Sunday, 17 May 2015

The River Arun Trail marathon

                              (I managed to bribe this calf with some money to let me pass)

        Well, I hadn't long done the London marathon and I was quite disappointed with my training, weight gain and poor time. This was exactly the kick up the ass that I needed. Ever since, I have been feeling more motivated to run harder, more often and to lose some weight. Let's do another marathon. Yay!
(Me taking a Relfie at the start (running selfie)
    I worked out the public transport and times and this was only possible as the race was on a Saturday. I wish there were more races on a Saturday. This means I can get public transport there and I have a day of recovery before returning to work, plus a few beers ;)
6am taxi to train station. 6.33 train to Havant. 6.37 train to Littlehampton. Walk to Littlehampton marina café for the start. Got there with about 40 minutes to spare. Got my race number and changed, then chatted to a few other runners. A few 100 mile running t-shirts which I find a bit intimidating sometimes. Makes me feel unsure of my ability on these trail races for some reason.
(Lovely café with a free fried breakfast and drink when we finish)
     A bit about the event:
The race is organised by "Sussex trail events". They do some quite quirky little races. Check out their website and enter a race. They only allow 100 runners in this event and you must carry water with you. There are aid/water/food stations at miles 7ish, halfway and mile 20ish. The route follows the river Arun from Littlehampton marina to Arundel and then onto Amberley before reaching the South Downs way. You get to a checkpoint and turn around and come all the way back. I had a nice chat to the race director as well. A very enthusiastic, happy and proud guy. And you can see why because this was a brilliant event and I would love to do it again. Very supportive, friendly and chatty marshals. Which I love. Can get a bit lonely out there sometimes in your own world of pain ;)

(Start of the race)
       The race director gave his talk with lots of laughs in there. We were told there was a market on in Arundel and we would have to run through it. This, I thought was even more awesome. I heard there were 104 runners and 1 dog. The dog was made to start at the back though. Fair enough I guess. We were off and I felt well prepared. I had downloaded the GPX file to my watch so I knew where to go if I got lost. Although, I wasn't sure how to view it whilst in race mode. I wanted to see the miles and time go by more importantly. I had also written down directions on the bits which didn't follow the river like Arundel and Amberley and the South Downs. I had water bottles, Vaseline, toilet paper, a rain mac, cake and my phone for taking photos.
(The river Arun and Arundel castle in the distance)

       Started off nice and slow and trying to get into a comfortable pace. The ground was quite hard going underfoot though. There were quite a few divots and within half a mile there was no avoiding the stinging nettles. Just run faster! No logic there Obviously, everything we were encountering now we would again on our return journey but in a much more tired and weary state.
(It was the first marathon for that guy on the left. He sure picked a tough one!)
     The views were stunning and I was taking lots of photos and bird watching. We were right near the Arundel nature reserve so I was in my element. I could hear my favourite bird song of the Cetti's warbler. It's a really loud and angry sounding rant. Love it! I could also hear a few Sedge warblers about my the reeds too. Arundel castle was getting closer and closer and then we came into Arundel and there were marshals to direct us in the right direction. There was also red and white reflective tape all over the place and orange spray painted arrows. This was awesome and gave me confidence if I ever wasn't sure if I was going the right way.

Me and another runner got to the market and weren't sure where to go and we had the locals directing us through the market and people were watching us and clapping. I joked to the other guy that I was feeling a bit like Anneka Rice on Treasure hunt. It was nice to see all these people after being on the lonely trails. Being only a 100 runners, the field can spread out quite a lot and you may not see someone for a while. So seeing all these people clapping gave me a rush of excitement.
(More beautiful scenery)
       Ok, I was taking quite a few photos. I had a rough plan in my head. I would take photos for the first half of the race and try and run 8 to 8.30's (minute miles) and then race the second half maybe.
After running through a pub's beer garden we were now into some woodland with a few muddy puddles but they were avoidable with a few leaps here and there. It was so nice to have all this varied terrain. Sad to admit that I still love tarmac though and would run a lot faster and effortlessly on it. (Apart from the uphill which I walked).
(Running up that hill. Not me though)
     The sun was now out which I wasn't expecting at all. I had no suntan lotion or hat, just a rain mac! Typical me really. There was a nice breeze though and I had my water bottles so that I could squirt water onto my head to cool me down a bit. As we headed to Amberley there were a few stiles to climb over. I was running with this guy for a while who said he had walked some of the course a few weeks ago as he didn't want to get lost on the day. I was in good company :) I slipped on one of the stiles but was okay and then I accidently broke one with my elephant like weight. The guy was nice enough to point out that it was probably just rotten though. We then started our first gradual climb through a field. We then saw the guy's girlfriend or support crew? She tells us that we are in 14th and 15th place. This now makes me want to race the event and then I tell myself to not be so stupid. I want to enjoy this race, not put myself through a lot of pain.
(The climbing continues just after Amberley)

