Puretrail Tsunami Ultra – Marathon – sixteen

Yesterday morning I found myself sneaking off of our campsite just before 5am, leaving my wife and kids to lay-in and then strike camp while I did something a lot less sensible. I was off to run the Puretrail Tsunami Ultra marathon. The weather forecast was wall to wall sunshine, and before I knew it I was on the Puretrail bus to Westward Ho and the start of the race.

As usual I will write a bit about the race itself, before going through my experience of the day.

The Puretrail Tsunami Races consist of an ultra marathon, marathon and 16 miler. They are point to point, the starts are staggered and they all finish in Bude. This presents some logistical challenges for Puretrail to get everyone to their various starts. Puretrail hired a bus+driver to help with this, and from my perspective it worked well. I chatted with the bus driver, a friendly chap, who wondered what kind of nutters sign up to do something as bonkers as race along the north Devon and Cornwall coastal path.

Registration

Registration. Very early!

The ultra started from Westward Ho at 7am. The marathon started from Clovelly at 9am and the sixteen miler started from Hartland Quay at 10.30am.

As a competitor the atmosphere of the race was very relaxed. It was also very well organised, and the fact that the organisers are also avid runners was evident. I found the checkpoints to be excellent and perfectly stocked. The largest gap between checkpoints was 7 miles, and the smallest was 2.5. The mix of fruit (watermelon and oranges mainly), sweets and savouries was great. There was also plenty of water which was really important on such a hot day.

Ultra start

A low key start. Very nice.

Ultra start view

The view from the start of the ultra

The event staff were all cheerful and helpful. There were also a lot of supporters on the route, some there to support loved ones in the race and others that just happened to be in the area and had been sucked in by the general craziness of it all.

The route was technical and challenging, made much worse by the heat of the day. Broadly speaking the first few miles of the ultra are tough, with lots of short sharp climbs, the route is then more rolling before the brutality of the last 15 miles. We were continuously dropping down steep paths into valleys and then climbing back out again. In those valleys the air was still and the sun relentless.

The finish was just perfect. It was on the grass in front of Bude Castle, and there were lots of people around. It felt great to finish to a loud cheer. Unfortunately I was so tired that I forgot to take a picture of it. You can have one of the medal instead.

Puretrail Tsunami Medal

Puretrail Tsunami Medal – Hard won by all finishers.

My race

I turned up to the Puretrail Tsunami Races thinking that they wouldn’t be too much trouble. Sure the course would be hilly and it would be a long day out with the course being nearly 60km. I’m used to hills though, so I didn’t think too much about it. What I didn’t respect enough on this occasion was the heat, and that changed my day considerably. I’ll wind back a bit though as my day started 3 hours prior to the 7am start when I was sneaking about our very tiny tent trying not to disturb my wife and kids.

When I first planned on coming to the Puretrail Tsunami Races I was going to come along and camp by myself, but the weather forecast was so beautiful that I dragged the family along too. It was nice to have them at the camp site. The kids got to run around while we setup camp and prepared dinner. Before we knew it we were all in our sleeping bags and playing Uno. It only seemed like a few minutes later when I was rolling up my sleeping bag and stuffing it into its sack. I’m normally an early-bird, but this was silly even by my standards. I still managed to brew up a decent coffee and throw some granola down my throat though.

Just before 5am I walked quietly out of the campsite and the 1.6 miles to Bude Castle. Registration took just a moment and I was on the bus and chatting with the driver at about 5:40am. I was the first one on to make sure that I got a seat near the front. I don’t travel particularly well on buses and at this point I was more worried about the bus ride than the race!

The journey to the start was uneventful and we arrived with a few minutes to spare.

When we started it felt quit relaxed, but about 12 or so people gradually started pulling away from me. It was fairly flat, but that didn’t last long. Check this out. It is the route profile and while the hills aren’t big they were steep and plentiful. Barely any time could be made up on most of the descents.

