Archives for May 2013

Project thanks4.net just launched

thanks4.netI recently had no spare time in which to do anything, but some things are so important that they are worth doing. I think that almost makes sense. Anyway,  I have set up a little project called thanks4.net that is aimed at letting you thank the loved ones in your life that enable you to get out there and do what you do. At the moment the site is a little bare as it has only just launched, but what it really needs are some message submissions. Below you can find a small section of the About Us page. Please do click on the link to find out a bit more and then go and make your submission. All it takes is a photo of yourself doing what you do best and a message to your loved ones. There is no cost involved whatsoever.

thanks4 is a page dedicated to the people who love, support and enable you to do the things that you need, want or really have to do.

Every single person that is out there and fighting to achieve their dreams has an amazing person, or if they are really lucky an amazing team of people, behind them. Now is your chance to publish a photograph of yourself in all your finery and send them a message to say just how much you love and appreciate them.

Once your photo and message is approved (which costs nothing) then we will send you a direct link to your message that you can pass on to your loved one(s) so that they can see it for themselves.

via About thanks4.

Wild Swimming Rule No.1 – Stay Warm

Wild Swimming Rule

Zipp 30 – Finally a Zipp wheelset for less than £600

Zipp 30 WheelsetI have just discovered the recently released Zipp 30 Wheelset, and while their retail price is £675 you can get them for £594 with free delivery if you shop in the right place. You can see a full description and video all about the wheels below. If you simply can’t wait and want to order them now, I know I do, click on the picture above, or here, to be taken straight to their sale page. Please note that you will need to be a Wiggle platinum discount customer to achieve the maximum discount.

It could be a coffee shop ride with friends. Or a gran fondo over rugged and beautiful terrain. Or a season packed with races. Wherever your bike takes you – from the easy roll out to the pain cave — the Zipp 30 Clincher wheelset transports you there in efficient Zipp style. And the aluminum 30 Clincher does all this at a price that fits every rider’s budget.

The 30’s 21.5mm wide tire bed enhances cornering grip and increases ride comfort. Its 30mm deep hybrid toroidal aluminum rim provides an aero advantage exceeding many deeper “V” section carbon rims. This is a durable, high-performance wheelset designed with proven aerodynamic principles.

At the heart of the 30 is the light, smooth and tough new hub — which is 10 or 11-speed compatible. Its shell is formed from ultra-strong and lightweight 7075-T6 aluminum. Sapim CX-Ray spokes maintain stiffness required for efficient power transfer. External nipples better support each spoke as it exits the rim. Stainless steel bearings ensure years of smooth riding. This hub is precision set, so it requires no pre-load adjustment.

For you, that means years of riding your wheelset, not worrying about them. Simply put, the 30 Clincher is the perfect balance of durability, aerodynamics, stiffness and weight.

 Ships with Zipp Tangente butyl road inner tube with removable core (700c x 19-23mm), quick-release skewers and rim strips. Brake pads not included.

Black matte rim, black hubs and spokes, Classic White decals.

This wheelset is not tubeless compatible.

Use 18mm rim tape with this wheelset.

Endurancelife CTS Flete 2013 Ultra Marathon – Review

South Devon Coastline

South Devon Coastline, with Rachel heading in the right direction….

Yesterday I took part in my first ultra marathon. It was with Endurancelife and was based around the Flete Estate in South Devon. It wasn’t just my first ultra, it was also my 8th marathon in 8 months, 7 of which had been Endurancelife CTS events. Finishing this would mean that I complete their 7x challenge and would qualify for a t-shirt that you can only get by finishing 7 of their CTS events within a season. The description of an ultra marathon is basically summed up by: It is anything longer than a marathon i.e. 26.2 miles. In this case the route was billed as 35.9 miles long with 7,304 feet of climbing. It involved one estuary crossing, lots of coastal path, some farmland and plenty of tracks that are on private land and normally inaccessible by the public.

