Countdown to THE ONER!

The Oner 2014

In just under two weeks, at precisely noon, I shall be dressed in my harlequin outfit and leaving a small carpark on the outskirts of Charmouth to run over 80 miles along the coastal path to Studland as I start the infamous Oner. You can find the official Brutal Events website for the event here.

This is a tough, extremely hilly, trail run with rigid cutoffs that absolutely owned me last year. My training was pretty good and I thought I was ready, but lack of preparedness for inclement weather was my downfall. You can see my full write-up of the occasion here.

Last year I was raising money for the Plymouth District Leukaemia fund and I was dressed as superman. This year I am raising money for the Brain Tumour Charity and, after learning the hard way why it is a bad idea to run an ultramarathon in a one piece lycra suite with only a zip up the back, am running in my two piece harlequin outfit (three piece if you count the headgear, 5 if you include the bells 😀 )

You can sponsor me here should you so wish: www.justgiving.com/run247

The reason for the charity change was because we have raised a lot of money for the PDLF over the last few years and we have decided to shift focus to another charity this year. This change was massively driven by my Dad’s death in January this year from a Glioblastoma Multiforme brain tumour. This hit my family really hard and we were shocked when we learnt how poor the survival rates are for brain tumours.

The Oner itself is an amazing race, being well organised, friendly and on a truly spectacular route. The whole distance has to be completed in 24 hours and it does involve running through the night. At another time of the year the Oner is presented in under the guise of a 3 day stage race if you want to run a marathon a day for three days instead of doing them all at once. That sounded far too time consuming, so the Oner became my nemesis. Hopefully to be conquered this year.

Preparation

Last year’s preparation was pretty good. It was mixed in with the beginnings of my training for Ironman Wales, so included quite a lot of swimming and cycling on top of the running. This year, on paper at least, my ultra marathon training has been a lot more specific and I am a fitter and better runner than I have ever been. Unfortunately so far this has not been born out in any of my early season races. So far I have missed three races due to bugs and I failed to finish my first ultra of the year, the 50 mile Thames Trot, due to a lack of specificity training for such a flat race. You can read my report from the Thames Trot here and my Ironman Wales 2014 write-up here. IM Wales was a success for me, and one of the best racing experiences of my life, so it is worth a read if you like that sort of thing.

Before any of you rush off thinking that my training is hammering my immune system, slow down as that simply isn’t true. My lovely wife has a very compromised immune system due to her stem cell transplant last year, and we have two children in primary school. That, combined with the fact that this winter has been one of the worst for flus and colds for many years, means I have done pretty well coming through it with just one bout of flu and a couple of minor colds. It’s just that their timing has happened to coincide with my racing plan for January to March.

Since January I have managed several 80+ mile training weeks, including one 8 day period where I covered 109 miles, almost exclusively on trails, and I have been watching my fitness steadily increase as the weeks have rolled by. My appetite has gone up proportionally, as has our weekly food bill!

Some of you will now that I have had knee issues over the past couple of years, which were a result of mostly what I was doing when I wasn’t running plus a fair amount of poor form while running. My visit to Jonathan Bell (orthopaedic surgeon) and Claire Robertson (Physio specialising in patella femoral pain) at the Wimbledon Clinics in London was critical in getting me back on track. I have then had the help of my local sports therapist, Kelsie Peters, to keep me on the straight and narrow. Kelsie’s services have been key in keeping my muscles going through the long training weeks. I am also on extremely close terms with my foam roller!

Come race day I will be fitter than I have ever been. I have the fitness, I have the kit, I have the nutrition and hydration sorted. Now I just need a little bit of luck to help me get to the start line injury free, healthy and ready to rock. The weather on the day means little to me as it is what it is. I am prepared.

Success on an ultra, particularly one with such tight time limits is never a foregone conclusion, so now wish me luck and please do go and donate a pound or two at www.justgiving.com/run247

The time is nigh! Ironman Wales 2014

Ironman Wales 2012 Start Panorama

Ironman Wales 2012 Start

Well, the time is upon me. After two years of contemplating and planning for it Ironman Wales is finally here and I will be racing on Sunday as number 1047.

For the past 10 months I have been coached by Neil Scholes of Kinetic Revolution through two ultramarathons and now into Ironman Wales. My main goal was always Ironman Wales, and the ultramarathons just a bit of fun to see if I could. Here is an email that I sent to my coach yesterday which gives an insight into my frame of mind this week.

