Thursday, February 26, 2015

Just enjoy it?

I was in a running shop today, Run and Become. A great shop that sells
a massive variety of shoes. For such a small shop it's quite
remarkable. I was browsing, actually I was looking for some Adidas
Ultraboosts, they didn't have any so was looking around when a lady
that worked there asked if I needed help.

I replied that "I'm just browsing thanks"
She smiled and asked, "do you have any races coming up?"
"Yes", I responded, "a marathon in a week although because of my cold
I've not been able to train properly for nearly two weeks"
"Have you run one before?" She asked. Putting aside my affront, surely
I look like a runner don't i?
"Yes, and I ran a 50 miler 3 weeks ago"
What she said next was, to me, incredibly interesting. She said, "well
you're an experienced runner, maybe this one is for enjoyment and
experience. To be there."

I nodded and agreed then she went behind the counter. I left shortly afterwards.

I've been thinking about it all day though.

I haven't and don't race a lot but when I do I want to race. I don't
think I'll win but I race to do the best I can. The Groundhog marathon
was to be about striving for a PB, now it will be about finishing.
Maybe in not being in the shape I want and needing to rely on residual
fitness and experience the race day will be more enjoyable. Clearly I
love running so maybe low expectations and a relaxed approach will
open a whole world up. I will be in the moment and because I won't be
killing myself racing the watch i'll be better for it...

I might even race more...

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Blood(y) Ultras

As a type 1 diabetic I have regular blood tests. Every 6 months in
fact. They check a load of things and I normally get feedback on my
HBA1c ( and my
cholesterol. Everything else presumably at normal levels and so not
worthy of mention.

This time was different, I had low iron, low platelet count and higher
levels of bilirubin in my liver. I am seeing the doctor in the morning
to get clarification on each of these and to determine what I need to
be doing and should be doing to redress the balance.

In the meantime I have done some internet research and they are all,
probably, linked. The root cause is my training regimen but it also
goes further than that...

Found in leafy greens (kale, spinach, cabbage etc) and meat red meat.
Meat is the top of the list, actually liver is top of the list but as
I eat neither it's a bit of a problem. I do regularly eat my greens, I
also eat a lot of chick peas. I am assuming that this is not enough to
sustain the amount of run training that I do. Not that the volume is
that massive but perhaps combined with my age and diet it is.

Since having this identified I have been taking a supplement to
restore my levels which I will cease after a day or two.

Combine this with damaged red blood cells and the issue is compounded.

Red Blood Cells
These live, normally, for around 120 days in the body. After which
they die but as they have been alive for 120days the body has time to
replenish. During endurance training and running particularly they can
become damaged and die prematurely. As the body has not had time to
replenish then the count is reduced. This contributes to the lack of


I have copied this definition from the website
( The second
bullet near the end of the passage is relevant...

This chemical gives bile its yellow/green colour. A high level of
bilirubin in your blood will make you jaundiced ('yellow'). Bilirubin
is made from haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is a chemical in red blood cells
that is released when the red blood cells break down. Liver cells take
in bilirubin and attach sugar molecules to it. This is then called
'conjugated' bilirubin which is passed into the bile ducts.
> A raised blood level of 'conjugated' bilirubin occurs in various liver and bile duct conditions. It is particularly high if the flow of bile is blocked. For example, by a gallstone stuck in the common bile duct, or by a tumour in the pancreas. It can also be raised with hepatitis, liver injury, or long-term alcohol abuse.
> A raised level of 'unconjugated' bilirubin occurs when there is excessive breakdown of red blood cells - for example, in haemolytic anaemia.

All of which, if correct, indicates that the issues should not be
anything serious to worry about as the root cause is understood.
Obviously I'm no doctor and may have interpreted things to
simplistically. I'll find out tomorrow.

This does perhaps raise two questions....actually three questions...
1. Is a vegetarian diet good for endurance runners?
2. Is ultra running any good for you?
3. Should I switch back from IPA to drinking Guinness again?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Thames Trot a week on...

A week or so after the Thames Trot and I've had time to digest and reflect a bit....

First thing is I had my hip checked out, diagnosis is a strained symphis pubis ligament ( Nothing too serious at all. I ran on Tuesday, a couple miles on a treadmill and again today with 5 miles over two runs on my commute. While not quite full of beans I am fine.

I've been thinking about how underwhelmed I was when I finished the race last Saturday a lot and spoken to a couple of people about it as it was bothering me. I felt like I was being ungrateful when I really wasn't. I think it comes down to a couple of things. 

1. I wanted to race. 
I didn't think I'd win or even come close but I wanted to race. I wanted to do the best I could. I wasn't able to do that so never left it all out on the course, never buried myself to do the best I could. When I crossed the line I was fine. Sure I was tired and sore but actually very well.