Estuary Crossing

26 miles in, crossing the estuary

The weather forecast was good, and everything was looking great for the day apart from one small thing. For the last three weeks I had been hobbling around with a pain in my left foot that seemed to move from the middle of my foot up to the outside of my left ankle and back again depending on the day. I hadn’t been doing too much running since the last marathon as I was briefly focused on the Etape Caledonia cycle sportive, so this was totally unexpected. It caused me to stop one training run within a hundred meters of my front door and had me scrabbling around for answers. The one saving grace was that although it stiffened up after a run, it didn’t cause me any problem once it was warmed up. Well, that worked on my four to five mile hilly training runs, but over nearly 36 miles? In one desperate bid I bought a pair of Compressport trail socks, hoping that the compression would hold everything together. Instead it gave me a horrible grinding sensation in my ankle that made me feel nauseous. I took them off after half a mile of walking. I took a different approach and did a four mile run without socks entirely. That seemed to work, so I decided to wear normal running socks, knowing that I could take them off if my ankle started hurting.

It did strike me at one point that a lot of people may consider not running an ultra on a dodgy ankle, but I didn’t consider it for long. I had come too far and I wanted that bloody 7x t-shirt! I figured that I could make time to rest afterwards if needs be. Of course, if you have a dodgy ankle and are thinking of racing on it then look to your own symptoms, take advice and don’t come running to me if your foot falls off in the middle of nowhere.

The Start

The Start

If you have read my other CTS event reviews you will know that they have taught me a large amount about pacing myself. I spent the first three going out way too fast. I would then wonder why my stomach stopped working before having to hobble, crawl and sob the last ten miles in each race. After that I learnt to pace myself. I made my objective to be one of the fastest people in the last split of the course, and treated the rest of the run as a gentle jog to get to the main event. This had an amazing effect on my performance. At the start everyone would run off, but at about halfway they would start coming back to me and in the last few miles I would be overtaking a steady stream of runners. I set a new PB for a trail marathon, and I was finishing incredibly strongly. It was also taking me a lot less time to recover from each race. I was still only middle of the pack, but didn’t think that was too bad for a triathlete with a limited amount of training time on his hands. My objective for the ultra was simply to finish and I resolved to pace myself, keeping my heart rate no higher than zone two for as much of the race as possible. For me that is around 136 to 148 bpm, on the Joe Friel scale, and I knew that I should be able to maintain that pace all day.

On an ultra everyone follows pretty much the same plan. It has two simple rules:

  1. If it is flat or downhill then run
  2. If it is uphill then walk

We all have different tolerances for what is uphill or not and that shifts throughout the race, but you get the gist. I had been following a similar pattern on the marathons due to the amount of steep hill climbing involved and it really helped me to hold some reserves of energy back for the last half of each race.

Of course I have had the wind taken out of my sails more than once with conversations that went along the lines of:

“An ultra/marathon, wow. So did you run all of it?”

“Er no, you see it had some really big hills on it.”

“So you walked?”

“Yes I walked. Did I mention the hills? There was mud too…..”

The person then looks at you as if you are a failure and the conversation moves on.

Bigbury Beach

On to Bigbury Beach

Earlier in the week before the ultra I felt really excited. I simply couldn’t wait. I wanted to be out in the hills, running, looking at the view, meeting new people and enjoying myself. As the day got nearer I went curiously numb, and that feeling stayed with me all the way through until after I had started. I packed my bags the night before. I had my Camelbak Octance XCT to carry throughout the race, and my rucksack with protein shake, change of clothes etc to leave at the finish. On the day I woke up, had my porridge and watched some TV for a bit before getting in the car and driving the 15 minutes down the road to get to the race.

I arrived at the race HQ with an hour to spare, kitted up, nipped to the loo, registered and nipped to the loo again. I was then just sort of hanging about when a face I vaguely recognised came up to me and said “I read your blog.” We started chatting and I remembered that I had bumped into him at the CTS marathon on Exmoor and we had started talking blogs then. He was in the middle of his own awesome challenge of running twelve trail marathons in twelve months. You can read his blog here.