Tsunami races route profile

Tsunami races route profile

After a few miles of grinding uphill and picking my way down I suddenly hit a wide open trail called “The Hobby” which took me all the way to Clovelly. This was lovely and gave me the chance to make some time up. We had spent a lot of time under trees and I was bang on my target pace. I was eating, drinking and generally looking after myself.

When I got to Clovelly it was just a few minutes after the marathon had started. I paused at the aid station to switch from solids to liquid energy, and make sure that my water bottle was topped up. On the next section I caught a bunch of marathon runners. Most of them were running together to raise money, and they all stepped to one side on the steep technical descent to let me through. At the same time they gave a big cheer which they were doing to all the ultra runners that were passing them. It was awesome ūüôā

Going up the next hill I started to feel a bit squiffy. I had pushed a bit hard on the ascent, so I slowed down a little to let my heart rate recover. I was now in the full glare of the sun, and remained in it for much of the rest of the day. As I got hotter and hotter I found it hard to eat. Each aid station became a mini oasis of fruit and water to look forwards to. I had to slow right down and the rest of the day became all about heat management. I had to stay hydrated, keep popping the electrolytes and keep moving forwards. I messaged my wife a few times to let her know that I would be finishing later than planned.

Along the way there were some beautiful views.

Despite the heat the route didn’t feel too bad until a mile or so after Hartland Quay. All of a sudden it was just one steep and deep valley after another. Each one felt like a slap in the face. Every time I popped up I would see endless hills and valleys stretching out in front of me along the coast. I just kept bringing my attention back to the one that I was on. Get down this hill. Right, now get up that hill. Repeat! Grinding onwards in the heat, sipping every couple of minutes from my water bottle. I tried to keep poking food in, but in the heat my stomach barely took anything and kept threatening to bring it all back up. Occasionally my thoughts would wander to the satellite dishes at Coombe. I expected to see them from some way off, but they took ages to appear. When they did it still took a long time to get to them.

Once I got to the satellite dishes Bude came in to sight, but it wasn’t to be all plain sailing. I could see the coastline rising and falling all the way to Bude. Oh well. One foot in front of the other. I had a race to finish. I crept forwards, trying to look like I had a semblance of form every time a photographer popped out of the scenery. At this point I was running with a couple of others. We weren’t purposely staying with each other, but we seemed to keep coming back together. It was lovely to meet both of you and really nice to have people to talk to when things were getting a bit desperate for all of us.

As we ran into Bude, past the lovely looking sea pool, it was weird to be surrounded by normal people again. I’m sure they were probably wondering what the smell was. I ran the final 100 yards in fine form, past the crowd reclining and cheering on the grass in front of the castle. I tried to look strong to the finish, even finding the energy to wave to my wife, but was sabotaged by my left calf which tried to cramp as I entered the finishing chute. A brief stager and I got control of it, crossed the line and came to a dead stop while they gave me my medal.

No matter which of the Tsunami Races you were in it took a lot to get to the finish line, and I felt totally humble when people saw the “ultra” on my race number and made an even bigger thing of it.

Massive thank you to all of the marshals and race supporters. You were all brilliant and helped to make the day really special. Thanks also to Puretrail for laying on a corker of a race and organising it so well. Here are a few more pics.

Dorchester Marathon

I took part in the first Dorchester Marathon this year. It was excellently organised by White Star Running and featured a challenging but beautiful course. For a road marathon it has to be my favourite one so far, although the elevation profile is not going to help you with that negative split.

Dorchester MarathonWhite Star Running’s organisational experience showed straight away with the event HQ, and start and finish, being on a farm just outside of Dorchester. When I drove in I was asked which way I would be going at the end of the day and was directed towards a spot that would make that as easy as possible. It was a happy coincidence for me that this was just a couple of hundred yards from the start line. I was also very early which helped.