      We cross a fairly fast road and the uphill continues. I see a sign for the South downs way but I thought we were already on it for some reason. I walk up these hills to save energy but it's good to know that I will be running back down them on my return. The scenery changes again as we finally get onto the South Downs way. This really climbs alot. There is a nice 600ft ascent here! It is stunning though. So I continue walking, taking photos and saying hello to the few walkers that I pass. I also see a Red kite flying over head. I am trying to watch him hover above me but need to concentrate on my footing as the ground is still uneven. I felt my ankle nearly tweak a couple of times but luckily all was good. I was expecting to see the lead running coming past me by now but that didn't happen until mile 12. Although I didn't realise the halfway point would be about 13.7 miles.
(Climbing the SDW)
       I was so glad to reach the checkpoint. The volunteers were so chirpy and friendly. They were my best friends :) I ate some mini sausages, a couple of savoury eggs and pretzels while I refilled my water bottles. They told me I was in the top 20 still, this made me happy. I told myself that I would try and stay in the top 20 too. That would be a great achievement for me.
Now the good bit could begin! There was a fair bit of downhill for the next mile. Although, I didn't want to trash my quads going too hard and fast. It turns out that some of the hills were too steep for me to run down anyway and I had to adopt a sideways fell running type style to get down at a good pace. Also, you had to concentrate on putting your feet in the right places. It was lots of fun.
I then saw a yellowhammer (Bright yellow bird). It was closest I had ever been to one and it was just perched there singing away as if I was not even there. I thought about taking out the phone again but someone behind was catching me. I was racing now, remember!
(I was glad to be heading back)

      At least I knew where I was going now. Nothing ever looks the same when you run it in the opposite direction though. I remember learning running routes when I started running but could only run them in one direction because I would get lost trying to run them in reverse even though it should have been the same route. Anyway... I ran back across the weird suspension bridge that I forgot to mention earlier. Just like the race director had said "It is so springy that when you run over it on your own it feels like there are 1000 people on it at the same time". This felt a lot weirder on the way back as the legs had now done a lot more miles. I was staring to pass a few people at miles 18 and onwards. People were starting to look tired but I was feeling pretty good and strong.
( The beauty of this course never ends)
      After 20 or so miles though, I noticed my pace had slowed and I was now running 9 minute miles. The sun was now beating down upon me. I was pouring more water over my head but needed to save enough to drink as well. Mile 22 and that was it, I was struggling. I even started to walk. The legs were fine though but I was having a hard time breathing. I later spoke to a runner in the café who said I had been suffering from heat exhaustion. I couldn't run further than a quarter of a mile. I would stop and then get a bit dizzy and feel sick. I would walk for a while and runners were now catching me up. All who passed asked if I was okay. I was okay but just needed to take it easy for the last 4 miles. It was going to be a long 4 miles. I didn't want to end up in the back of an ambulance again like I did on the 50k at Salisbury where my breathing became very shallow and I was sunburnt and shivering,
( May as well take more photos)
    Okay, I was in a bad place both physically and mentally but I needed to stay positive and think straight. I knew the route was going to be at least 27 miles and I knew that once I was getting stung by the nettles again that I would of have half a mile to go. I managed to run with two runners for a little while. It was great to have the company and take my mind off any negative thoughts or feelings. One guy told me a story about when he did the Gran union Canal race. (It's a 145 mile race if ya didn't know). He see he'd done 140 miles and then just sat around drinking Red stripe with a load of Rastafarians. He said he wasn't sure why he did but think he just wanted to be with people at the time as it takes you away from the thoughts and feelings when you are suffering, I liked that story :)
(Good to have pacers at these events)
   I was glad to be running through the stinging nettles again. I was actually looking forward to it. I was hoping it would take my mind off the now aching legs. Would the pain of the stings take away the other pain? Well, I was about to find out! Nope, I now having itching burning legs and achy tired legs all at the same It made me laugh though. I was now running through a car park and the end was in sight. I had to keep running now. The crowds were cheering me in. I now felt nothing apart from pure emotion of elation. I wasn't even going to finish under 4 hours but I really didn't care. All that pain and suffering on the last 4 miles was quickly replaced with a sense of achievement, joy, relief and a nice lie down on the grass.
                                                         (No sub 4 but still 18th place!)
       20-30 minutes passed and I felt ready to order my breakfast and two cans of diet coke. The lady in the café gave me the coke for me but told me not to tell anyone. Whoops! I enjoyed the fried breakfast sat on the balcony and chatting to other runners and spectators about their experiences of the day. This truly was a great race. Just a shame that I was so ill prepared for the heat that I wasn't expecting. I would definitely do this race again and again. Can't remember how much I paid to do this race but it was a bargain and a proper running experience. Shook hands with the race director and thanked as many volunteers as I could before heading home with a headful of great memories.



