The end of my challenge :-(

Hello All,

It is with great sadness that I have to tell you all that my 13 marathons in 12 months challenge has been cancelled.

I successfully completed the Race to the King, but during the Ultra marathon I sustained a serious rib injury.  Over 2 months later they have still not healed properly.  I have managed one more marathon in the interim, but had to walk the vast majority of it and it took over 7 hours.

I am simply so far behind my training now that I am going to either hurt myself or get a permanent injury if I don’t withdraw.

There is no doubt in my mind that if I had not broken my ribs as badly as I did the challenge would be ongoing, but this injury meant I was unable to train.  This total lack of training has put me so far back that continuing on is dangerous.

I am devastated to have had to do this.  Thank you to everybody who sponsored me for the Race to the King.  This is a brilliant race and if anybody is considering an Ultra I would strongly recommend it.  I raised around £1500 for Chestnut Tree House, which is excellent and the money will be gratefully received and put to superb use.

This blog will not be updated for a while.  I am not sure exactly what the future holds for me in terms of endurance racing.  The realisation that I am really not very good at it has dawned hard on me, and I need some time away to heal up, strengthen up my aging body and then find my love of exercising and competing again.

Perhaps the blog will be back one day.  Who knows.  Until then.

TTFN

Snooky

It’s all becoming a bit real……..and very very scary

So as I write this , it is 26 days until Race to the King.  26 days until I lace up my trainers, and alongside my good friend Freestone, start to run/walk/trudge/shuffle my way along 53 miles of the South Downs Way.

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Me and Freestone.  We are handsome fellas…….right?

I have been doing a fair amount of training.  Concentrating on a double run every weekend (either a shorter run followed by a long one, or the other way round) I am training my body to run on tired legs.  I have made sure to train on the South Downs as much as possible, to simulate the conditions on race day.  I have even been out running in the midday heat.

All of this is well and good, but I do seem to have developed a bit of an injury.  It was
inevitable.  I have no running pedigree.  No years of running experience to fall back on.  I have only really run any endurance type stuff for the last 4 years, and only regularly trained on long runs in the last 6 months.  The injury I have is an overuse injury of some
2017-05-07 08.46.20description.  The pain is in the area highlighted in the photo on the right.  I have consulted the good old internet doctor and think it might be a metatarsal stress fracture.  This seems the most likely option anyway.

Now the injury only hurts me once I have run for more than 2-3 hours, but consistently at around this mark it kicks in and hurts like hell. I will likely be running for around 14 hours at the Race to the King, meaning that I will have to run in pain for at least 11 hours.  This is going to be a bit tricky to say the least.

I now need to decide what to do.  I could just ignore it and keep going.  I could rest and avoid all running for a couple of weeks and see where I am.  What I really should do is go and see a physio, so I think this is what I will actually do.

Am worried that they will tell me no running, and that really I should not be doing the race.  I am doing the race regardless, so my thinking is that going to see the physio can do no harm and might actually do me a bit of good.

You never know, they might just give me a magic pill that not only sorts my foot out, but also turns me into the best ultra-runner the world has ever seen.

Stranger things have happened.

TTFN

Snooky

Marathon 2 of 13 – The Three Forts Challenge

It’s 0700 on Sunday 30th April and my alarm has just gone off.  Must be time for the Three Forts Challenge.

Those of you who regularly read my blog will already know, I was a bit nervous about this marathon.  The Three Forts Challenge has the tagline of “the tough one”, and this is for good reason.  With over 1000m of elevation over the marathon distance, this was going to be very hilly.  Run amongst the beautiful South Downs, whilst being tough this marathon also had the added bonus of having a cut off time of 6 hours.  Bearing in mind it takes me 5 hours to run a totally flat marathon, I was very concerned I would not make it through the course within the 6 hour time window.

Now the best advice is to always prepare your gear the night before a race and I would strongly recommend that anybody follow this advice.  In my case though, I never ever do, so was scrambling around trying to find all the gear I wanted to take with me.  Having eventually located it all and scoffed down a bowl of porridge, I bid a fond adieu to my wife and kids and headed off to Worthing, where the race would start.

Arriving at the race car park I was faced with the usual group of fellow runners.  All whippet thin, with legs like gnarled tree trunks, my nerves were getting worse not better. I found a space on the grass to sit down and started to organise my race pack.