My race number had been sent out in the post, so there wasn’t much for me to do other than to collect a piece of yellow ribbon to pin to my race shirt. The organiser had asked us to wear yellow in an act of remembrance for those lost at the Manchester bombings just a few days before the race.

There seemed to be just enough portable toilets to accommodate the number of people and I didn’t see the queues build up to anything substantial in my two pre-race visits to them. I had some time in hand, so I took a quick nap in my car. It all seemed quite laid back, perhaps that was just me?

After my nap I put my drop bag into the lorry as that put it even closer to the finish line than my car. I then walked with the other 700 people down the farm track to the start. We would be running back under the finish line and out onto the course which would take us through Dorchester itself and then out onto a single lap of the local countryside.

To set us off the local town crier gave a speech from the top of a cherry picker. It was in the form of a poem and I thought it was quite entertaining. Afterwards he rang his bell and we were off.

On the way around aid stations were placed at every 3 miles, with the White Star Running Love Station coming at mile 20. The Love Station is an aid station with a little something extra. Hugs, booze, sausage rolls, etc. It is always a nice touch, even if you are just whizzing through. Extra smiles and cheers are always welcome!

As the route wended its way around the countryside I made sure that I looked around occasionally, and it was worth the effort. The weather was warm and slightly overcast. Without cars on the road there was a peaceful tranquillity to the first half of the race. After the first half I couldn’t tell because as my focus shifted more to keeping pace and the quiet was shattered by the noise of my breathing. I’m sure the tranquillity was still there though….

As you can see from the profile above the biggest hill comes right towards the end, before the route eases off. Don’t let that final downhill fool you though, there are a couple of little blips that keep the needle in the red right until you get to the line. By this time you may also be in amongst some of the slower half marathon runners. It was really nice to see them and plenty of them were cheering on the marathon runners as they came through.

Once you do get to the line it is worth it. The medal is a substantial piece of tin, and is unashamedly DORCHESTER! I loved it. I collected my bag, avoided the queue for the changing facilities (lots of half marathon runners) and used my Dry Robe to get changed by my car. I wanted to get home, so I then skidaddled, but there were plenty of choices for post race food on site if I had wanted them. Also a massage tent and a few stalls selling things.

If you want a well organised challenge on a beautiful course then this is the road marathon for you. It isn’t a PB course, with over 300m of elevation along the route, but it is really enjoyable and one that I will return to. I love it when a whole town gets behind a running event and in that way it reminded me of the Frome Half Marathon which has a similar feel, but a much less impressive medal…..

My race – Something to prove

That’s the race report over. If you want to know specifically how my race went then read on. This section is a lot more personal and is more of a diary of the race for my own reference. There is info about pacing and strategy in there though which you may find useful.

I wasn’t meant to be in the Dorchester Marathon because I was meant to be in the Dragon’s Back all week. I had grabbed an entry for Dorchester much earlier though, and had intended not to show up for it. Unfortunately my Dragon’s Back attempt ended early because of a fall. You can read about that here. When I got back from Wales I opened my post and there was my Dorchester race number staring out at me. A little voice in my head said “why not?” But at that point I couldn’t bend my right knee thanks to a lot of swelling, and I had severe muscle soreness in my left leg from all the overcompensating it had done over Crib Goch and the Snowdon Horseshoe at Dragon’s Back.

Day by day my knee started to work better and on Thursday I was able to take the dog on a slow and short walk on the moors. On Friday I could use a roller on my right leg to loosen up the muscles around the battered knee. On Saturday I was able to use the foam roller on both legs without whimpering too loudly and disturbing my family…. On Sunday I found myself at the start of the Dorchester Marathon. A race plan had been forming in the back of my head as the week had progressed and I was ready to start. Starting meant that I would finish, but whether that would be in under 4 hours or a lot longer I wouldn’t know until I started running.