Tuesday, 12 May 2015

After work bike ride

    After work I thought i'd go for a 20 mile bike ride on my mountain bike to Awbridge and back. My IT Bands and Soleus muscles are still really hurting from all the racing at the weekend. I have been having plenty of hot baths and Foam rolling and the pain is easing off a bit. Another run free day was needed and the weather was good, so a bike ride it was.

I left work with a bottle of water and a rucksack with a hoodie. Cycled along Lee lane but straight away there was a queue of cars turning around. Some woman tells me i'll have to turn around because I can't get through. I see an office girl from work but she says she doesn't know what the obstruction is. It turns out to be a fallen tree. Luckily, I am able to pick up my bike and carry it over the tree and another cyclist follows suit. I tell him it'll be a much nicer cycle to Romsey now without any speeding 4x4's and pollution. He smiles and agrees with me. I can't keep up though as he is one of those proper cyclists.
     I get into Romsey and follow the gravel path by the side of the river that leads to Timsbury but I come off at Fishlake meadows and head down the Stockbridge road and turn left at the Dukes head pub. I am now in unknown territory. All I know is i'm heading to Awbridge and I've only done parts of it via the Testway, so you don't really see much apart from a cottage, bluebell woodland and a lake. 

         I get into Awbridge but not the village part of it. I then decide to cycle to Lockerley as I have never been there. I stop at the little shop for 2 apples and a banana and sit outside and eat an apple in the sunshine and exchange "Hellos" to some locals. Then it gets me thinking... Is "Dean" around here somewhere? Would be cool to get a picture of me with a sign of Dean. Bit of a pointless mission but it'll give the ride a bit of a purpose apart from burning a few calories and enjoying the sunshine and quiet country lanes and watching the wildlife.
     I don't know where this Dean place is and I end up cycling on Lockerley footpath number 6. I don't know where it goes and it's pretty tricky terrain even for my mountain bike so I decide to turn back and follow the signs for East Tytherley instead. I see a Deer grazing in a field and nearly cycle into a hedge watching it. I then see signs for West Dean and East Dean. 
   I cycle through West Dean and East Dean but where is Dean? I'm here cycling on my bike I stupidly answer myself. I then get to the below sign and can't make my mind up which way to travel. Should I turn back. I don't like travelling the way I came and am obsessed with loops. If I head towards Salisbury would there be a route through to the New forest maybe? I knew Winterslow was on the Clarendon way after Broughton. 

   In the end I decided to head towards Tytherley and hoped this would take me back towards Lockerley. I had done quite a few miles already, so it was time to start thinking about heading back. Plus I didn't have any lights on my bike and I would like some food and a nice bath.

       As soon as I got around the corner, there was Dean Train Station. I had been past it many times on the train. I had found my Dean. Seems to be just a train station rather than a place I think. I took a photo while I waited for the train to pass at the gates. Then up a hill I came to West Tytherley.

      This brought me back to East Tytherley and I could see the road running parallel was the one I had taken earlier. I was now the otherside of the church. I was back to kind of knowing where I was.

     Back to Lockerley and then I took a different road towards Romsey as I wanted to go through the Wellows and cut through Ridge to get to the Farm on the Testway near Hill street. I managed to go through the village of Awbridge at last and then to the Wellows.

      At least I knew where I was now. Through East Wellow to the Wellows and then that big climbing hill past Wellow golf course and then right towards the main road and into Ridge.

     I briefly went to this place but there wasn't much there to be honest. I cycled through Woodington as well which I know from getting lost on the Testway and ending up in someone's back garden.

     I was tempted to continue the adventure and head right to West Wellow and Plaitford. I was about 25 miles in already though. There was enough I had decided. I sat on a rock and ate my banana. I was starving by now and couldn't wait for some decent food when I got home. Another apple wasn't going to do it.