I am really looking forward to it. I am utterly confident that I can do the distance and that I have done the training (and race practice) to get my pacing spot on. I also know that if things go a bit wrong then I have the capability of easing off, eating, drinking, recovering and then picking up the pace again.
A large part of this confidence comes from the training that you have set out for me for the past 9 months or so, and with the two half iron practice races in the bag, I know what I’m going to take, eat, drink, wear etc.
I have also put myself under no pressure to finish in a particular time and my main goal is to finish and feel that I have paced it right, overcome any issues and got to the finish line.
I was feeling quite hammered after the last few weeks of training, but my energy and mental freshness, for want of a better phrase, have been building throughout the taper as they should.
My knee is also feeling better all the time after dedicating some daily time to the appropriate stretching and strengthening as well as a regular application of frozen peas!
The weather forecast is the icing on the cake, and it doesn’t hurt that people keep telling me how fit and Ironman ready I look.
Did I mention that I can’t wait? So excited that after two years of thinking about it that it is finally here. 🙂

Finally here is a bit more about why I am doing this in the first place. I originally posted this on my personal Facebook page earlier in the week.

On Sunday I will be competing in the biggest race of my life. Ironman Wales. It is twice as long as any triathlon that I have done before and I have been in hard training for it since the end of last year. At 7am I will start swimming with nearly 2000 other people from Tenby in south Wales and wont then stop until I have swum 2.4 miles, cycled 112 hilly miles through the Welsh countryside and then run a marathon on the streets of Tenby, Athletes must be finished by midnight, which gives a cutoff time of 17 hours. I am hoping to finish a bit sooner than that, but in this kind of event you never know what obstacles you may face from jellyfish to punctures to cramp and worse. I will be doing whatever it takes to get to the finish.

I am doing this as a massive personal challenge but also to raise money for the Plymouth District Leukaemia Fund (PDLF). To encourage folks to donate a few extra pennies I will be wearing superman pants over my wetsuit in the swim and then donning my trusty harlequin costume for the run.

Nobody chooses to have cancer and the poor folks, like my wife, who have leuakaemia and have to spend months in a small isolation room deserve all of the support that they can get. The PDLF support the Birch and Bracken haematology wards and in turn the patients themselves, massively improving their quality of life as well as their chances of survival. Please donate what you can as you never know when you or a loved one will need such a high level of care.

Please share this and support us in our fundraising by clicking on the following link and donating a £ or two.

uk.virginmoneygiving.com/richls

Thank you all for any support that you have given me and thanks to everyone close to me that has enabled me to do this and all of the training for it despite everything else. Also thanks to www.joke.co.uk who sent me a new harlequin costume to race, you can check out their awesome array of Halloween costumes here. Stay tuned for a write-up after the event with lots of pictures.

Kinetic Revolution Train Smarter Podcast – Interview

Last month I was interviewed by Kinetic Revolution for their Train Smarter podcast. They wanted to know more about what makes me tick, why I am running in all these silly costumes and what I am doing for charity. I had fun doing it, but I’m too embarrassed to listen to it. If you fancy a listen then you can find it here: http://www.kinetic-revolution.com/train-smarter-podcast/interview-with-richard-lander-stow/

Or you can get it on iTunes.

Happy listening. Do let me know if it is any good or not 😀

Oh, and if you haven’t yet listened to the Kinetic Revolution Train Smarter Podcast then I can recommend it as it is full of useful free information for all levels of runner.

How to do a proper hamstring stretch – Kinetic Revolution

I found this video to be extremely informative, and also found out that when I thought I had been stretching my hamstring I had in fact been doing something entirely different click this over here now. Give it a try.

Hamstring strech vs sciatic tension.

You can access the full article from Kinetic Revolution here.

Hanger Up N Down Race – Review

Erme Valley HarriersToday I raced in the inaugural Hanger Up N Down race as organised by my local running club, The Erme Valley Harriers. It promised to be a moderately hilly eight mile running race predominantly along trails and through fields, all in a picturesque setting with stunning views of Dartmoor and South Devon. This year it replaced the old “Beacon Race” due to issues with some of the trails that it used to use, and according to the organisers it would be a touch flatter.

Any of my regulars will know that I predominantly race long course events where I need to run relatively slowly for a long period of time, so this would be new territory for me. In the last year I have done a couple of shorter races, but usually as part of a training block  to keep things interesting. I would invariably turn up with already tired legs or have a specific slower pace that I would be aiming to achieve. I would often do these in fancy dress just to keep the pressure off.

For the Hanger Up N Down race I was strangely nervous, my legs were pretty fresh due to where I was in my training cycle, and I felt like I had no idea about how the race would pan out, nor any idea as to how to pace myself. I ran the route the day before at ultra marathon pace which meant going very slowly and walking up the hills, but it gave me the chance to scope out the views, the route, the terrain, the gates, the stinging nettles, the cowpats….you get the gist. I was very pleased with what I found as the route was just rough enough and hilly enough to put the race firmly on terrain where I felt comfortable. As far as I was concerned the rougher the better, so it would hopefully slow down some of the quicker road runners.