I was trying something new for this race.  Having had a recommendation from an old golfing buddy turned ultra-runner, I was trying out Tailwind.  You simply add a sachet of tailwind to your water bottle and there is no need to take on any additional food or electrolytes on your run.  No gels, no sandwiches (a personal favourite of mine), no jelly babies.  Nothing.  Having used it on one training run with great success, I was keen to see what it could do during a long race.

Having sorted out my pack, I started upon my pre-race warm up routine when Bushy and Marie showed up.  I knew they were coming to support me and it was great to see them.  Both were very encouraging and said they had ultimate faith in me getting through the race before the 6 hour cut off.  There were going to drive around the course and meet me at various points.  It was brilliant to have some support along.  Especially brilliant that it was Bushy, who was at my side for the vast majority of my Ironman race and without him I would never have finished it.  Shame he was just at the sidelines rather than running with me, but he is joining me later in my 13 in 12 journey for the Midnight Man Marathon, so will look forward to running with him then.

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After a few pre-race photos, it was time for the off.  With the local town crier announcing the start of the race, we were away.  I started a the back (as is my custom), and received hearty cheers from the crowd as we made our way out of the playing field and immediately started to climb up a wide dirt track.  The first climb of the race took us to Cissbury Ring, one of the three Iron Age forts the Three Forts Challenge is named for.  I felt my usual nerves at the start of the race, but quickly calmed down and concentrated on not tripping over as we made our way up single track alongside Hill Barn and Worthing golf courses.  I have played both golf courses, and couldn’t help but think that perhaps I would be better with my 5 iron than my running shoes.  Too late though, the race was on.

As the route continued to climb it opened out a bit, allowing the pack to spread out.  Due to the undulating nature of the route, you could often see way into the distance and I was impressed to see runners already way ahead of me, despite being going only about 20 minutes.  Just before the 5k mark we found ourselves on the top of the first hill next to Cissbury Ring.  There is no fort there, just a circle of trees where the fort used to be, but it was cool to think of an ancient fort being there and I found my mind tracking back to what it must of been like 100’s of years ago.  No road, no power lines, no fences.  Just rolling hillside and probably a lot more trees.

Turning away from Cissbury, we were treated to a beautiful view of Lancing College, with its gothic architecture.  I have always loved how Lancing College looks, but had never seen it from this vantage point.

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Lancing College – not taken from the run route!

The course then made its way down into the valley of the River Adur.  This was the first point that Bushy and Marie were going to meet up with me and I knew it was at the 7 mile marker.  To be on track for finishing in less than 6 hours, I would need to be at this point no more than 1hr 30 mins from race start.  Amazingly, as I jogged towards the aide station after the river crossing, I was only at 1hr 5 mins of race time.  25 minutes ahead of schedule.

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At the 7 mile marker

Emptying a package of Tailwind into my water bottle and filling it up from the aide station, I exchanged a few words with Bushy and Marie about how good I was feeling and how much I was enjoying the race and then I was off.  Bushy kindly pointed out to me “the hill is that way”, gesturing towards the next challenge, the climb up to Devils Dyke.

I genuinely felt great at this point.  I was consuming 500ml of water with Tailwind in it per hour and was bang on this schedule.  I had died not to look at my heart rate whilst running this race and just run “on feel”.  This is something that Tufty (triathlon coach who I owe a lot of my Ironman success to) had encouraged me to do on occasion.  Don’t be slave to the gadgets, just run based on feel.  If you feel good, keep going.  If it gets tough, slow down a bit.  Just keep going.  I had been following this mantra and the race was unfolding nicely.  That being said it was a long way to go still.  The Three Forts Challenge is actually 1 mile longer than a normal marathon (27.2 miles rather than 26.2) so at the 7 mile marker I was only 1/4 distance into the race.

Making my way across a main road I was then on a steep single track towards Devils Dyke.  Walking up this single track, it flattened out a bit into a field which then turned into a road.  This road was fairly steep and most people around me were walking up it.  I fell into step; however I felt good, so almost immediately decided to run.  Starting running, I was overtaking a few people.  This hill was relentless, going on and on and on and on, but I kept running and kept on overtaking others.  I really was feeling strong.  Far stronger than I expected to.   I kept on sipping at my Tailwind and just kept on running.  We then reached an undulating section, where I was confronted with a runner coming the other way.  This was the race leader, who had already reached Devils Dyke (the race turning point) and was on his way back.  I made mental note that this was after 1hr 40 minutes of running.  I wanted to see what time it would be when I was at the same race point on the way back.