2. I executed the plan.
I had a training plan, I followed it, only dropping 47.47 miles over the 4 months (I love that it was 47.47) and so on race day was able to do my thing as per the plan until I fell and then just couldn't. 

Those are both positives and enable me to look forward with some confidence. I ran 50 miles. In less than 10hours and was able to manage my body through 28 miles on some horrible terrain. I stayed calm, in the moment and just got in with it. I could have lost it with myself, I could have withdrawn, or dnf'd but I didn't I saw it through. I'm proud of that. 

Looking back on the race there's some things that really have come back to me...

The course..
I enjoyed the course, despite the mud, the opening few miles on the frozen trails were great, some of the villages beautiful and the bridges with 5p car tolls - seriously - just seem crazy! The section through the woods with the stairs cut into the hill was a welcome change. Running through the streets of Reading was surreal after so long out in the peace. The bridge at the finish in Henley was incredible (even though it was dark). There was a moment where running on my own I could hear behind me the honking of geese, it got closer and louder and a metre or two above the water flew a flock of around a dozen Canada geese. It was incredible.

The people...
Ultra runners are great, friendly, cool, with beards and happy to chat. I ran with a number of people all of whom were great. Running with Kirk was a highlight. The surreal moment was the Hull City fan. He came alongside me with his phone out, I had mine out but was looking up Henley on a map. He was checking the football scores. Told me that Ivanovich had scored a winner for Chelsea and that City had only drawn with Hull. That really gave me a lift and then he was gone.... I wonder was he ever really there?

The people extends to the race organisation and aid stations. Just brilliant. Beaming smiles, supportive and helpful. 

Karl Meltzer of Talk Ultra always talks about "doing his thing" - that was my mantra. With a plan to run 9min miles I kept repeating to myself "just doing my thing - just doing my thing" it worked. It kept me calm and very much in the moment. That was possibly the biggest learning point for me...I was firmly, unequivocally and totally in the moment. That was the best bit. I experienced every footstep, sight and sound as was not plugged in.

I was and am incredibly grateful to have been able to complete this race. It's an experience like no other. To be moving for that long, just moving, strips away all other thoughts. You are just moving, everything is focused on that. Once the body realises that it's remarkable what it can do. How quickly you can move and then when it's over how quickly it can repair itself. 

To be in the moment for that long, to enjoy that sense of peace and unspoken unity with those around you is not something I take for granted. 

I know I can do better than I did here but if I don't it won't be a problem. Just finishing is a victory and the journey is more uplifting and significant than the finish....

Monday, February 9, 2015

Thames Trot Ultra marathon :: 7th February :: Race Report

ran 50 miles. Me! 50 miles. I say ran but it was a mixture of running, walking and shuffling. I keep saying it in my head as it sounds awesome. Even if the race didn't quite go to plan I still finished it and in under 10 hours. 
This was the Thames Trot 50 mile ultramarathon set-up by Go Beyond and also known as 'The Boat Race'.

The day started nice and calm. We stayed in the race start hotel, Hawkwell House, breakfast was at 7; fruit, cereal, yoghurt and then poached egg on a muffin. Oh and coffee. Then it was to the conservatory to register and pick up my race number and timing chip. Back to the room to get changed, I'd already loaded my race vest the night before, then down to the start. 

Have deliberated extensively, far too much so, my final kit was...
- Adidas Adizero Boost shoes
- Inov8 socks
- Compressport calf guards
- Skins under shorts
- Brooks shorts
- Nike combat short sleeved tshirt
- Nike combat lightweight fleece long sleeve top
- Gore running shirt
- buff
- Asics running beanie
- running gloves
- Salomon S-Lab 5ltr race vest

I was changed and ready, the off was 8:30, at 8:15 I headed down with Luca for company. I was feeling pretty nervous at this time and said as much to Luca. He just looked at me and said "you do this every weekend" he was sort of right and wrong but just made me think how much training I have done. I relaxed a bit.

Nice and nervous at the start!

As the crowd gathered there was plenty of gear on display. A couple of hardly soles in T-shirts. Lots of Inov8 running shoes, one guy in VFF's, and lots of race vests. Salomon Ultimate Direction, Kalenji, Nathan all prominent. 

Crowd shot - milling about before the off.

We were called to the start, the horn sounded and off we went. 400m down the hill on the road towards the river. The throng already stretching out then bunching as we crossed narrow bridges over the river to the far bank.

My plan was to run 9min mile pace and try to run the whole race at that pace. I started well enough although had to keep checking my watch as it is harder than you might image running at a pace much slower than normal. My pace hovered around the 8:45/9:15 mark as we all progressed across the frozen single track. 