Hanger Up N Down Race

I turned up to the start which was at McCaulays Health Club just outside of Ivybridge. They had been kind enough to lend the use of their changing rooms, toilets, pool and café to the race. There were plenty of marshals around and quite a few runners started to turn up with thirty minutes to go. I had cycled, so it was easy to park, and I had soon stowed my warm cycling gear. I hadn’t looked at the first climb during my recce the previous day, so I decided to take a walk up the long steep hill that would form the first mile of the course. I was really surprised at just how many of the runners were running up and down the hill for a warm up. In my mind it was far too steep to warmup on as it would simply tax the legs of all but the strongest runners, thereby reducing the amount of power and energy they would have during the race. Each to their own I guess. I walked to the top of the tarmac, getting my pulse to around 75%, and then walked back down again before nipping into the toilets for a final pee.

With five minutes to go I made my way to the start line to catch the race brief. It was straightforward, comprehensive and speckled with appropriate humour. The field largely seemed relaxed and everyone looked really fit. Does anyone else look around, see how skinny and athletic everyone looks and start to feel inadequate? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been told that I look pretty skinny and athletic myself, however I guess this is a hangover from spending most of my adult life about two stone overweight.

“On your marks….” BANG! We were off.

Hanger Up N Down Race

With no idea on pacing for such a short trail run I had one plan: It was simply to get up the first hill hot on the tail of the fast guys so that I wouldn’t be stumbling over anyone on the steep, slippery and technical narrow descent that would follow it. The guys at the front leapt away like gazelles and knowing that I couldn’t do that I hit a strong tempo. My heart rate went almost straight up beyond threshold and into the mid 170s, but I knew I could hold it. My breath was fast, but controlled: In for two strides, out for two strides, in for two strides, out for two strides…..

There were quite a few people in front of me, but they started to slow as the hill wore them down. The road was just wide enough so that I could work my way between them and soon there were only around ten people in front of me. My plan worked beautifully and I ran unobstructed down the descent, gradually catching the guy in front. As we passed under the Ivybridge viaduct my parents were there cheering me on before I turned into Longtimber woods. The initial effort was beginning to take its toll, so I decided that a structured retreat was in order. I eased off, and walked as hard as I could up the next hill. A few people overtook me, including the lady that would win the female race, but when we turned back on to tarmac I started running and was able to hold my ground again. Here the route rolled through some lovely countryside and I focussed on staying on the back of a group of about 5 people. They would gap me on easier terrain and flat sections, but as soon as it got hilly or rough I would be back on them again. Things went this way for a couple of miles before they began to gap me for good.

We passed through loads of gates, but nearly all were marshalled and open. Each of the marshals was encouraging and friendly, they even smiled when the cold rain was coming down. I vaulted two styles, barely breaking my stride and noticed a curious obstacle at the next gate. A herd of cows in a stand-off with the marshal. They (the marshal, not the cows!) apologised for not being able to open the gate as they couldn’t afford to let the cows through. The runner in front of me slowed to climb over the fence next to the gate (she eventually finished in front of me as the 2nd female) just as I took two steps up the hedgerow and pushed off to fly over the gate. It was quite a long way down, but I kept my legs pedalling and managed to land pretty well, keeping my momentum. I heard the marshal claim “nice jump” and I was off, dodging cowpats through the next couple of fields.

The miles were flying by and I couldn’t believe my pace. Before I knew it I was on the final hill, which was every bit as tough as the first one of the race. Eventually it climbed onto Hanger Down and levelled out before dropping back down the starting hill. The tarmac was a bit slippery and it took me a couple of hundred meters before I could ease into my stride. I leant forward, kept good posture and lifted my heels as fast as I dared. I was actually wheel spinning on the slippery tarmac as I descended, pushing all the time, but I couldn’t make any ground on the lady in front of me. The finish was just after a sharp left turn, I collected my medal and a drink, and the race was done. What a blast!

finishing

I had finished in 18th place of 77 finishers in a time of 58 mins and 52 seconds, with an average speed of 7 min 37 secs per mile for 7.73 miles with around 1200ft of ascent. When I saw this my jaw almost hit the deck, that was almost as quick as my half marathon PB pace which was set on road over a much flatter course. I guess my training really is working 🙂

Conclusion

If you are in the local area then I thoroughly recommend coming along for the Hanger Up N Down Race next year. The Erme Valley Harriers did a stunning job of organising the race, with great route markings. They put pink electric fence stakes through the fields to keep you on track, often with tape hanging from the top, and lots of tape tied to trees, fences etc to reinforce the fact that you were going the right way. They deployed plenty of marshals to keep gates open (where possible!) and to keep the athletes on track, and there was a very nice low key atmosphere about the whole thing, as well as two water stations on route. I had a great time, on a fun varied course that kept me on my toes from start to finish.