a run around its perimeter, thankfully, in a pair. It was a stunning setting and it started out ok but quickly turned sour when the cold got the better of me. It was a DNF but in this case that meant Did Nothing Fatal.

X - X-Ray
A little tenuous this one for the A-to-Z but I've not had any x-rays this year which based on my injury run over the last few years is actually quite something! 

Y - Why?
Another tenuous one! Why as in why I run and why we run..... The first Cheltenham park run of 2015 saw 378 runners toe the line. On a cold, wet and windy morning 378 people clad in high-viz ran a 5km. You cannot explain that to a non-runner. 

I run for a number of reasons the main one is simply because I love it. I really cannot describe why, it's just a commitment to myself that I cannot acquiesce on. If I'm not running I'm daydreaming and planning it. It is a massive part of my life, it grounds me and keeps me sane. It gives me time when I am not at anyone's beck and call. I will forgo lie-ins for it and go out in whatever weather. Sometimes the harsher the better. I'm not running away from anything, which is often said, and neither am I running to something. I just run because it's natural and makes me who I am.

Z  - Zzzzz's  
ahh the zzzzzzz's. If you train and run for ultra's then I'm guessing that, like me, you sleep well. Really well!