Soon we were summoned to the race briefing where James gave us the usual info, but tweaked for this particular location. It pays to listen each time as things do change. Soon he was finished and I rejoined the toilet queue again. While we were stood there someone was doing an extensive warmup routine. He ran with high knees for a bit before running down the field windmilling his arms. It was quite spectacular, totally unnecessary and very entertaining. I thought that maybe he would be a fast runner, but he was running near us for most of it and he was on the marathon course. Each to their own.

Race briefing

Race briefing

I came out of the loo and wandered up to the start just in time. “3….2….1….GO!” We went. It wasn’t very impressive, ultra starts are usually an anti climax as everyone just slowly jogs off. The marathon runners would be set off five minutes behind us. I got to the bottom of the hill, and everyone else had run off except for one guy. We started chatting when he tripped over a speed bump and only just saved himself from a faceplant. A few minutes later he did the same thing over a tree route. I hung around with him for a bit and was tempted to turn the video camera on, just in case I could earn an easy £250 on You’ve Been Framed.

It turns out that his name was Matt and he was working through qualifying for the Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc, or UTMB. To get in you have to compete in qualifying events that give you points if you finish within a certain time limit. Once you have enough points you can then apply for a position in the UTMB and you get placed into a ballot. Matt had already earned some points through completing 78 miles along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast in twenty-two hours just a few weeks ago, as a part of The Oner, and would hopefully be earning more later this year running in the Ultra Trail South West. Ultimately we ended up running alongside each other for the full seven hours and thirty-seven minutes, crossing the finish line at the same time to come 16th and 17th. This was most unusual as people often ebb and flow during the race, making it impossible to run together the whole way. Also unusually I think we managed to banter for just about the entire time. One of the marathon runners, Rachel from Queensland, laughed and ran with us for an hour or two as she said that we were keeping her entertained. She was also quite hopeless at following the signposts, so she ran in front while we called her back each time she went the wrong way.

Running normally

Matt running normally

Run like a man

Matt running like a man, after I’ve told him that I’m taking a picture.

 

After we had been running for twenty seven miles we ran past the marathon finish with over an hour to spare before the cutoff. We had been pacing ourselves so well that I didn’t even begrudge the fact that the marathon runners got to finish while we had to carry on. The weather was amazing with a light breeze to stop us from getting too hot, and the views were truly stunning. We ran/walked on. At this sort of distance your body has still run a long way and has been going for a long time, so things were starting to ache. My stomach had also been complaining since about mile ten as I had carelessly made my energy drink too strong. I couldn’t be bothered to dilute the camelback so I opted to down a cupful or two of plain water at most of the checkpoints and carried on sipping away. This worked pretty well and my energy levels remained quite consistent.

As we came in to the last checkpoint the lady marshal was using a skipping rope to pass the time and was rather jolly to chat to. She informed us that we only had four miles to go. We jogged on. The last few hills seemed to drag a little, but before I knew it we were congratulating each other and cruising in to the finish. I had completed my first ultra and done so in fine form, with near perfect pacing that only started to fade a little in the last mile or two. At this point my brain and body did what they usually do after such a task, they pretty much stopped working. I grabbed my bags, collapsed on the grass and sat there sipping my recovery shake. My average heart rate? 145bpm, bang on target.

Give me a minute

After the race, can’t move…

Afterthoughts

When I set myself the challenge of running all of these events I really didn’t know what I was letting myself in for. I hadn’t run a marathon for several years before October 2012 and I had no idea if I could rise to the challenge or not. What I really couldn’t foresee is just how much fun I would have, how many amazing people I would meet and how much I would learn. Now that I have finished them, I feel pretty sad that it is all over. The whole endurance running scene is unlike anything else I have encountered in sport. The people are friendly, happy to chat and all totally unique. They all have their own challenges, motivations, methods and goals. I feel privileged to have met so many amazing people, and to have shared in their trail running experience. Personally my own goals are now going to take me away from such demanding running challenges for a year or two, however I have every intention of returning and even of qualifying for the UTMB at some point. In the meantime my sights are being drawn to Ironman distance triathlon and the challenge that is Ironman Wales for 2014.

Oh, you will notice that I didn’t mention my ankle again. I was totally surprised that after feeling a touch loose before the start it didn’t play me up at all. In fact, even today 24 hours later, it hasn’t started hurting again. After three weeks of pain, apparently it just needed 36 miles of continuous abuse to sort it out…..

