Sunday 18 December 2011

Lessons learned

Well, I think that now seems to be as good a time as any for this retrospective of my first season as an ultrarunner. With my final race of the year out of the way, I can look back over my achievements this year and take stock. And cor blimey, what a year it was!

Now I say "year", but really I have only been involved in this ultrarunning malarkey for about 7 months, so I'm not even sure I can legitimately call this a season, but no matter. Just to recap, my descent into the world of ultrarunning began in April, when I ran the Virgin London Marathon, but decided to make it a bit more interesting by tacking on a 90 mile warm-down run at the end. I was attempting to raise more funds for the Epilepsy Society (who helped my Mum when I was first diagnosed with epilepsy myself) and figured something this crazy would get me some additional exposure. Little did I know quite how much exposure it would give me! This was great for the charity, as epilepsy remains somewhat of a taboo subject for some people. It was incredibly odd for me though...

I thought I was being crazy doing something like this, but it turned out that there was a whole sub-culture of athletes out there doing things like this on a regular basis. And I wanted in! I ran my first ultra in June at the Shires and Spires 35 mile ultra in Northamptonshire. Well I say 35 miles. I think I actually ran about 42 miles! It turns out that navigation is not my strong suit... But the true ultras are those of 100 miles or more, and I was interested to see how quickly I could run the distance. It took me 29 hours to cover ~120 miles in April, but that was not done as a race. I wondered if I could do better. At the last minute, I entered the South Downs Way 100 mile Ultra in July, which passes close to my parents' house in Portsmouth (my Dad even came out in the middle of the night to pace me for a section towards to the end). I completed it in 22:04, coming in 5th overall. Not bad, even despite my Dad's best efforts to take me the wrong way - I guess bad navigation is in the genes!

Thursday 8 December 2011

Is marathon running bad for your heart? Sigh...

I spotted a news story on the BBC News website this morning which claims that Marathon training 'may pose a heart risk'. This story has since caused a bit of a buzz on the interwebs, cropping up in various tabloids and on various discussion forums and blogs. Being a runner and a scientist, this of course piqued my interest. Is this something that I should be concerned about, or is this another case of sensationalism by the media? Take a guess...

First things first. The study in question is a paper published yesterday (6th December 2011) in the European Heart Journal by a group in Belgium entitled  "Exercise-induced right ventricular dysfunction and structural remodelling in endurance athletes". Unfortunately, it requires a subscription, but you can see the abstract here. Being a scientist myself, I have looked over the paper and thought that I would share my thoughts on the implications.

The study measures various aspects of cardiac function for 40 endurance athletes, each a specialist in one of 4 events which are, in order of duration; marathon, endurance triathlon (possibly Olympic length?), alpine cycling, or ultra-triathlon (Ironman distance). Measurements of cardiac function were taken using cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (cMRI) and echocardiograms, as well as analysis of biochemical markers of function such as B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) and cardiac troponin I (cTnI), both proteins involved with contractions of muscle cells in the heart and hence good predictors of cardiac risk. For each athlete, three measurements were taken; the first was taken as a baseline 2-3 weeks prior to the event, the second was taken within an hour of crossing the finishing line at the event, and the final 'delayed' measurement was taken 6-11 days after the event.

Broadly speaking, they found the following key results:

Monday 5 December 2011

Proof if proof be need be

I found this story on Ultrarunner Podcast's URP daily feed and have found it to be very interesting. FKT (Fastest Known Time) is an offshoot of ultrarunning aiming to track (unsurprisingly) the fastest known times for completion of popular long distance routes. For instance, one of the most popular routes is the Grand Canyon R2R2R (rim to rim to rim), running 42 miles from the south rim of the canyon to the north rim, then back again. The record is currently held by Dave Mackey in 6:59:56 - yikes! It's all quite informal, and all attempts and potential records are tracked and discussed by runners on the fastest known time forum. There aren't any rules per sé, but the general format is to first announce that you are making an attempt, and then to report your attempt with as much corroborating evidence as possible.

This story concerns an attempt at the FKT record for the John Muir Trail (JMT). The JMT, at 215 miles in length, is one of the longest hiking trails in the USA, running between Mount Whitney and Yosemite National Park. In September 2009 Brett Maune, a relative unknown in the ultrarunning/fastpacking world, set a new record.

There are several impressive things about Brett's record. Firstly, he had already attempted the route only a month before at the previous full moon (I assume for lighting purposes at night). He suffered badly on the first day of this attempt, and had little time to recover for his second successful attempt. Second, he didn't just beat the previous record - he absolutely smashed it by 5 hours and 46 minutes, completing the full distance in 3d 14h 13m! But the third, and most amazing thing is that he did the entire thing unsupported (i.e. he carried all of his supplies with him rather than having help from pacers and a supporting crew). He beat the next best unsupported time by over 19 hours! If you are not sure why this is so damn impressive, consider this; this is a record held and actively contested on a route attempted by many of the top runners in the world, but he was able to complete the route much faster than that while carrying about 27 lbs of gear extra.

Monday 21 November 2011

Brecon Beacons Ultra - November 2011

Having had a couple of weeks off from racing due to illness, I felt like I hadn't raced for ages. Luckily I still had one race remaining to finish off my first ever ultra marathon season - the Brecon Beacons 45 miler in Wales. This race, now in its fourth year, is organised by Martin and Sue Like from Likeys, a fantastic source for all of your ultra running needs. This was also a very special race as it would be my best friend, Dan Park's, first attempt at running an ultra marathon. He has been running to raise money for St Wilfrid's Hospice, and this was the last challenge in his series of runs.

We headed off for Wales on Friday evening expecting the worst (traffic-wise), yet fortuitously managed to get a clear run all the way through to Talybont-on-Usk. We even managed to get there in time to pick up our registration packs, saving us from an early start the following day.

We made our way over to the Dan Y Wenallt youth hostel and, following some slight navigational misgivings and geographical embarrassment, we finally found it nestled by the Talybont reservoir. Considering that we had a satnav it this stage of affairs, it wasn't a great indictment on my navigational skills... We met a couple of other runners, including our room mates Karl Zeiner and Jonathon Bacon, who were also looking forward to the following day's activities.

After a rather restless night's sleep (due to the incessant heat from the blocked off radiator in the room), we made our way over to the start by the Talybont canal. My original plan had been to run along with Dan, so I had packed a large amount of food to last me the day, along with the large amount of kit that we were required to carry. This meant that I had to use my OMM 15L rucksack rather than my much smaller and more comfortable Salamon Skin S-lab pack. However at the 11th hour we decided to run separately, with me chomping at the bit to see if I could keep up with Karl who seemed to have a similar pace to me, and Dan wanting to continue his streak of doing his challenges on his own. So, with a quick last minute effort to dump half of my bag's contents, I was ready to go.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Ah... Push it... Push it good!

There's a great article at by Andy Jones-Wilkins regarding Brian Morrison's "winning" finish at Western States in 2006. Brian pushed incredibly hard on this race and came into the Placer High School track at Auburn 12 minutes ahead of his nearest competitor... and promptly collapsed 200 meters from the finish. He was helped across the line by his friends and pacer Scott Jurek to cheers from the crowd, but was unfortunately disqualified for receiving physical assistance. It's heart breaking to watch:

The article itself asks the question "how much is too much?". Brian has apparently admitted that he pushed himself too far for the conditions of the race (it was incredibly hot that day), and says that he was probably out of gas much sooner than this really. Somehow he was able to push himself on by sheer power of will alone but, when he entered the stadium, his brain relaxed and thought he had finished, causing his entire body to finally give it up just before the actual finish line.