I knew the challenges that the race route would hold for me, and my pacing plan was simple. 5 minutes per km (8 min miles) and hold that for as long as I could. This put me on PB matching pace straight away. Effort wise it would feel fairly easy to start with and would put me bang on the effort level that science says I should be able to maintain for a marathon if I was fresh. I wasn’t fresh……obviously! But I am daft and stubborn, which help you to go further than you might think in a marathon ūüėČ

My aim was to keep close to an even effort throughout which meant a lot of people overtaking me on the hills, only for me to cruise back past them on the flats and downs. Many of those folk gradually faded behind as they couldn’t maintain their boom/bust energy outputs.

For food I carried a 600ml bottle with 300 calories of energy drink in it. This would be enough to get me through the first half. At each aid station I tipped a cup of cool water over my head. The sun was starting to come out and it was already getting hot! Once the energy drink was gone I put the bottle in my bum bag and two packets of shot blocks gave me the energy to get to the end. I switched at halfway to drinking the cups of water at the aid stations and they started passing out cool wet sponges which were glorious.

My knee and previously sore muscles were evident from the start, but they didn’t get worse. At about halfway various other pains started to eclipse them as the intensity and repetitiveness of a road marathon started to take its toll. At halfway I was also slightly ahead of schedule averaging 4:57 per km. Now I just had to hang in there through the worst of the hills, heat and pain. From about halfway it was noticeable that the tone of the course had shifted to gradually uphill. The heat and my heart rate crept higher and higher and the rate of perceived effort escalated even quicker.

At mile 20 I ran into the Love Station. I could see several people holding handfuls of wet sponges. I was informed that I could only have a wet sponge if I had it with a hug. Before I knew it a tall lady in a tight pink top, long socks and short shorts was giving me a big hug while squeezing 4 cold wet sponges into the middle of my back. I squealed. She laughed. I politely thanked her and ran off, weaving in and out of the half marathon runners that I was now in amongst.

At about mile 22 a shudder went through my body and a voice in my head suggested that I join the people I was overtaking and walk it in to the finish. Another voice in my head simply said “no” and I pushed on. To be honest I expected my brain to put up more of a fight, but my wounded ego from Dragon’s Back simply stomped on the negative voice as firmly as my feet were stomping on the hot Dorset tarmac.

My pace had slipped with the increasing hills and was now bang on target pace at 5 mins per km as I crested the biggest hill with two miles to go. The rest of the course was downhill except for a two or three short sharp climbs. I just had to hang in there.

I came wheezing, rasping, thudding and possibly whimpering through those last two miles. I overtook one or two marathon runners and groups of half marathon runners. The last couple of hundred yards were flat and crowded. I was zigging and zagging through runners (politely of course.) Cheering crowds lined the finishing straight. Finally I crossed the line just 51 seconds outside my flat course PB which I had set exactly one year before in the Edinburgh Marathon.

What a result on a hilly course, and with everything I had been through in the last week. More importantly though it gave my brain the spring cleaning that it needed. I had to dig deep to keep the pace going. I had to focus 100% on what I was doing and I had done exactly what I needed to do. The shadow of the Dragon’s Back DNF will be with me until 2019 when I get another go at it. But here and now at Dorchester I had proven to myself that I was still a runner. I wasn’t a quitter. I could dig deep and push hard when I needed to.

What’s Next?

My next big race is the North Downs Way 100 mile race in August. In preparation for that I will be doing the 58km Tsunami Race along the North Devon coastline as well as aiming for 80km at the 12 hour Cider Frolic a few weeks later.

See you on the trails.

Dorchester Marathon with medal

 

 

Dealing with a DNF

Dragon's Back DNFSo, how do you deal with a DNF. That’s a “Did Not Finish?” You’ve been focussing on a race for many months, maybe years. You are at the peak of your fitness and all of your hard effort is about to pay off. There are expectations from friends and family that you will do well, you have been really vocal about your challenge to raise as much money for a charity as possible. Then, come race day (or race week!) something goes horribly wrong. You can’t continue, you can’t finish and you have to go home. What happens next?

