Sunday 26 February 2012

Watch us recce the mic... Psyche!

I am well known amongst my friends for my navigational prowess. So much so that I have been dubbed "Sam-Nav" by some. Unfortunately, it is my apparently poor navigation and innate lack of direction that have earned me this name, never more apparent than my 120 % coverage of the 35 mile Shires and Spires ultramarathon last year. I maintain that my various navigational misgivings and geographical embarrassments have been a result of bad luck rather than any defunct internal compass, but to be on the safe side I have decided to improve my chances of success this year by recceing some of the routes that I am due to run in the next few months to get a feeling for the points where I am most likely to go wrong.

My first big race for this year is the Thames Path 100 on the first weekend in March, and for me this is my race to shine and get a nice fast 100 mile PB. It's pretty much completely flat, following as it does the River Thames from Richmond to Oxford. I headed out to Henley-on-Thames (the halfway point) at 4:30 am, with an aim to leave the car at the station, run the 50 miles to Oxford, get the train back to Henley, and drive back again afterwards. It was going to be a long day! The weather was pretty much perfect - crisp and icy underfoot, but sunny and clear. Allan Rumbles had been out a few days earlier on the same section and found the mud to be difficult to negotiate. For me, it was nice and firm with the cold wintery temperatures. I got going at about 7:30 am, heading West and following the signs for the Thames Path, as well as the handy map created by James Elson which I had uploaded to my Garmin.

It was a lot colder than this picture may indicate!

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Pilgrims' Challenge - February 2012

Despite all of the turkey and other frivolities of the festive season, I have been surprisingly good and kept up with my training. But I was very excited to finally get back down to racing at the Pilgrims' Challenge race, a 2 day event organised by Extreme Energy (XNRG) along the North Downs Way. The race itself is a 33 mile run from Farnham to Merstham on the first day, followed by running back again the following day. With a total height gain of 6,700 ft each day, it was a great way to get a few hills onto the legs. There were three starting groups, and I had been placed into the "elite" group (ha!), starting a little later in the morning. This meant that I got a nice long lie-in until 5am, then drove straight down to the start line.

A festival atmosphere at the start (right down to the dodgy portaloos...)

It was pretty chilly (down to -9 degrees C I believe), and I got some funny looks turning up in shorts and a long sleeved t-shirt. I wanted to try and limit the amount that I had to carry, so used a handheld bottle and my small Salamon pack with a small amount of water (for backup), my teeny tiny Montane jacket, and a couple of gels. I had downloaded the GPS route onto my Garmin as I was determined to not suffer my usual geographical embarrassment, and was all set to go.