      34.5 miles was cycled in the end. It was windy in places and I got covered in bugs, flies and insects many times. I managed 29 mph downhill. My mountain bike won't cycle any faster! I saw deer, buzzards, rabbits, a Hare, Woodpecker, pheasants etc.. I also have a sore bum but I loved the adventure of not knowing where I was or where I was going. Looking forward to some more sunny days like this over the summer. Thanks for reading :)

Friday, 8 May 2015

Tamar Lakes parkrun

                                            (Tamar Lakes parkrun starts on this bridge)

              I went to Cornwall/Devon last Friday with Di from my running club. Di had previously done Tamar lakes parkrun but it was cancelled due to flooding but in true parkrun style, they ran it unofficially anyway. I was looking forward to this event. I always love going to new parkruns around the UK. This was to be my 13th different parkrun course. Although my calves were still achy from London marathon, I decided I was going to try and win this parkrun.

                                      (Towards the finish, around the 3 mile mark)

               This parkrun starts from a bridge. You run across it and then run around the lake anti-clockwise for 3.1 miles. It was as if this lake was built for a parkrun course. Lovely gravel paths all the way around and undulating throughout with a bit of an evil climb at the finish, which looks like nothing until you've run your hardest for 3 miles! One of the most beautiful courses I have ever run with the exception of Colby and Llyn Llech Owain. Anyway... Back to the race.

        I just had to check the results from the previous week to get an idea of how many runners turn up and what the finishing times were like. There are usually around 60 runners and the winning time was 20.30ish or there abouts. I could win this with a lot of effort in my current state!

                                      (Just over a mile on the otherside of the lake)

              The rain had held off but there was a bit of a breeze as me and Di made our way over to the start line. I was ready to run and keen to win with my 20 minute time but I didn't want to lead the race as I didn't know the course at the time. So, the plan was just to sit behind the leader for 3 miles and then take them at the end. Of course, this was a complete fairytale but I was starting to believe it anyway. I wished Di good luck and we were off.

    We set off and I was running just behind the front pack of Three runners. Seemed okay for a little while but then I noticed my breathing getting heavier already. I looked at my Garmin and I was only a quarter of a mile in and running at a pace of a 6.02 minute mile. This was too fast for me. It was then that i'd realised that these weren't 20 minute parkrunners . Dammit! I'd picked the wrong week. I decided to slow a bit but try and keep my 4th place. Maybe they would slow down after a mile or two.

                               (Resident Heron on the lake) (P.S. Photo not taken while I was running)

         I kept on going at a good pace and finished my first mile in 6.26. Not too bad I thought. I'll just try and average 6.30's all the way round and i'd be happy with that. It got worse though. I struggled to hold the pace. The first runner had sped off on his own, the second was a long way off but the third runner was always in my sights but so was the runner behind me. The runner behind me wasn't close but I was slowing already. Poor pacing on my behalf. Second mile 6.44. 18 seconds slower than the first. The Fourth runner didn't seem to be gaining on me though. I then saw a Heron fly across the lake and land on a floating orange buoy. Was nice to take my mind off the pain for a bit.

                                         (Who needs breathing when you have breath-taking scenery?)

            The last mile was even worse. 6.54. 10 seconds slower than my last mile and 28 seconds slower than my first mile. I was so determined that I wasn't going to run a 7 minute mile though. Must get another sub 7 I kept telling myself. Push harder!
I was actually taking all these stats in as I ran. I love to work out the maths even when i'm racing hard ;) The fourth place runner wasn't catching me though and the marshal even told me that I was going to finish in Fourth. I wasn't catching the runner ahead though. The course seemed to climb harshly on the final bit. It didn't seem like much earlier when me and Di walked up it. I was giving it my all here. If only I could discipline myself and lose this excess weight. Stupid fat body.

                                                              (Official time was 20.39)

            I was Fourth, I was happy but I was nearly dying here. I had crossed the line and was breathing so heavy and my lungs were on fire and then I looked across to the Three other finishers who were sat on the bench and they weren't even sweating, breathing heavy or red faced. Made me laugh. 18.57 was the winning time. We congratulated each other and the guy behind me said a few words about not being able to catch me too.
I waited for Di to come in who had run brilliantly and was first lady to finish in a time of 23.57. We were Two happy Lordshillers. We clapped and cheered the other finishers in and chatted to various strangers. No matter where you go, you'll end up chatting to other friendly parkrunners. Love the sense of community at these events :) A great event and I was also First in my age Category. Despite not winning, I almost couldn't be happier. It was time for a fried breakfast :D

                                       (That's me in Fourth! And Di in 13th, unlucky Di! ;)