This is one of a couple of such articles that I have read recently giving first-hand experiences of runners pushing it too far and suffering for it. Andy himself recounts ending up with acute renal failure following Angeles Crest in 2004, and there are many more comments at the bottom of the article of other runners with their own (often terrifying) tales of post-run issues. James Elson, RD of Centurion Running, discusses the issues that he has had attempting to run a packed 2011 season, including the Grand Slam in America (WS100, Vermont 100, Leadville Trail 100, and Wasatch Front 100), having not allowed himself time to recover from injuries and a tough race in Badwater last year.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Last short run for the year

After running the Great Eastern Run at the start of the month, I felt pretty terrible. I could feel a cold coming on that weekend, and I suspect that the run really helped to drive the cold right through my body, completely overpowering my tired immune system. Bugger. I spent the next week coughing and spluttering and generally being pathetic, culminating in being forbidden from running the Round Rotherham 50 miler the following weekend. I was very disappointed at this, since it was the final run in the Run Further series of ultras and was the second one I had missed (the first being due to impending nuptuals). Unfortunately this means that I was not able to complete the minimum number of races to get a final score, although I did somehow manage to come 76th out of 208 in my age category with only 2 of the required 4 races under my belt... Oh well, this gives me something to aim for next year, where I will be concentrating on ultras.

Even though I am still not feeling 100 % even now (an annoying spluttering cough still creeps up on me when I am running and cycling), I went ahead and ran the BUPA Great South Run which I had actually entered before even running last year's event. This is one of the top 10 milers in the world (an odd distance really), and is held in my old home city of Portsmouth. I ran last year and was annoyingly close to coming in under 7 minutes a mile, coming in only 1 minute and 7 seconds over. This year, my only goal was to crack the 70 minute mark. Even though I don't really do any kind of speed work, I do seem to be able to keep a pretty good pace going, and my increased stamina since last year should allow me to keep up the pace for the entire distance.

As with last year, I ran the race with my dad Jeff and my aunt Liz. My mum had suggested that I run with them rather than heading off to do my own thing, but I'm just too competitive for my own good and instead pushed my way to the front of the 24,000 starters to just behind the good club runners section. The weather was overcast and a little chilly, which was great for running but not great for standing around waiting for the start of the race. The horn was eventually blown by Dame Ellen MacArthur and we were off along the Southsea promenade!

Sunday 9 October 2011

Great Eastern Run 2011 - 9th October 2011

It's strange to think that this time two years ago, I was only just really getting into running. My first race was the New Forest half marathon in 2009, which I ran with my dad in 2:12:02 to raise money for CRUK (who I now work for, so it feels a bit odd to be taking a salary out of the money I raised...). It's really all spiralled out of control since then! My first proper race was a local half marathon, the Great Eastern Run held in Peterborough, a few weeks later. In my first year running it in 2009, I ran it in 1:39:33 - an improvement of over 20 minutes. The next year I ran a 1:38:08 - a slightly less impressive improvement. This year, my running has really moved to another level what with training for 100 milers, so I was looking forward to an opportunity to have a crack at a new PB with my new found endurance. So this weekend, I prepared to have my third go at running the Peterborough course, a nice flat course that is perfect for a PB.

Unfortunately, I woke up this morning not feeling great. My throat felt a little sore, and I had a horrible feeling that a cold was planning on making itself known. Hmm. Oh well, it may be nothing, so I decided to just pull my socks up and get on with it. My aim for today's race was to see if I could break the 90 minute mark. So far I have finished most of my runs with plenty left in the tank, so I decided that I was just going to risk it and have a go to see if I could hold a 6:50 mins/mile pace for the whole distance. In the worst case scenario, I would blow up and have a slow end to the race. No biggy.

The weather this morning was perfect. Overcast but dry. The only negative was a relatively strong wind blowing. As I have constantly found, the wind in the East of England is horrendous. It's so flat that the wind just picks up speed with nothing to break it's relentless progress. Give me hills any day - at least they have a summit! I moved into the starting pens, looking for the 90 minute section. This was quite frighteningly close to the front, with very few people in the 75 minute section. So much so that they moved everybody forward, and I suddenly found myself only a few people behind the elite runners! Erm... I don't think that this is quite right.

Monday 3 October 2011

Loch Ness Marathon - October 2011

The past few weeks since the Grafham Water marathon have been a bit of a bust in terms of training. I have just about managed to squeeze about 20 miles in, but other than that it has been a run free zone. In my defence, this is due to my recent nuptuals. Yes, I am now a married man (sorry girls...). And how are we spending our first weekend together as man and wife? Well I've buggered off up to Loch Ness, and Jen's getting drunk with her friends! Ah, marriage!

Dan Park, Pete Lefort and I woke up on Saturday bright and early, ready to hit the road at 5am. We were expecting a good 9 or so hours drive up to Inverness, so Dan and I shared the driving, with Pete being in charge of the games of I Spy.

When the sun came up it was clear it was going to be another beautiful day - in fact, it ended up being the hottest day in October for a very long time. Well, in Cambridge at least. As soon as we hit Scotland, the heavens opened and the world turned dark and dank. We spent the day getting very wet, and eating our lunch in the rain. By all accounts, a perfectly typical summer's day out in Scotland...

Dan and Pete sightseeing in Scotland.

Monday 19 September 2011

Grafham Water Marathon - September 2011

Huh. So that's what it feels like to win a race! Oops, sorry. Spoiler alert...

This weekend I was supposed to be running the High Peaks 40 ultramarathon in Buxton in the Peak District, followed by a local marathon at Grafham Water reservoir, a local dog-walking, cycling and running haunt of mine. This was obviously set to be a pretty hardcore weekend, giving me my third finish in the RunFurther ultra marathon series, and only my second ever marathon finishing time.

However, next weekend I'm getting married to my wonderful (and incredibly understanding...) fiancée Jen, and apparently having me limping around the dance-floor doesn't quite fit into her idea of the perfect wedding. I therefore decided to forego the HP40 and instead stick to "just running the marathon" on Sunday. It still never sits quite right with me that I can use that phrase. Unfortunately this means that I will not have enough finishes to get an official RunFurther score for this year, but there's always next year. Maybe by that point I will have learnt how to read a map...

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Long Tour of Bradwell - August 2011

I recently completed the Long Tour of Bradwell, a 33 mile race in and around the Hope Valley. This was my second race in the RunFurther series of races, and was in the "Short" category. It is odd to think that I have gotten to the stage where 33 miles is considered a short run, but it is funny to see that my friends have become completely desensitized to these things. When informed that I was "off up a mountain running a 33 mile race" by my fiancee Jen, her friend responded "oh right, so just a quick run then?". However, whilst the distance was short, the elevation most definitely wasn't. Whilst only a third of the length of the South Downs Way from a few weeks ago, the elevation was almost half that of SDW (~7,000 feet). And SDW was pretty darn hilly. I guess that's why they call it the Peak District...

Whilst I live in Cambridge (sooooo flat!), I was quite surprised at how close the Peak District actually was. I headed up on the Friday evening and crashed at a friend's house who, fortuitously, lives only 20 minutes away from the start of the race. My friend, Colin, was unfortunately away but was kind enough to hide a key for me to use. I hope that my fumbling around in the back garden under the cover of darkness didn't attract too much attention from the neighbours...

I woke up early on Saturday morning and headed towards Bradwell Sports Pavillion, where the organisers from Dark and White were in the process of setting up. The weather was not looking favourable. A heavy downpour had hit on the short journey, so heavy that it was difficult to see the road. When I arrived, I seemed to have outrun the rain, but the clouds were not looking promising. The forecast was suggesting that the rain would hit at about 9am and would last through the day until about 4pm - pretty much exactly the time that I was likely to be running. Things were looking like they were going to get wet! To avoid carrying too much equipment, I decided to wear a warmer top and a winter hat so that I could stay warm whilst up the hills.

Monday 1 August 2011

It's An Ultra-Marathon, Not a Marathon

It has just occurred to me that I never posted this, and given the amount of hard work that went into it that is unforgivable on my part! In April this year, I made my first foray into ultra-running by adding a 96 mile warm down run onto the end of my first ever marathon which I ran in London (I blogged it as I went, starting from here). This was all in aid of the Epilepsy Society, to help raise as much money as possible, and kind of started off as a joke that spiraled out of control! This was before I really knew anything about ultra-marathon running, or that people do stupid things like running 120 miles non-stop all of the time. As with many people, I've now been well and truly sucked into the sport...