For me that’s pretty straight forward. You learn the lesson. Why did you fail? How can you avoid it next time? Then you move on. What is your next goal? Where is your next success going to come from?

For me this is a very personal issue as I¬†have focussed on and trained really hard for the Dragon’s Back for the past 9 months, but¬†frustratingly¬†had to drop out of it after completing day 1. Sure it’s the toughest 5 day mountain race in the world, but I had prepared for it well and I had decent expectations. I had everything ready and a great strategy. Unfortunately on day one I took a hard¬†fall on a fairly innocuous piece of trail, and damaged my right knee. I clawed my way through the remainder of the stage¬†and finished, but the medics feared I had broken my knee cap and did not want me to continue. Rightly so. If you had seen the state of it you would have thought it might be broken too!

As usual, this being my blog, this is about how I deal with¬†this DNF. If you can take anything positive away from that then it’s yours. Own it. Get over your own DNF. Look to the positives and move on.

That’s it for bad news, now it’s time for the good. My patella isn’t broken, so I wont have to go through months of rehab.¬†My knee¬†is sore, swollen and¬†awkward to walk on, but it is getting better fast. I will be back to full speed in¬†no time. Here are some more positives:

  • Thanks to all my lovely supporters I raised a nice chunk of money for Dartmoor Search & Rescue Team – Plymouth
  • I dealt with the injury well. When it happened I took stock, dug in and finished the stage. I didn’t give up. I didn’t consider giving up. I kept on moving. My mental strength did not crumble. I am very happy about that.
  • Instead of being totally mullered after 5 days of racing, requiring several weeks of rest,¬†I will be able to¬†get back into my training plan quickly. I will build on this fitness further to get ready for this years’ “B” race, now promoted to an “A” race: The North Downs Way 100 in August.
  • I learnt a lot on day 1 of Dragon’s Back. My nutrition strategy worked brilliantly. My gear was near perfect. My pacing and control were excellent. I had a couple of areas of weakness that I want to build on and will incorporate into my training.
  • The Dragon’s Back will run again in 2019. I will be on the start line. 2 years older, 2 years wiser, and fitter than ever before.

There is no point in dwelling what might have been. I am going to use this DNF to inform my future racing, so that I can do better next time.

Now for a rant: I get annoyed by people that claim to have never had a DNF. It sets unrealistic expectations, and frankly it’s bollocks. If it’s true then¬†it means little, other than they haven’t yet pushed themselves hard enough. You will never know what you can achieve unless you are pushing your own limits. Unfortunately on occasion that means a failure or two. Learn from them and move on.

Genetically we are all different, with different abilities. We all have a different bar, a different level, that we are trying to achieve. There are many motivational quotes out there about failure, but the one I am liking most today is an old favourite delivered by Theodore Roosevelt from 1910. In this case for me, and perhaps for you, the worst and most severe critic is the one inside our own heads:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Look to the future learn from your mistake and come back better and stronger. Do not give up! BE IN THE ARENA!

Sorry. I got a bit shouty at the end ūüôā

Dragon’s Back 2017 Day 1

Dragons back start

Just before the start of Dragon’s Back

Overview of events!

Here is a quick overview of events. I will then go on to write a bit about what it is like to take part in Dragon’s Back Day 1. In short: It was EPIC!

First of all I would like to offer massive thanks to everyone that has helped and supported me. Many of you already know that I tripped coming out of Pen Y Pass, suffered some injuries to my right knee and then slowly made my way into the finish. I was in time and¬†had completed the day 1¬†route, but my knee wasn’t in a good state. The medics took a look at it and with significant concern that it¬†might be fractured decided that I shouldn’t continue. With the way my knee looked and was starting to feel I was really worried about causing any further damage, particularly if it was broken, so I agreed with their decision.