The weather was much better than anticipated and fortunately there was no rain. The first couple of hours in the bitter cold the path was really runable. It was frozen solid. It was almost like running on Tarmac although you did have to watch it as there were lots of ridges that were like rocks and roots.

The first aid station arrived quite soon at just before 10miles. I grabbed a bottle of water and some of the famous fruit cake and continued. The cake, fruitcake, was lush! I continued at the same steady pace making up some places on runners already slowing down or taking planned walk breaks. 

Another aid station hit in 3 hours, right on cue as I was planning that 10 miles would take me 1hr 30. More cake, more water and off. This continued and I was feeling so confident. I kept saying in my head "I'm doing my thing" and it was working. There was a section that was on the road and I picked up my pace leaving a small group that had come together, behind. We then got lost....

The group reformed and 6 men actually got the map out. We ran together and figured our way back on course. We then ran together for a few miles as we approached and went through 20 and 21. I started to ease forward, upping it from 10min pace to my goal pace of 9 minute miles. This is where disaster struck.

That's a tad melodramatic but it's where the wheels came off. The tow path was changing from the compacted frozen gravel to a grassy, muddy path. Coming in the opposite direction were three people walking a dog. They pulled the dog to them, I thanked them and then said that were 5 others just behind me. Next thing, bang, I hit the deck. 

There was a small grass bank with mud across it. Not sure what foot slipped but I felt my hip flex and stretch as I unconsciously tried to right the slide. It stretched too far and then I hit the ground. Hard.

Immediately I could feel my right quad throb and my hip was really sore. I got up as the other runners came around the corner. I ran with them for a while until I couldn't hold that pace. The discomfort in my right side becoming too much. 

I walked for a bit to get some composure. Then, now on my own, tried to run again. The path was now covered in really slippery thick mud. My footing was all over the place and each correction was agony. At one point on some single track as I slid in all directions I thought if I fall I will either face plant into barbed wire or slide gently and forever into the cold Thames. More walking.

This was the start of my walk and run/shuffle strategy. Very frustrating. 

I reached the 30 mile aid station to be greeted with a picnic. There were sausage rolls, pork pies, crisps, breadsticks, more cake, water and electrolytes and luckily some falafel. I scoffed I a load of food here and had some electrolyte. A really helpful volunteer took my bottle and filled it for me (from a tank!).

I was reluctant to leave this station, it had a great vibe and runners seemed happy to kill some time. The next couple of miles were on the road and through a housing estate. Again navigation was difficult and I ended up in a small group of runners. We arrived at the path and off again, I started running with a guy that was doing 9min pace. We were chatting and running and it was easy, until it started to hurt. I slowed down and arrived at walking pace.

The next few miles were mud, mud and mud. I walked, walked and walked. 

There was a nice stretch through some woods and I ran for a bit with an accountant from Cambridge who supported Liverpool. He was, however, a nice fella. Eventually he dropped me and I never saw him again, perhaps because I am a Chelsea fan.... This became the story of my race, I was going backwards. I picked up then with a chap called Kirk. We ran together for probably a couple of hours on and off. Chatting about family, training, upcoming races and generally chewing the fat. Eventually he dropped me as the inevitable mud took its toll I was unable to run but he continued. 

There was a surreal stretch through this where we ran through Reading. Leaving the Thames Path to skirt around some building works we were surrounded by high rise and cars. After having had it so peaceful this was quite a change. In a group I don't know what we must have looked like, survivors of the apocalypse or something. We must have smelled bad too! It was also quite odd that having been out for so long it still felt like morning and so even at 2pm I was saying good morning to people that we encountered or passed on the path.

At the final aid station I begged how long to the finish to be told 10k. I was pretty gutted but then smiled when the aid station chap said that it should be around 30minutes for me! In my dreams. 

The light was now fading (head torch time) as time ticked on and there was more mud. I was being over taken with far too much regularity now. As Henley approached I was told there was one more field and then some road. Relief.

Finishing in the dark...

I ploughed on (see what I did there) and on firmer ground was able to run a bit more.  Coming into Henley I crossed a long bridge, there was time to get lost once more with a couple of other runners, we were all now in head torches, before the finish was in in sight. Luca and Amélie were waiting for me with about 200m to go. Seeing them was awesome, really gave me a lift. I made sure to be running and even managed a sprint, or maybe an improved shuffle, to the finish. 

Action shot!

It was done. 