My fantastic friends Dan, Pete, Dave and Zoe, and my wonderful long-suffering fiance (soon to be wife) Jen followed me through the night, driving from village to village and making sure I wasn't eaten by bears on my travels. Pete is an avid film-maker, and spent a lot of time filming proceedings. This is a short version of the film that he has put together, which is frankly fantastic (cinematographically speaking - the running leaves a lot to be desired!).

It was really interesting for me to see events from their point of view. I can't help but feel that they had a worse time of it than I did!

Monday 11 July 2011

South Downs Way Race - July 2011

This weekend, I ran the South Downs Way race - what a fantastic day! I originally grew up in Portsmouth, and often here hear tales of the fantastic scenery of the South Downs Way from my Dad who runs the sections close to his home. The South Downs Way is (I believe) the longest National Trust trail in the country, and stretches for about 103 miles from Eastbourne on the South Coast, heading inland to Winchester. The race, organised by Jen Jackson, had it's inaugural outing last year, and when I heard that this year's race was just around the corner I signed up!

It's only been 3 months since my last big run, but I felt that I had been back on form recently so I figured I would go for it. The beauty of this race as well is that it is about as well sign-posted as any trail there is, so the chances of getting lost along the way were reduced! My only real plan for this race was that I wanted to beat 24 hours. I came up with a "perfect race" scenario, looking at 10 mins/mile for the first third of the race, 11 mins/mile for the second third, and 12 mins/mile for the final third, with 15 minutes at each checkpoint to get me in at 4:30am the following day. The big unknown here was how the hills would affect me - I knew it was hilly, but had no frame of reference for how hilly. I also wasn't sure how self-sufficient the race was so I picked up a front pack to store some extra food. Plus this has the added benefit of making it easy to get to equipment without having to take the bag off. As it happens, the race was really well catered for, with outstanding food choices available at each of the 7 checkpoints along the way. I ended up carrying way too much stuff, but at least I know for next time! I also finally decided on a pair of trail shoes, picking up a pair of Salomon Speedcross 2 shoes, after umming and awing between these and the Inov8 Roclite 285s.

Friday 17 June 2011

Well I'm officially an ultramarathoner - just with no sense of direction

Well there we go. I finally broke my cherry and ran my first official ultramarathon. I woke up very excited in the early morning of Sunday 5th June, wolfed down a bowl of porridge, collected my gear, and drove to Lamport Hall in Northamptonshire to take part in my first ultramarathon; a 35 mile jaunt around the grounds and surrounding area of the country park. This event was run by Go Beyond, and is one of the races in the Run Further series of races that make up the UK ultrarunning championships. I have managed to sign up for enough of these races to get a qualifying position, so it will be interesting to see where I stand.

Anyway, I was very excited when I arrived, and was able to chat to lots of other runners. Some were old hands who gave me some good advice, and had some great stories about their race experiences. Others were, like me, running this as their first race, and were as excited as I was.

It was a very different experience than any other races I had been involved with. The start, as seen in the photo, was much more subtle for one thing! About 120 people gathered together ready for the start, clutching their route maps, and waiting for the off. I spotted Andy Mouncey, the ultrarunner that I saw speak at the London Running Show earlier in the year and whose talk helped me make the leap towards long distance running. Before I could say hello however, the shout went up to go (no gun necessary) and we were off!

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Now to get stuck in for real

Well, it looks like things have finally settled down so I can get back to running for the sake of running. There are still a few donations trickling in, but the final total (including Gift Aid) appears to be somewhere in the region of £5,200 which is quite frankly astonishing. Thankyou again to everybody for all of your support and donations. It has gone to an amazing cause and I am incredibly proud to have been able to help the Epilepsy Society in their amazing work. There is one final interview coming out as well, which should be in the August edition of the American version of Runners World. How the American version picked it up I have no idea!

Right. Everybody is probably sick of me talking about that run. So onto a different subject; more races!

First up, I have been back to full training for the past few weeks. Running through the middle of nowhere has given me a bit of a taste for it, so I have now gotten into the habit of exploring a bit more. For the past few weeks, I have been exploring the local countryside and found some great trails to run which are a little more exciting than my usual run along the Cambridge guided bus way. Since it looks like they are actually doing some work on it now, this is quite fortuitous timing for me! It does mean that my route to and from work is off limits for the next month or so while they tarmac the cycle path, but once it's done it should make cycling to work a lot easier and less likely to kill me. I usually ride down the bus track, which is very narrow with quite a drop - very difficult to negotiate particularly in the dark and with crazy crosswinds! But now I will have a proper cycle track to cruise down which will be nice! In the meantime, exploring is a lot of fun, and there are a lot of open fields and things around which make it easy to disappear off for a few hours and get a good run in.

Last weekend, I ran my first race since London. This was the Sawston Fun Run, a little ~5 miler in the village that we lived in until moving to St. Ives last year. It has been an oddly long time since I ran such a "short" distance (I realise my perception of distance may be a little skewed...), so I was interested to see what my speed was like. I don't really do much speed work, as I very rarely run less than 12 miles at a time. The weather was pretty much perfect, sunny but with a light breeze. I lined up with the other runners, positioning myself near the front, but nervous to position myself with the "elite" runners. As it turns out, this was a slight mistake as I had to negotiate through a small crowd of people to get into my stride which slowed me down a little bit. As we came out of the college where the start line was held, I found myself in a small pack of runners at the front of the race. The pace was pretty good, at around 6 minutes a mile. I wasn't really sure on pacing for this - it felt like I could push it further but I wasn't sure what I could maintain for 5 miles. Plus the fact that I had run about 42 miles over the previous 2 days made me a bit nervous about pushing it too much... I kept this pace throughout the race, running past my old house (which was a little odd), and along the high street with lots of cheering faces spurring everybody on. I kicked in towards the end, and pushed for a faster finish as we approached the line. I overtook a couple of people, and felt a pang of guilt as I shot past a young kid who had been ahead of me through much of the race. My sprint finish wasn't quite enough to take the final guy, and I crossed the line slightly behind him in a time of 30:03 - not quite the sub 30 mins that I had hoped for, but about 2 minutes faster than last year's efforts. I found out I had actually come 11th overall, so was doubly annoyed that I could have been in the top 10 if I had been a couple of seconds faster. I definitely felt that I could have pushed the pace, so I know now for next time. I had a chat to the guy that won, in a fantastic time of just over 25 minutes. I can safely say that there is no chance of me pushing to this pace! But it is nice to know that I have the speed in me if I need it.

The next week, I started to add a bit of speedwork to my runs, finding a small hill nearby to my house and running a 10 miler followed by 20 minutes of hill sprints. It's probably a good idea to make this a regular thing, so I can push for that top 10 place next time! Jen told me off for being so negative about the race, but I prefer to think of it as planning ahead to do better on my next race!

Speaking of which, my race calendar is looking very full right now! On top of the various marathons, half-marathons and 10 Ks I am signed up for, I have just signed up to a whole heap of ultras as well. My first will be the Shires and Spires 35 miler in Northants in two weeks time, which I am really looking forward to. This will be my first opportunity to test myself against other like minded people. I am really looking forward to taking part in my first official ultra. This race is part of the Run Further UK Ultrarunning Championships, which is a series of 12 races throughout the year of various distances. You run as many as you want, and your top 4 scores (1 from each of the three distance classes, plus 1 more) are used to give you a placing in the championship table. I am signed up to four of these, which is just enough to get a placing. I'm not expecting to be placed particularly highly but I am quite excited to see how I do! The nice thing about this series is that it is organised by ultrarunners for ultrarunners, which is a real testament to the ethos behind the sport. These guys don't do it for fame or for the money, they do it for love of the sport. I had a small taste of fame - and I didn't like it much! Give me running in anonymity with other like-minded nutters, thankyou very much!

Sunday 24 April 2011

The route - A bird's eye-view

Just a quick post to show you the route that I took home. This is the map that I had with me (thanks to the wonders of the iPhone and Google Maps!), and apart from one or two last minute changes (read: "going the wrong way...") is pretty much spot on with how I got home. As you can see, it's not by any means the most direct route! But it does avoid having to run down the M1...