It was a heart wrenching decision to make. I hade put so much effort into being in the race, not just financially with the entry fee and travel, but also in fund raising effort and nine months of highly focussed training time with my coach Charles Miron. To turn up to a 5 day race and fail to start day 2 was horrible. I was only consoled a small amount when the medics said I had the best injury for the day, and a tiny bit of kudos was recovered when they said they had no idea how I hade made it from Pen Y Pass and around the Snowdon Horseshoe to the overnight camp with my knee in such a state! To be honest it didn’t hurt a massive amount,¬†but my hands were also damaged. My level of movement was restricted and things were sore, limiting my ability to scramble up the sides of Crib Goch¬†and¬†making descending difficult.

When I finally got home and on to A&E the speed that they got me into x-ray also seemed to imply that they thought the knee might be broken. Very fortunately for me the x-ray came back clear. The restrictive bandages could come off and I was told that it would be ok. I just need to take it easy for a few days while it heals up. In the meantime I should focus on gradually increasing flexibility and was told strictly no running for a few days!

In other words a lot of drama to come out of the race with, a crushing DNF for a stupid fall, and then a bit of a damp squib when the x-ray came back. I am so relieved it is a damp squib though. All of this training wont be for nothing, and I don’t have to spend months losing fitness, going crazy and rehabbing a broken patella!

My “B” race for this year is the North Downs Way 100 in August. It was my backup race if Dragon’s Back were to go wrong. Now I shall divert my attention to it and put all of this fitness to running 100 miles non-stop for the first time in my life. I am aiming to do it in under 24 hours and I should have the fitness to achieve that goal.

Dragon’s Back Day 1

The first day of Dragon’s Back was really good fun. It is the most challenging day I have ever had in the hills and it took in some simply amazing mountains.

Conwy Castle

Hanging about in Conwy Castle

All competitors had registered the night before, and been giving a detailed race brief. I have never done an event organised by Shane Ohly before and I like his straight forward approach. The rules were clear cut as was the penalty system for infringing one of those rules. 223 would be on the start line.

Dragons back start

Just before the start of Dragon’s Back

First thing on Monday morning we were all there in Conwy Castle. We got to mill around the castle a bit and explore some of the towers. It felt very surreal, then the welsh male voice choir started up which added to the atmosphere. After the race photo, and bang on 7am, we were set off. The first bit didn’t really count while we wound our way out of the castle. The start “dib” point was at the exit. This meant that there was no impatience or rushing. We simply worked our way around the battlements in view of the first hill of the day. There was a lot of chatting and nervous joking up and down the line of runners.

Hill number 1

Looking at hill number one from Conwy Castle

Leaving Conwy Castle

Leaving Conwy Castle

Once we got out of the castle people started to run. Lots took off at quite a speed, but I joined a few others in walking most of the way up to the first summit. This was all in my plan, so I was quite happy to let others rush off.

Dragons Back CP1

Checkpoint 1

There was a small queue at the first checkpoint at the summit of Conwy Mountain, but we were soon on our way again. Runners would frequently swap places and exchange brief conversations as we all went at our own paces. We made our way up and up, with views of Conwy chasing us into the higher mountains through much of the morning. The skies were overcast, but the air was clear with good views of Anglesey.

Before long we were getting into the mountains proper. The ground started to get more rocky and challenging. Then the BIG mountains came into view with Tryfan and Snowdon. We weren’t even half way in and we could almost see the finish!!!

rocky summit

One of many rocky summits

flat on Dragons Back

This is what flat often seemed to look like on Dragons Back Day 1

Early views of Tryfan

Early views of Tryfan

As we descended to the mid way supply point at Llyn Ogwn we got our first taste of what the rest of the day would be like with a scramble down from Pen Yr Ole Wen.