Now how do I claim that 7x T-shirt?

 

Running with clear skies

Dartmoor

Dartmoor on another day. Almost as clear but not quite!

Running with clear skies doesn’t just mean that it is a sunny day, or that the weather is good. It means so much more than that. Running with clear skies is a rare and beautiful thing that you will not see if you only run in towns. It is that magical moment when you are out on the trail, you look up and the scenery just pops. Items in the distance are so clear that you could just reach out and touch them. Far away hills are crisp and vibrant. In distant fields you can make out the shadows of the clouds as they scud across the sky.

Running with clear skies really doesn’t happen that often. I’m sure that you are all familiar with the feeling of looking at a vast view, yet feeling slightly disappointed or disconnected from it. So many days are either hazy, or have the wrong humidity, or have really low cloud, and it all conspires to ruin the view for you.

I set out running today feeling heavy and tired. I knew that physically I was fresh. I am tapering for an ultra and a few bad nights sleep have left me feeling mentally drained. I pulled my shoes on to heavy legs and made my way out of the door. Due to the taper I didn’t need to go fast, so I just put one foot in front of the other and set off up the hill. I don’t run with music any more, but if there was ever a day where I needed the distraction, this would have been it. The first half mile was alongside a road, still on a footpath, but it was rush hour and the traffic was continuous and noisy. My heart rate monitor decided to get a bit carried away and was reading over forty beats per minute higher than it should have been. I fiddled with the strap, then removed it altogether, pausing to manually check that I wasn’t having a heart attack. All was good, so I plodded on.

I turned off of the main road and up the hill proper. The thin ribbon of tarmac wound up in front of me like a grey wall and I carried on. My thoughts wandered and I was soon at the gate onto Dartmoor, still breathing easily and running slowly. I went through the gate and wound my way around the hill, taking a slightly easier route to the top. It was into wind all the way and my body was getting colder and colder. It wasn’t anything severe, but it was starting to get slightly uncomfortable. With four hundred meters to go a cloud blocked the sun, bringing me out of my reverie and I felt a pang of fear. I wasn’t prepared for rain. It hadn’t even crossed my mind on leaving the house, and I had left my usual bumbag with emergency gear on the stairs. I checked the wind direction and saw that the edge of the cloud was heading my way. I braced myself for a very cold shower and plodded on. Any rain now would turn chilly me into a very frozen and shivering me!

As I came around the hill the wind was now behind me. Reaching the cairn on the top I looked at the rain cloud. It was easily five miles across and looked like an immense wall of water crawling along the landscape. I shivered just looking at it, still not sure whether it was going to miss me or not. Staring into wind I began to believe that I might just get away with this. That was when I turned and looked at the view.

A broad grin broke out on my face as I stared at the sea eight miles away. The sunlight was shining off of it, and it simply leapt out at me. I felt like I could simply step off of Western Beacon and onto the water. It felt that close. I could see over two hundred degrees of countryside all around me and a huge swathe of the south Devon coastline. In all my years of living here the view has never been that clear. If you ever wanted a reason to get off of your backside and outdoors then this is surely it. As I looked around it dawned on me that of the 35000 people in the Ivybridge town area that I was the only one stood on top of this hill. I was the only one seeing this view at this precise moment from the best possible vantage point, and you know what? You’ve got it. I left my camera at home! It doesn’t really matter as it never would have done it justice anyway.

I was already cold, so I didn’t hang around long. I loped my way off of Dartmoor and back down into Ivybridge. I didn’t go back the way that I had come. I went another route, down the Two Moors Way footpath, and back onto the tarmac. As I wound my way down through the houses I really didn’t want the run to end. I felt so much lighter than when I had left and I had been so buoyed by what I had seen and experienced that I felt sad to be slowing to a walk. When I got in to my home I grabbed some food and I sat down to write this blog entry, so that I could relive it all again as I put the words into the computer. Now I am sharing them with you.

What are you waiting for? Get your shoes on and get outside, so that when it happens you can experience truly clear skies for yourself.