 End of the marathon in St. James' Park to join the Greenwich Meridian Trail.
Basically follows the A10, gradually becoming less and less busy until I made it out of central London. Met up with Dave and Pete at Mile End, Forest Rise, and another place that I can't remember...

 The Greenwich Meridian Trail through London, up over the M25 to Waltham Abbey

Waltham Abbey to Stansted Abbets

Stansted Abbets to Standon

Standon to Wyddial

Wyddial to Royston

Royston to Orwell

Orwell to Hardwick

Hardwick to the Guided Busway (via Bar Hill)

Home straight - Guided Busway into St. Ives

Thursday 21 April 2011

15 minutes of fame

Well cor blimey luv a duck guvnor! Yesterday was quite an interesting day as you may have noticed. I was woken up at about 5:30 am by a very excited Jen (I have no idea how long she had been up for!) to tell me my story had been picked up by the Daily Mirror. I think that I may have been more excited a few hours later, and it occurs to me I have been up before 6 every day since I got back! Oh well, who needs sleep eh?

Things kind of continued in this vein for the rest of the day. Texts to tell me I had been talked about on BBC breakfast by Bill and Sian, a phone call from a very excited mother to tell me I had been one of the stories on Head-to-Headlines on Chris Evans' Radio 2 breakfast show (winning Johnny a slam dunk against Moira no less!), messages from friends in London to tell me I was in the Metro, and a quick search to also find stories in the Sun and the Daily Star (alongside Susan Boyle no less... ahem). By the evening, the story had been picked up by Fox News (making me a corporate sellout as my friend Alex pointed out) and Eurosport, as well as being discussed in various forums and blogs (my favourite one assigning me the honorary title of the Emperor of the Land of Baddassery - I'm keeping that one!). And that's not counting the local coverage, including a video in the Cambridge News (starring my beautiful fiancee Jen), and articles in the Cambridge News and Hunts Post.

I've been frankly staggered by all of this. I'm not under any delusion that running home after a marathon is a "normal" thing to do, but I honestly didn't think that it was that impressive. Especially since I have been trying to get people interested in it for the past few months and, other than the local press who have been fantastic, people just didn't seem interested. I suspect that maybe people thought it was all talk - clearly they don't know me!

Depending on where you read about things, I have noticed that the numbers are different. Just to be entirely transparent, I have just clarified a few things below. Hope this clears a few things up!

  • The official marathon time was 3:47:45. At the time of the interviews, the official chip times hadn't been published so I had to rely on the time shown by my Garmin. Since I didn't stop the watch when I went through the line (still had a way to go...), I only got a glance that it was about 3:45, which is where this time came from. I'm sure you can forgive me a couple of minutes!
  • The total distance covered was actually about 120 miles, not 125. Not sure where that number came from (and thus the magical "99 miles home"), but again I hope that you will forgive me for a few miles.
  • When I planned things I used Google Earth to measure the distance, which came to 112 miles. Obviously this was never going to be exactly accurate. The extra 8 miles are a combination of taking wrong turns and back-tracking, and also I was never going to take the exact route as measured so weaving around had an effect (for instance, the marathon was actually 26.58 miles from start to finish for me due to weaving around the racing line).
  • The total time, from the gun going at the London marathon to crossing the finish at St. Ives, was pretty much 29 hours dead (give or take a couple of minutes). This averages as 14.5 mins/mile, but actually this isn't accurate. After finishing the marathon, it took longer than I expected to get going through London again, due to having to collect everybody I was meeting, change my running gear, restock, etc, then actually negotiating the foot traffic around the finishing line was a nightmare! We probably lost at least an hour here. Also, the checkpoints ended up taking longer than anticipated, due to having to change socks more often than anticipated (due to dew... heh), blogging, finding it difficult to force food down my throat, chatting, doing bits to the camera, etc. So I probably lost about 20 - 30 minutes at each checkpoint, and since there were about 12 this was a pretty significant chunk of time. Don't forget, this wasn't a race! When I was actually moving, I was generally going at about 11.5 mins/mile, and only really walked the hills. I'll be interested to see what happens in my first real ultra-marathon, but I think I can probably get a good time. Now I know I can do the distance, I can concentrate on an actual time for my next attempt.
But anyway, again, this wasn't a race. It was something to get show that I could do it, and not let epilepsy get in the way. And the main point has always been to get as much coverage as possible for the Epilepsy Society, which is exactly what has happened. And that is, in the quite literal sense, awesome. It's getting people to talk about something that generally doesn't get mentioned enough. Would you know what to do if somebody had an epileptic fit? No? Exactly. It's been incredibly humbling to have been contacted directly by other sufferers, and I'm very proud that what I have done has resonated with people in such a way. As one amazing young girl told me, "I may have epilepsy, but epilepsy does not have me", which is a lot more inspirational than any little run I could ever think of.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

120 miles in 29 hours... Phew!

Okay, so in case you hadn't already heard, I have survived my run! I had meant to update the blog yesterday, but unfortunately the lack of sleep finally caught up with me...

I met up with Team Awesome in the car park of Tescos in Bar Hill, ready for the final 9 mile stretch of my journey. I changed back into my marathon running clothes (running number and all). The final section to St. Ives involved running on some relatively busy roads, and I wasn't sure how I would be feeling at this stage, so Dan's job was to make sure that I didn't veer off into oncoming traffic. As it happens, I was feeling pretty good, so instead we just used the time to chat and catch up.

This section was probably the worst of all, because I knew how close we were. Unfortunately my hip started to act up which made these few miles quite grueling. I suspect that people were, in a weird way, glad to see that this was having some effect on my body - Dan's comment was "you are human after all"!

Our conversation turned into a scene from Rocky, with Dan shouting inspirational comments at me ("You're a wrecking ball!"). We took a wrong turn, so ended up joining the guided bus way at Swavesey instead of Longstanton. As it happens this was probably for the best; I know that route like the back of my hand, so unfortunately I know exactly how far there is to go. It seemed at this point that we weren't moving any closer, and Dan's shouts of "nearly there" were ringing a little hollow, so I just put my head down and concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other.

We made it to St. Ives town center, and I spied everybody waving at me from near the Oliver Cromwell statue. I ran past some bemused looking market traders towards the finishing line that had been set up for me (purple for the Epilepsy Society, natch!). A sudden burst of adrenalin hit me, and I sprinted through the line, much to the surprise of everybody there!

I was greeted by David Hodge (the St. Ives town mayor), the members of my crew, some friends from work, lots of well-wishers, Nick Addy from the Epilepsy Society (last seen dressed as a giant seahorse at the charity cheering post at the London Marathon), and a number of photographers. It was a fantastic feeling to be cheered on through the line! I did feel bad that I was so late, but nobody seemed to mind!

I ran through the line at about 2.45pm - 29 hours after setting off on the London marathon the day before! I still need to get the final numbers from the GPS devices that I used, but the grand total was about 120 miles. Also, I now have my official time for the marathon, which was 3:47:45. Not bad, and far enough away from the Good For Age time of 3:10:00 (which would have given me guaranteed entry next year) that I don't feel like if I had gone a little faster I could have made it...

After everything had calmed down, the cracks started to show. The weirdest thing was that I started to shiver a lot, which was probably due to a massive come-down off of the sugar and adrenalin high that I had been on! Also, everything was seizing up very quickly, and the ache in my hip was still bad. Jen drove me home and threw me straight into an ice batch, I got some warm clothes on, and Dan and Zoe turned up with KFC - perfect for replenishing protein! I was finding it very difficult to keep awake, and dozed for a couple of hours on the sofa.

Chelsea stopped by in the evening (after a long day at work I might add) to perform some emergency physio to make sure things were okay. Obviously everything was pretty tight, and my right shin and left hip were particularly so. After poking my sore bits for a while (I am assured this was for my own good :p ), I was helped upstairs and put to bed.

I woke up this morning at 5am feeling nice and refreshed. I felt good, but wasn't sure if this was like the feeling you get after a heavy night's drinking, where you feel great until you stand up... But get up I did, and... nothing. Things felt good. I still have an ache in my hip, but other than that I don't feel any worse than after any other run! Jen was particularly surprised to see my come down the stairs on my own. I'm not going to get ahead of myself though, and I know that things could change over the next couple of days, but with such amazing care what could go wrong!