Evidence of my fall...
I was mightily relieved but not emotional, not drained or particularly exhausted. I felt really intact. I had done the whole race. I had just run 50 miles. I was a bit underwhelmed at the finish as I wasn't in difficulty. Although I had been managing my body over the previous 28 miles or so at no point did I think I wouldn't finish. On reflection the training I did was obviously correct and the right amount as I was not broken by it. I had fuel in my tank as I had not been 'racing' the second half.
I grabbed a cup of tea, I really needed something warm now as the cold was biting, and grabbed my kids a couple of pieces of the fruit cake and then walked to the car. Got changed by the boot and was then craving some savoury after so much gel, shot bloks and cake.
We found a chippy 5 minutes from the race finish and never has fish and chips tasted so good.
As a diabetic my blood sugar is pretty vital, this means basically eating enough to not bonk. Important for everyone racing but, perhaps doubly for someone with Type 1 diabetes. At the start of the race my blood sugar was 12mmol. I had had 6 units of insulin with breakfast. When I tested at the end of the race my blood sugar was 4.1mmol. I had eaten a couple packs of Shot bloks, a couple of gels, a trek bar, a Meridian foods nut bar, 4 helpings of fruit cake, a load of falafels and some breadsticks. I hadn't tested during the race as I was feeling fine and in control. At no point did I feel like my blood sugar was getting away from me. I have run miles and miles so know how my body reacts to this.
It was then a drive home (me as passenger!) - I had a hot bath and some more food. I thought I would be exhausted and asleep very soon. It didn't come, I watched the football on TV and eventually went to bed around midnight.
I am looking forward to my next ultra, as always there are lessons learned but I know I can do it. I can do it and be in control and not break. Isn't that what ultra running is...

Cup of tea at the end...

Results Update...
I finished 144th out of 259 finishers in an official time of 09:37:38.

My splits between each checkpoint...
CP1 - 01:32:17 
CP2 - 01:29:55
CP3 - 01:48:48
CP4 - 01:34:36
CP5 - 01:33:54
Finish - 01:38:08

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Ultra Beard - A Thames Trot Kit List

It's now 2 days until the Thames Trot. Just writing that gives me
goosebumps and then a smidge of fear....

I have been, as I blogged before, really struggling with what kit to
wear and use. This is a kit list as I think of it now.

Working from the ground up...

Shoes and socks are easy, my Adistar Boost trainers will be on my
feet. I've not run in them for a couple of weeks so they should feel
fresh. They also only have around 400 miles of wear in the so should
be perfect. Socks is another easy one as it will be some inov8 ankle
socks that I use all the time. Having tried all manner of socks these
work best for me.

Calf guards, again easy, I have some super-snug Compressport ones that
I will be wearing. Shorts is less obvious. I will be wearing shorts as
I always do. Even though temperatures are going to be between 0-4c I
won't start in tights. I have some choices for shorts, TNF Better than
Naked shorts or some skins shorts and a pair of brooks shorts over
them. The TNF shorts are the best I have ever worn. Roomy, comfortable
and with innovative pockets and stowage. But....if I want to put on
some run tights later in the race it would mean going commando as the
TNF shorts have the cycling short liner bit built in. If I opt for the
Skins/Brooks combo and then want to put tights on later I can slide
the over the Skins shorts. Decisions decisions and one that is taking
far too much of my thought time right now.

I have similar issues with the top half! I have been experimenting
with a number of tops and combos but think I will go for a Nike combat
under shirt that has a high neck and a light fleece lining protecting
the core. It's not particularly thick but does give some protection.
On top of that I will wear a Nike combat T-shirt that is one of the
normal thin varieties, on top of that a long sleeve Gore running
shirt. I'll also wear some running gloves.

I'll top the ensemble off with a buff and a Salomon race beanie. I've
been experimenting on my colder runs and can fashion the two together
to make a sort of balaclava looking piece of head gar. Pulling the
buff up over my ears and then pinning it under my bottom lip with the
beanie holding it in place.

I'll be using my Salomon S-lab race vest (I have the 5ltr version) to
carry my gear. I'll have a litre of water in the soft flasks on the
front. All the gel pockets will be stuffed with, er, gels and shot
bloks. In the main stow area I will carry a couple of solid energy
bars for when gels become too sickly and then some spare clothing. I
am planning to carry a pair of run tights (depending on what shorts I
wear) and a spare long sleeved run shirt. This will likely be a Crane
winter cycling compression top that is really snug, high necked and
warm. I'll also have my Salomon S-lab rain shell just in case the
weather takes a turn and also for added warmth should I need it. An
additional layer may be essential as the day wears on.

I also need to carry some maps, a compass, head torch (with spare
batteries) my phone and my ipod/headphones. The vest also comes with
it's own space blanket which I will make sure is on board.

I'll also have my ultra-beard with me.

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