Climbing down from Pen Yr Ole Wen

Climbing down from Pen Yr Ole Wen

My fuelling and hydration was going to plan and at the supply point I felt really good. I was chatting with other runners and everyone seemed keen to crack on and start climbing Tryfan. For those that don’t know Tryfan is a massing lump of rock rising up to 830 metres. It is covered with scrambling and climbing routes, with no easy routes to the top. We took the most straightforward route, but were soon in to proper scrambling territory. It was great fun, and before the clouds started to close in the views were spectacular.

A view from Tryfan

A view from Tryfan

Tryfan is where I discovered that I should have spent a bit more time training on the climbing wall. My pace slowed a lot as the hill got steeper. I was comfortably moving forwards, but many others were much quicker than me. I soon crested the summit and stuck my head out in to the wind. I dibbed and moved along heading off Tryfan and then into the Glyders. More rocks and scrambling. I was loving it.

Coming off of Glyder Fawr, Pen Y Pass soon came into view. The final point of civilisation before we would push on up Crib Goch and into the full Snowdon Horseshoe.

Approaching Pen Y Pass

Approaching Pen Y Pass

I moved some water around at Pen Y Pass and took a moment to make sure I had all the food in all of the right places. I crossed the road and made my way through the car park. Calling another runner over who wasn’t sure of the exit. I then jogged ahead and on to the foot of the trail up Crib Goch. It was wide, flat and rocky. I took a sip of a drink, then stubbed my toe. My body tipped forwards, with my feet scrabbling to catch up. They couldn’t do it. Now my arms were flailing. I was picking up speed. This was going to hurt. Try to relax. BANG! I bounced and slid along the trail. The pain was instant with lots of body parts shouting at once. I rolled onto my back and tried not to throw up.

A few moments later the lady runner that I had redirected in the car park came past. I must have looked an odd sight from a distance. I was simply reclining on the path, leaning on my rucksack. As she got closer though she could see the blood on my leg and hands asked if I was ok. To be honest I had no idea at that point. I told her to go on. I was only a few hundred metres from the medic stationed at Pen Y Pass. I would sit on the path and compose myself while deciding what to do.

While I was sat there about 10 runners stopped in all to make sure I was ok. They were brilliant, and it was really good for them all to offer. I didn’t take any of them up on it though, and as the pain settled out and the shock subsided I made my way to my feet.

I took a step towards Crib Goch, then another, then another. Well, my body still worked. My ego and self confidence were dented, but I could move. Onwards! I apologise to anyone behind me who had to encounter blood speckled rocks. I wasn’t gushing or dripping blood, but the palm of my left hand was torn up and I needed all of my limbs to be able to grip to the sides and top¬†of Crib Goch, so the odd smear was inevitable. I was very careful not to touch that knee on anything though!

The path that bit me

The path that bit me

Part way up Crib Goch

Part way up Crib Goch

Starting the Crib Goch ridge

Starting the Crib Goch ridge – The easy bit!

I had a sense of humour failure and a “navigational issue” on the latter half of Crib Goch which resulted in an extra loose and rocky scramble to re-attain the ridge line. The way to avoid any similar navigational issue at any point on the Dragon’s Back is to never take the easy path at a T junction. It is never the easy path on Dragons Back …. ūüôā

My knee was pulling really tight on the final descent, so I walked it in. The folk I had been running with trundled off into the distance and I was soon left alone in the fading light. I had been out so long that my GPS battery was going flat, and my mind turned to thoughts of the finish. Here I made a daft second navigational error. I was on mandatory route by this point, so I had to retrace my steps a couple of hundred metres back up the hill to be able to regain it without a penalty.

Finally I crossed the finish. The official stats were 3800m ascent over 52km, just 32 miles. My watch showed me that it had taken me 14 hours and 36 minutes! It also showed 55km and 4100m ascent which is probably about right when my errors were factored in.

The medics

The support and help that I had from the medics was excellent. Their first thought was that my knee was bruised and that I should decide in the morning whether to continue or not. They commended me on having a decent injury and not making any fuss about it. They had seen lesser wounds earlier with a lot more fuss being giving.