This morning has been a bit crazy, and my phone has been going non-stop since 7.30 am. So far today, I have had a live interview on BBC radio, an interview with the Hunts Post, been on the front page of the Cambridge News, had a photo shoot for a media company who supply stories to national newspapers (so keep your eyes open tomorrow!), and I am currently waiting to hear from ITV about an interview with them! Hopefully this will all help to bring in some more donations for the Epilepsy Society, and in fact has already attracted a couple of people I see!

Once again, the reaction from people has been incredible. Currently, we have raised over £3,000 online, plus Jen, Dan, Zoe and Pete probably collected over £200 yesterday. If we add in the Gift Aid, I think that we should be sending about £4,000 to the charity - twice as much as I set out to raise! Amazing, and it's all thanks to the generosity of you all, so thankyou once again.

So many people have been involved in this run, and I want to thank everybody that has helped out, everybody that has sponsored me, and everybody that has been so supportive throughout. I promise I will shut up about it after this! In particular, I want to thank; Jen, my lovely fiancee, who has had to put up with me all these years, and was even forced to give a few interviews!; Dave, Pete, Jen and Dan who stayed up as long as I did and followed me through the night to support me; Zoe for looking after Max overnight; Chelsea (and everybody at Cambridge Sports Physio and Back Care) for keeping my legs in check so that I can carry on doing stupid things like this; my mum and dad for being there to support me at the marathon and for raising me to be so stubborn (I blame my dad in particular); all of my friends and family who supported me over night (although I am only just getting around to all of the texts and emails - 128 emails!); Deb for lending us his flat in London the night before the marathon (saved travelling in from ST. Ives Sunday morning!); Vivienne at TriSports Plus who sponsored me for the event with some of the equipment that I used; everybody at the Epilepsy Society, who work so hard for people with epilepsy; and of course everybody that has helped by donating towards the charity.

I am now finally sitting with me feet up, watching TV and trying to catch up with everything. I burnt over 15,000 calories yesterday, so I have a lot to catch up on! Luckily I have plenty of sweets and biscuits to help! I have the week off with nothing much to do, except for eat, watch TV, spend some quality time together with Jen (including landscaping the garden - which kind of makes me wish I wasn't able to walk...), and play on my computer. It's going to be a very lazy week!

So what's next? Well, I don't think that I'll be doing anything like this any time soon, as much to give you guys a rest as me! Once I have the all clear from Chelsea, I'll be back to running and cycling stupid amounts (although maybe not quite so stupid), so that isn't going to change. I have a couple of ideas of ways to top this, but it's probably best to keep them under wraps for the time being! I have a few races later this year, including two 10 Ks, three marathons, two half marathons, and potentially a couple of triathlons.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this blog, and I hope that it's been interesting. I will probably keep using this blog to keep track of my running, but won't be updating quite so often. But please do check back to see if I am doing any other stupid things any time soon!

All that remains is for me to say thankyou once again. It makes me so proud to have such fantastic friends and family, and the generosity of people has been unbelievable. I hope that I can do more in the future to help the Epilepsy Society. But for now, it's time to put my feet up and get down to a real marathon - watching season 1 of The Sopranos!

Very finally, here are a couple of things that have cropped up in the media, and I will pop a few more photos up when I get them:

Monday 18 April 2011

The final countdown!

Just leaving Bar Hill - this is it! The last stretch to St Ives. Going to be a couple of hours late, but sure you can forgive me! It's been epic...

Currently running 112 miles to raise money for the Epilepsy Society ( Please donate at the top of the page!

So close...

Just got into Hardwick and I'm definitely feeling it. Just restocking before heading to Bar Hill, then it's off on the final stretch!

Currently running 112 miles to raise money for the Epilepsy Society ( Please donate at the top of the page!

Mountains out of mole hills

Just on my way to Hardwick, so getting very close now. Annoyingly my knee has started to play up a bit, which isn't helped by the hills on this portion of the route...

They're not really that big, but it this stage they look massive!

Just one marathon left!

I've made it to Royston, so getting close now. The dew last night has led to wet feet and some pretty bad blisters. There's also a fair bit of chaffage going on. But I've patched myself upas best I can and I'm off again. I'll probably be about an hour late which is a shame but I will make it!

Currently running 112 miles to raise money for the Epilepsy Society ( Please donate at the top of the page!


The sun is up I'm just making my way to Royston. Font want to be late! Apparently the location tracker is playing up, but I can assure you I'm still going!

Currently running 112 miles to raise money for the Epilepsy Society ( Please donate at the top of the page!

Mmm... Pizza!

I suspect that most people will be asleep now but we're still going! The last section was pretty tough, but locating an open public convenience was a big bonus!

Arrived to the find the guys had had a pizza delivered, so stuffed my face and drank some pepsi, which should hopefully wake me up!

The next section is about 10 miles, then it should be a bit shorter from there. It's going well, but I'm definitely starting to feel it!

Currently running 112 miles to raise money for the Epilepsy Society ( Please donate at the top of the page!

Sunday 17 April 2011

So long M25!

Okay. I'm out. Made it over the M25.

Could have gone better. I'm running faster than I anticipated, but navigating proved an issue. It got dark before I made it to Waltham Abbey so had a little unexpected night running. But I'm all kitted out for the night time now, and I know the route from here so should make up some time.

But again I'm feeling good, perhaps better than I should given what I've put my poor legs through already, but now comes the fun part! But Team Awesome are looking on damn fine form!

See you soon!

Currently running 112 miles to raise money for the Epilepsy Society ( Please donate at the top of the page!

Team Liability is dead. Long live Team Awesome

In a lovely surprise, Jen and Dan turned up at the last meeting point within the M25. Jen's first comment was that I wasn't nearly out of breath enough, and Dan told me I had to slow down as my 9 minute a mile pace is making him look bad...

So Dave has headed off and Pete has joined the car. They'll be heading to the various villages on my route to wait for me to head past. I've warned the local police so that they don't get attested for soliciting!

I'm definitely out of London now (you can just about make out central London in this photo), and the marathon already feels a distant memory. Very strange...

Currently running 112 miles to raise money for the Epilepsy Society ( Please donate at the top of the page!

Team Liability do it again

Just caught up with Pete and Dave, who had pepsi and pasta waiting for me. Yum!

Pete is doing anything to get a good shot! Maybe I look better from above... We can only hope!

40 miles down now (I refuse to focus on how many are left!) and I'm on my way to the next waypoint, which should be a bit closer. I was running ahead of time, but unfortunately orientation has slowed me down a bit! Any - onwards!

Currently running 112 miles to raise money for the Epilepsy Society ( Please donate at the top of the page!

Woo trees!

Yay! I've now made it out of central London, and I am now surrounded by greenery!

36.66 miles on the clock now, and getting closer to my meeting point. Feeling good, and still got s pretty good pace going. Once I get out of London, I'll move to a walk/run pacing. But for now - onwards!

Currently running 112 miles to raise money for the Epilepsy Society ( Please donate at the top of the page!

Mile end

Well it's going well. Going at a nice relaxing 9 mins 30 a mile - almost beat the boys here on the tube! Another 6 miles to go until we meet again! Just stocking up on jelly beams and I'll be off again!

Currently running 112 miles to raise money for the Epilepsy Society ( Please donate at the top of the page!

Finished! Well, kind of...

Right. Step one complete. Finished the marathon in about 3:45. Probably should have actually looked qt my watch when I finished but hey ho! My racing number is 43884 if you want to check what my actual time was, but I'll post it when I know.

Team Liabilty failed to live up to their name, and in fact turned up with nourishment and juice! So having a bit of a breather, a stretch, a sandwich and a mars bar, then I'll probably have a bit of a baby-wipe shower, and get ready for the next stage!

But I'm feeling happy. Legs are a bit tired, bit hardly surprising. It'll be a LOT more chilled out from here though, and I won't have to weave in and out of people. All in all a good start to the day though!

See you soon!

Currently running 112 miles to raise money for the Epilepsy Society ( Please donate at the top of the page!

On your marks, get set, ...

I'm currently standing at the start, with about 15 minutes to go until go time! I feel surprisingly calm... It should be a nice race, and the weather is pretty much perfect (cool, dry and cloudy). I should be able to deal with any weather, but hopefully it will just stay like this! Lots of people here, and just started chatting to Melissa a fellow Epilepsy Society runner!

Now getting ready to go. 5 minutes! Woo!

Currently running 112 miles to raise money for the Epilepsy Society ( Please donate at the top of the page!

It begins...

Right then, here we go! I slept very well last night (surprisingly!) and woke up feeling nice and refreshed. Had a shower, ate LOTS of porridge (stodge!), performed various pre-running preparations which you don't want to hear about, and got ready to head out of the door with the rest of team awesome!

Pete is documenting things for me, so we had a little interview on the way to the station, Then jumped on the tube on our way to Greenwich. Things were going well until Team Liability (as they have insisted on being called) split up trying to get out of Greenwich DLR station. But it looks as if Dave has been located, and we're ready to rock!

I'm feeling pretty good at the moment, I've eaten plenty and I am a little bit high off of carb drinks! This sugar crash is going to suck tomorrow...

Currently running 112 miles to raise money for the Epilepsy Society ( Please donate at the top of the page!

Saturday 16 April 2011

Night night world

Off to bed now - the last time for a while! It's been a surprisingly busy day today considering I haven't done anything really... I'll be up in about 7 hours, ready for the run of my life! See you then.

Oh and here are my lovely London crew (Dave is on the left, Pete on the right) sporting their incredibly sexy Epilepsy Society t shirts.

Night night!

Currently running 112 miles to raise money for the Epilepsy Society ( Please donate at the top of the page!

Here we go, here we go, here we go!

Well, here we go then. I can't believe it's finally here, but tomorrow is indeed the day of the London Marathon. This time tomorrow I will just be getting towards the finishing line - only to run straight past the line and onto the real run; 86 miles back to St. Ives.

I have spent the last couple of days checking and rechecking my equipment, and packing everything that I will need just in case. As you can see, we have (hopefully!) preempted most possibilities. I had to stop myself repacking my bags for the third time this morning, and just hope that I haven't forgotten anything!

This morning was spent doing a few final checks with my lovely support crew. Here they are enjoying the lovely lunch we prepared for them in the sun! I have a fair bit of support (some of whom aren't in this photo - sorry you missed lunch!). They are (from left to right):

Dan: Rescue Coordinator
Dan is my best friend and is also a crazy nutjob. Where it not for a dodgy ankle you can bet he would be coming with me! His job is to come and find my body should anything go wrong!

Zoe: Dogsitter
Zoe gets the enviable job of looking after Max while mummy is out making sure daddy doesn't do anything stupid...

Max: Official Mascot
He basically hangs around being cute. Just like me! He's the dog by the way, not the other hairy one. That's...

Herbs: Cheerleader
Herbs will be leading the cheers when I make it back into St. Ives on Monday. I expect pom poms!

Jen: Support Crew Coordinator
My long suffering fiancée Jen will be in charge of this motley crew, and will be doing most of the driving overnight. She'll also be making sure I don't do anything stupid; mainly because she loves me, but also because she wants me to landscape the garden next week!

Chelsea: Official Physiotherapist
Chelsea is my own personal physio, and will be putting me back together again when this is all over! This seems to mainly involve sticking electrified needles into me...

Not shown here are my London crew, who will be supporting me at the marathon itself and helping me to get out of the M25 in one piece:

Pete: Official Biographer
Peter will be following me with a camera for most of the route. Of course he will be relying on public transport. I'll be interested to see who gets there first! The video may well be released posthumously...

Dave: Official Doctor
Dave is a real doctor (not a phake one like me) and will be following me through the London leg (along with Pete) with Mr. Men plasters in case I make a booboo.

With bags all packed, I headed out the door. As you can see, I got a fond farewell from Max! And because he looks so goshdarn cute in his Epilepsy Society shirt, here's another one.

This is the first blog from my trip. I'm currently on the train heading into London. I hope the return journey is as easy... I'll be blogging a fair bit over the next couple of days to keep everybody up to date on how I'm getting on. The little map down to the right of the blog should show you where I currently am, so you can see how I'm getting on.

Please leave comments, I'm sure they will help me tomorrow on the lonely trip through the night! And there's still plenty of time to sponsor me. All proceeds will be going to the Epilepsy Society - a fantastic cause and a wonderful group of people!

All that remains is for me to say goodbye, and I'll see you all on the other side!

Monday 11 April 2011

Worst Taper Ever! 04.04.11 - 10.04.11

Wow. This time in a week, I will (hopefully) just be going through Barhill, with only a few hours left to go before the finish of my challenge in St. Ives. I'm tired just thinking about it! This week has been the second week of my taper and, whilst it has been a lot more chilled than most weeks (I got to sleep in until 8am on Sunday! That's practically the middle of the day?!), I have by no means been slack.

It's been surprisingly Christmassy recently, with a pantomime last week starring our good friend Jeff Knott doing his best impression of David Bowie in Labyrinth ("Ding Dong!"), and my work's Christmas do on Wednesday. The lab that I work in have a tradition of holding a Secret Santa in about March/April every year. Usually, receiving presents is a wonderful time of mystery and fun. Not here. The idea is to buy presents that are mean, or in some way take the mick. Queue many jokes about legs falling off and dog ownership being like having a baby (including the rather harsh copy of the DVD "All Dogs Go To Heaven"... Thanks guys!). After the fun and revelry, I ended up cycling home - a much better prospect than shelling out for a taxi. I don't really drink at the moment, so there was no issue with staying sober, and I can't say I would relish the thought of cycling back down the bus way at 1 in the morning in the pitch black along the 1.5 foot wide track while unable to walk in a straight line... It was actually a very pleasant trip back, but I wasn't exactly feeling the most awake the following day. Still, at least I didn;t have the hangover from hell to contend with like everybody else!

Running wise, I've kept it fairly light this week. A couple of little 8 milers have been really nice. I have just thrown on a pair of shorts and a vest and headed out the door into the beautiful sunshine, heading around the river and the meadows of St. Ives. No bags. No heart rate monitor. No watch. Just out to run, going at whatever pace I feel like doing. Both times I ran with someone which is quite a change - once with my friend Dan (who will be on my support crew next week), and once meeting up with another St. Ives runner and chatting to him about University and the like. It's days like those when I realise why I love running so much! I also ran home from work one day, just to get one last longer run in before the race.

Then on Saturday, I decided to take my bike and cycle the remaining section between Royston and St. Ives, to fully cement the route into my brain. As you may have seen from my previous post, it was going very well - fantastic weather, nice clear routes, a bike that had two pedals... Unfortunately one of those points soon changed. I felt my left pedal become loose, so stopped to check what the problem was. The bolt holding the pedal to the crank had come loose. It was literally hanging on by a thread. I had to stop every few minutes to retighten the bolt, and was willing the thing to hold together. Unfortunately I was also out of range for phoning for any help, and was still miles away from home. Eventually the thread sheared completely and I was left with a somewhat useless machine. Luckily, I was wearing my old running shoes, but unfortunately was wearing my cycling clothes (including padded shorts) - not really designed for long distance running, and particularly not great for avoiding chaffing. Oh well. So I set off running (at a pretty good pace of 10/11 mins/mile), with a combination of pushing and carrying the bike. I got a few odd looks from people as I shot past with a bike on my back! I finally got through to Jen, and was able to secure a rescue from Bar Hill, which was the main place that I wanted to get to anyway (it should be relatively simple from there). So my 25 mile cycle ride turned into a 7 mile cycle + 13 mile run + 5 mile drive. Oh well, it's all good training!

So now we play the waiting game... We are shopping tonight for the last few supplies, and everything is planned so we should be all set to go. I suspect that things will go pretty smoothly, and most of the organisation and supplies will be unneeded, but I'd rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. I'm off to the London Marathon Expo on Wednesday to pick up my running number and the like (very annoying that they don't just send it out to you, especially as I already have to be in London the day before it opens for a conference...). Then I will be heading down on Saturday evening and staying at a friend's flat (kindly donated by Deb) with my friend Pete who will be my support for the London leg of the day.