A further poke and a prod as the swelling grew gave the medics further cause for concern which is when they started to worry that it might be fractured. The knee no longer wanted to bend and I was having difficulty walking. The portable toilets were another interesting challenge with an unbending leg! The medics got me food and drink, they made sure I was kept warm.

To cut a long story short they made a call on their satellite phone to my Mum (with my permission), who had dropped me at the race start, and asked her to come and get me in the morning. They advised me to get to A&E as soon as possible, but that it should be ok to wait until I got to Plymouth. If the cuts had been deeper they would have taken me to A&E right there and then.

I had an emotional moment in a portable toilet where nobody could see me. The last thing I wanted to do was quit. The rest of my body felt tired but good. Without the stupid fall I would have been up and away and into stage 2 at 6am the following day. I felt so frustrated. I pulled myself together, then spent half an hour trying to get changed and into my sleeping bag, wishing that I was more flexible. I can’t touch my toes at the best of times, this was turning into a comedy sketch!

What next!

After this disappointment I am going to capitalise on the fitness that I have and focus it into my B race for the year. This is the North Downs Way 100 in early August. It will be my first attempt at running 100 miles and I am naively going to try and do it in under 24 hours. You get a better medal if you finish it in under 24 hours!

I am then going to turn my focus to the next running of the Dragon’s Back in 2019. I want a finish. I want a Dragon Trophy and I want to¬†remove the shade of this DNF. I think that part of this will involve withdrawing from the Marathon Des Sables in 2018. I want to divert that money into my Dragon’s Back 2019 training fund to be able to make the most of the lessons I have learnt this time around. I want to do more rock climbing. Train on more 1000m hills and learn to run on flat trails……..

On the plus side the effort has managed to raise a brilliant £840 for Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team РPlymouth. Thank you so much for your support. I am so sorry for this disappointing DNF and will give you value for your money at the NDW100 on the 5th August 2017.

 

Nike Free v5 – 2014 model – Preview

nikefree5v1

Regular readers will know that I regularly log my road miles in  a pair of obnoxiously coloured Nike Free v4.0 trainers and I have quite comfortably taken them up to marathon distance. There are a bunch of things that I like about them but I think that it can be summed up in two bullet points:

  1. They feel like extremely light and well fitting slippers when not running
  2. I have never experienced foot pain in them unlike many other shoes, despite running thousands of miles in them

In other words they work extremely well for me. Now, enter the Nike Free v5 which I have just purchased for my wife (from Wiggle) in the colour above. They genuinely look better in the flesh than they do in the pictures and my wife commented that they looked quite nice. She then put them on and exclaimed “they feel like slippers, they are so comfortable.” It looks like she is beginning her Nike Free journey with a very positive start, but time will tell.





My wife isn’t currently a runner. She was a runner up until 18 months ago when she was diagnosed with Leukaemia and she has just gone through a stem cell transplant which has left her bald, weak, tired and prone to a gazillion different bugs. Through it all she has said that she would like to take up running again, so I bought her the Nike Free v5s so that she could wear them all through her recovery. The idea is that unlike wearing normal shoes they will help to strengthen her feet as she is gradually able to walk a bit further and eventually run. If she wears them every day then she wont even notice the benefits (other than wearing extremely comfy shoes), but when she starts to run again and build up her mileage then her feet and lower legs will be a lot stronger and more capable than many other beginner runners. Her calf muscles and Achilles tendons should be the right length and nice and springy (unlike those of people that spend all the time in daft, read fashionable, footwear) and this will help her turn into a much less injury prone and capable runner. At least that is my theory. I will let you know how she gets on ūüôā

If you want to find out more about Sam’s leukaemia and the fundraising that we are doing for charity then you can find our leukaemia blog at www.theleukaemiaconclusion.co.uk

Oh, and I’m also loving the new hexagonal tread pattern as it allows such nice fluid movement and multi directional flex. Now I want a new pair too….

nikefree5v2