I will start blogging things from Saturday night, and try and keep you updated on how things are looking in preparation. I probably won't blog during the marathon itself as I am after a sub 4 hour time, but will start to blog as soon as I get going after the finishing line. I'll try to get plenty of photos in as well to show how things are going and what the route looks like. Some of it is very pretty, and I'm really looking forward to it! It should be a fantastic day. Please forward the link to the blog to anybody else that you think may be interested in hearing how an idiot copes with running for 30 hours straight...

Hopefully see you this time next week!

Cycled 2.5 miles (Park and Ride to Work)
Cycled 16.5 miles (Work to Home)


Ran 2.5 miles (Park and Ride to Work)
Ran 16.5 miles (Work to Home)


Cycled 2.5 miles (Park and Ride to Work)
Cycled 16.5 miles (Work to Home)


Cycled 2.5 miles (Park and Ride to Work)
Cycled 16.5 miles (Work to Home)


Cycled 2.5 miles (Park and Ride to Work)
Cycled 2.5 miles (Work to Park and Ride)
Ran 8.5 miles

Cycled 7 miles
Ran 13 miles

Ran 8.5 miles

Running 49 miles
Cycling 69 miles

Saturday 9 April 2011

Blogging on the GMT

Just decided to head out on the last part of next week's route to get it straight in my head. Can't see my mad map reading skillz being particularly good by hour 25... Just thought I'd write a quick post to test blogging on the move.

If you hadn't noticed, it's a gorgeous day! I'm about a third of the way back, almost at Hardwick. It's not really designed for bikes through the fields around here, but I just hit a nice straight road so about to burn on through. Once I hit Barhill, it should be perfect for bombing along! Of course I don't want to get myself too used to moving at such speeds, I may be crawling by this point next week!

Anyway, must run! Well, cycle for now. Enjoy the weather everybody!

Sunday 3 April 2011

Lazy Sunday afternoon, got no time to worry! 28.03.11 - 03.04.11

Well, it's been a very different week this week. I've been forcing myself to stick to the taper as I can see myself doing something stupid right before the race, and there is too much riding on it now to risk failing. Run, walk, or crawl; I'm making it across that line!

So what have I done this week? Not a whole lot really. A couple of days cycling and a couple of days running. That's it. I feel incredibly lazy! The big difference is that the weekend has been taken up with actually having a life, so for the first time in a long time I haven't spent 10 hours training! I even managed to stay in bed until 8am (practically the afternoon!), and spent Sunday afternoon dozing on the sofa at Jen's parents. Quite a difference!

Oddly, my best workout this week arose at my friend Dave's stag party. Dave is one of my best friends, and is the guy solely responsible for getting me into playing drums (blame him, mum). I have incredibly fond memories of playing in our first band; The Geek Storytellers. Luckily, no recordings have survived to contradict those memories! It was great to catch up with him and his family, and his and his lovely wife-to-be Ros' friends are a fantastic group. We spent the day in a very manly way, throwing small cars around a track in Birmingham.

I'd forgotten how much fun Go Karting was, and I'm glad that my renowned non-competitiveness prevented me from taking it too seriously... Ahem. Quite how you can end up as bruised and battered as I have woken up this morning, from an activity involving sitting still moving only your feet and hands, I have no idea! Still; second place baby! Woo! Although it was at the cost of running the stag off the track... Sorry Dave!

Two more weeks to go, and my mission now is to not break myself before the race! It'll be another couple of chilled weeks, which may just drive me crazy. But this week has been fantastic as on Wednesday I hit my target of £2000! This has been thanks to the amazing generosity of everybody that has supported me, so thank you once again! But rather than rest on my laurels, I have upped the target, and the donations are still flooding in. The more the merrier! My task for the next few weeks is to try and get a bit of national publicity for the Epilepsy Society. If anybody knows someone in media that might be interested, please give me a bell!

Finally I just want to give a shout out to Helen Zaltzman, Olly Mann and Martin The Soundman from the podcast AnswerMeThis. With the amount of running and cycling I am doing at the moment, I would go a little crazy listening to music all day. So instead I tend to listen to podcasts, and preferably funny ones that can keep my mind occupied while pounding the pavements. AnswerMeThis is one of my favourites, and has Helen and Olly answering questions sent in by listeners. In a similar way to QI, the answers are often not what you expect (Paul Robinson has a wooden leg?!!)! As I now seem to have made my way through almost the entire podcast directory, I'm running out of things to listen to on the day of the run. But Helen and Olly were kind enough to donate the first 80 episodes of their podcast (which I can thoroughly recommend you purchase from here) to help me on my travels! I'm looking forward to 30 hours of non-stop mind-blowing revelations that may shake the world as I know it.

Cycling 2.5 miles
Cycling 16.5 miles


Cycling 2.5 miles
Cycling 16.5 miles

Running 2.5 miles
Running 2.5 miles

Running 2.5 miles
Running 16.5 miles

Go Karting (that counts, right?!)

Does sleeping count?

Running 24 miles
Cycling 39 miles
Sleeping a lot

Monday 28 March 2011

Run everywhere. Cycle everywhere else. - 21.03.11 - 27.03.11

I don't really have a car, so this has become somewhat of an unofficial mantra of mine. It's ironic really, because it would make a great bumper sticker! I occasionally steal Jen's little car, but in general she uses it for getting around. It's great when you're used to it, because commuting becomes a great way to keep fit, and it's a good way to fit in some long runs during the week. This week has involved a fair bit of cycling, with less running than usual, in an effort to ease into my taper.

With only 4 weeks to go until the marathon, tapering is a good idea to allow my legs to store up the energy that they're going to need to get me all the way home. This week was my first "easy week", getting progressively easier until the final week where I will hardly run at all. So instead of doing two 22 milers at the weekend, I only did one. But because I now consider cycling to be a nice day off, I decided to use my Sunday to scope out the route that I will be running overnight to make sure that I won't get lost on the day.

So at 8am on Sunday, my long suffering fiancee Jen, my crazy friend Dan (not many people would be up for a random 40 mile cycle ride in the middle of nowhere...), and I rocked up to Waltham Abbey ready to burn through the 40 mile route to Royston. Jen isn't stupid, so left the boys to it and went home to do something more productive with her day. With guidebook in hand, gps watches tracking our route, and google earth guiding from on high, we set off along the Greenwich Meridian Trail.

My first reaction; holy crap that's a lot of hills! I wasn't expecting quite so many, being a citizen of Cambridge, one of the flattest places in the country. My second reaction was that a) the route was really well planned out, and b) seemed like it was going to be fine for running on. There were one or two sections over churned fields that may be dangerous, but I now know where these are and will likely walk them to avoid turning an ankle. Similarly, now that I know about the hills I have changed my walk/run strategy to walking the hills and running the flat.

But as good as it may be on the day for running, it was certainly not made for biking! I had brought my old mountain bike out of retirement for the day, and it was looking a little the worse for wear... The gears were seized (although kicking them seemed to work), the seat needed some bodging, and the hydraulics were shot, but it went forward which was the main thing. It was a good bike at one time, and has done me proud over the years! And it didn't disappoint on the day, handling the bumpy undulating surfaces without falling apart.

Reading the map was interesting while cycling (one handed over bumpy terrain trying to focus on a description of the surrounding flora and fauna was fun), but it went surprisingly well. Other than an early point where we could not quite place where we should be (but google earth soon set us straight), an a couple of false starts, route finding was straightforward. I should remember the route on the day, and if not it is good to know that a combination of the book and google is good enough to set me straight. If I can follow the map while cycling, doing it while running should be simple enough!

The speed was slower than anticipated due to the terrain, and we didn't make it as far as I had originally hoped, but we covered the main overnight section to Royston - a total if about 38 miles. Despite the hills, I have come away feeling vey positive about things, and now Dan knows the route in case anything happens and I need saving! It's now only 3 weeks until the marathon, so I say bring it on!

Cycled 2.5 miles (park and ride to work)
Cycled 16.5 miles (work to home)

Cycled 2.5 miles (park and ride to work)
Cycled 16.5 miles (work to home)

Day off!

Ran 2.5 miles (park and ride to work)
Ran 16.5 miles (work to home)

Cycled 2.5 miles (park and ride to work)
Cycled 16.5 miles (work to home)

Ran 22 miles

Cycled 38 miles

Running 41 miles
Cycling 114 miles

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Who would have thought eating and walking could be so hard...

I had two important things to train for this weekend: eating and walking. These may have been the hardest part of my training schedule so far!

A quick calculation (weight in kilograms x distance in kilometers) tells me that I need to consume at least 13,000 calories to last me through the 112 miles of running. That's quite a lot, especially as I will be on the move for pretty much the entire time. I confess that I am not generally very good at watching my nutrition for running. Gels and things are so expensive, it was better for me to get used to running without them to avoid the costs of going through 6 or 7 a week. I ran my 50 miler a couple of weeks ago on a small bowl of bran flakes and a banana, and managed quite happily with just my sports drink to keep me going. But I want to do this run properly and not drop out, so I decided to practice eating the sort of foods on the run that I will be eating on the day.

So I rolled out of bed on Saturday morning at 5am, apologised for waking Jen up again, threw on my running gear, and packed my breakfast: 2x Jam sandwiches, 3x big bits of the most calorific chocolate flapjack ever made (by Jen! Thankyou hun!), a Mars Bar, a PowerBar Ride bar, a tub of pasta, 2x PowerBar carb gels, and 1L of PowerBar Energize isotonic sports drink. The breakfast of champions! I headed out the door on my usual route, heading towards Cambridge on the guided busway. I know that route like the back of my hand now, and while it is a little boring running the same route every time for 4 or 5 hours, I tend to not notice and pay more attention to my iPod. Currently I am listening to episodes of the Nerdist Podcast, which keeps me nicely entertained as I go. I'm running out of podcasts on iTunes now... The plan was to eat something every 3 miles or so, and I stuck to that nicely. Each time it got to food time, I whipped the first thing that I found in my bag out (without slowing down - a real knack!), and ate on the run.

A lot of people have trouble with this, particularly with solid foods, as their stomachs don't like the combination of a lack of blood flow, a large amount of churning, and then suddenly being asked to digest a big mound of sugar. Luckily, my stomach has had a lot of practice at eating sugary foods and so didn't complain once! The only thing that I would say is that dry foods are not a good plan. My flapjack was just right, but I could see that a drier version would be quite unpleasant after 25 miles. I will have to see how things look later in the run, but certainly things felt good and I was happy that these were good foods to eat on the run. I will prepare a lot of food on the day (more than I need), and pretty much go for whatever I feel like (or whatever I feel I can eat) at the time.

I made it home from running just shy of 30 miles in under 4 and a half hours, even with my fueling. I felt pretty full, and didn't drink my obligatory post-run Nesquik milkshake quite as quickly as normal (seriously - best recovery drink ever!), but after about an hour later I suddenly felt really hungry again and ended up refueling at KFC. All in all a very healthy day!

The next thing that I needed to practice was walking. I am notoriously competitive. I'm not particularly proud of it, but it's something that I have always had (I blame my father!). The nice thing about running, particularly as I typically run on my own, is that the only person I am competing with is myself. So in a race, the main thing I care about chasing is my PB. But I will still always spot a few people ahead of me that I have to take down before the end of the race - I would be sprinting it anyway, this just gives me something to focus on! Doing this in the St. Ives 10K last year resulted in a 3-way race between me, the guy I was chasing down, and a third guy that had come from the back to beat both of us! That'll teach me...

But this is a natural reaction that I have that I really need to curtail if I am going to go the distance in April. If I get overtaken by a banana in the marathon, my first reaction will be "Oh no you don't!", followed by breaking my pace to take them on. A bad idea when I've got another 86 miles to go... So my aim on Sunday was to run the whole distance again, but using the run/walk strategy that I will be using for the run home. That is; run for 25 minutes, walk for 5 minutes. So again, I headed out of the door at 5am to tread the well worn tracks of the busway, with my watch set to go off every half an hour for a 5 minute walk. No matter what. This was very, very difficult for me. I am very stubborn, as many people will tell you. So usually I will want to carry on going. "But I don't need to walk, I feel great!", I will tell myself. So I had to force myself to walk, even if it resulted in me getting overtaken by a carrot (which actually happened!). I was expecting this run to take much longer than normal (I was running a bit slower than normal, and was walking), but actually made it in in only 5 hours - only half an hour slower than the day before!

There were lots of people out and about on Sunday, and surprisingly more than on Saturday (when the weather was absolutely lovely). I got a chance to chat to some of them, and unsurprisingly they are also training for London, taking advantage of the busway for their last long run before tapering. I love seeing runners out and about, and it's nice to feel part of a community. People will always say hello as they run past, and are generally very approachable for chatting about things. One person even asked me for a lift to London on the day! I can't tell if there are more runners around these days, or if I'm just noticing them more as it has taken over my life... I hope that they all have a fantastic day on the 17th, and have a really good race!

Monday 21 March 2011

Only a month to go... 14.03.11 - 20.03.11

Well we're getting ever closer to the big day now. This time in 4 weeks, I will be in the process of recovering from the longest run of my life, having been on my feet for over 24 hours straight. Eek! It's all going to be completely worth it though, and the sponsorship grand total is already at over £1,700! It truly is phenomenal the response that I have gotten, and everybody has been so generous. I just hope that everybody knows how much I appreciate it. If you would like to add to the total and push me over the £2,000 target, please sponsor me at

It has been a week of logistics, and making sure that everything is sorted for the big day. The first important thing was equipment. My kit bag is now all sorted, and I have found the gear that performs best for me. My main criteria has been comfort and reduction of chaffing. If you have ever suffered from rubbing during a long run, you will know how uncomfortable this is. I have taken to wearing Nike DriFit Pro compression shorts and Nike DriFit Pro hypercool base layer top under my normal running gear, which (together with a generous supply of Lanacane) prevent all of the nasty rubbing that could make things very unpleasant. Plus my Salomon Advance Skin S-Lab hydration pack has now pretty much paid for itself, and if you're running long distances and need to carry plenty of liquids and food I can thoroughly recommend it.

Also this week, I have finalised details of the route with my support crew, uploaded the route to my iPhone and Garmin Forerunner 305 (technology makes it much harder - but not impossible - for me to do something stupid and get lost), and arranged a finishing line for when (if?!) I arrive in St. Ives. This started off as just a couple of people holding a ribbon, then collecting donations from whoever is around, but has now turned into something of an extravaganza! Well, okay, maybe that's an overstatement, but it turns out that it will be market day during the Easter holidays, so there should be plenty of people about. The Town Mayor is even coming along to meet me which is really nice of him! I just hope that he doesn't mind shaking hands with a very sweaty man... If you're about, I am aiming to get into town for midday on Monday 18th April, and it would be great to see you! Although I'm not entirely sure how good company I will be...

Being so close to the race, it is getting towards the time in my training program where I need to start thinking about tapering. For those not up on their running slang, the standard way to train or a marathon is to build up your training over the 4 months before the race, but for the last 2 or 3 weeks you reduce the mileage to pretty much nothing to conserve your energy stores for the big day. This week has been my last full on week, with a good number of miles put on the clock. This week will be a bit more chilled, then there will be just under 3 weeks to really reign it in before VLM day. It's going to feel very strange...

Cycled 2.5 miles (Park and Ride to Work)
Cycled 16.5 miles (Work to home)

Ran 2.5 miles (Park and Ride to Work)
Ran 16.5 miles (Work to Home)

Cycled 2.5 miles (Park and Ride to Work)
Cycled 16.5 miles (Work to Home)

Ran 2.5 miles (Park and Ride to Work)
Ran 16.5 miles (Work to Home)

Cycled 2.5 miles (Park and Ride to Work)

Ran 28 miles
Played badminton

Ran 28 miles

Running 94 miles
Cycling 40.5 miles