After the undulating section there was more climbing across fields where I managed to keep on running and quickly found myself at the turn around point, where once again, Bushy and Marie were waiting.  They both commented about how good I looked.  I must admit I felt great.  No need to get anything from the aide station (due to the Tailwind) so I had a quick cup of water from a very friendly race marshall, bid Bushy and Marie farewell and was back off the way I had come.

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Devils Dyke turnaround point

I knew that Bushy and Marie would make their way back to the River Adur aide station to see me again, so I decided to try and beat them back.  Other than the undulating big, it was almost entirely downhill and I wanted to try and run hard down this section.  Making my way back towards the downhill, I noted the point where I had seen the first placed runner and I was 40 minutes behind him.  “Not bad”, I thought to myself, though tis was less than halfway.  Reaching the downhill I picked up my run pace and flew down the hill, again overtaking many fellow runners.

Picking my way down the final section of single track, my quads were on fire from running downhill for so long, but as I got to the aide station I was very happy to see I had beaten Bushy and Marie there.  They had probably been for a coffee and a bacon sandwich in that period of time, so there was no real victory, but I had been quicker than they expected me to be which I was pleased about.

At this point in the race the route does not follow the same route we had run out, and diverts off into unknown territory.  Finding yet more rolling hills, I once again was overtaking people on the uphill.  Approaching 3 hours of running, I still felt great and was beyond the half way point.  I decided to give Cat a ring at this point just to say hello and let her know I was getting on OK.  I phoned her at the 26km point.  I had been running for 3 hours at this point and had 18km to go.  It was great to chat with her and she was delighted to hear that I was getting on well.  After a quick chat, it was back on with the running.

Climbing again, at around the 28km mark my hip flexors started to really hurt me.  This is common on my long runs and I knew I just had to keep going and it would hopefully pass.  There were very few runners around me at this point.  The race had really spread out and I seemed to be mostly on my own as I wound my way uphill, past a pig farm and onto yet more rolling Sussex hills.  The route of the race is simply beautiful.  I am lucky enough to have been brought up and lived the majority of my life close to the South Downs.  Despite this, I am consistently overwhelmed by their beauty, and today was no different.

During this point in the race I was reflecting back to some chats I had had with other runners earlier on.  People had noticed my Chestnut Tree House vest and asked me if I was fundraising for them.  I mention my 13 in 12 challenge, which was met by all who had asked me with equal praise and admiration.  To all of you who may be reading this who chatted with me about my fundraising, it was great to get your support out on the course and lovely to meet you.

The race climbed on and on up to Chanctonbury, the final of the three Iron Age forts and the highest point I the race.  Reaching this was a great milestone and forcing myself to keep going had meant that I had pushed through my hip flexor pain and was once again feeling strong.  I had kept up the regiment of Tailwind (one sachet in 500ml of water per hour) and I must admit that it seemed to be working an absolute charm.  Having reached the top of Chanctonbury, it was downhill for a while, then we had to climb once again up to Cissbury Ring before dropping back dow to the finish.

At the 4 hour mark it had started to rain a bit.  I didn’t mind.  The fresh rain had that amazing smell that you get when it first starts raining.  It wasn’t raining hard and I was enjoying the run so it took nothing away from the experience.  Reaching the low point before the climb back to Cissbury, I was making my way along a farm side track where I saw Bushy and Marie huddling under an umbrella.  This was totally unexpected as I thought I would see them again at the the finish.  I stopped for a quick chat.  As you can see from the photo, I look a bit the worse for wear, though I felt great.  Hip Flexors were playing up a bit, but otherwise I was in very good spirits.

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Saying goodbye to Bushy and Marie for the final time before the finish, I knew that I had only 8km to go.  Once final climb and then it was mostly downhill to the finish.  The climb up to Cissbury was steep and as usual I was walking it.  It started to level off a bit and I started to run.  My legs felt good.  I was passing other runners again.  This never happens to me, and especially not after being on my feet for over 4 hours.  “This Tailwind really is magic stuff”, I was thinking to myself as I rounded the back of Cissbury and knew I had about 4-5km to go.

Unbelievably, I decided to run hard for this final stretch.  My body felt willing and I had a chance of coming in at around the 5 hour mark which would be brilliant.

Running through the final undulating sections I eventually found myself on the single track past the golf courses towards the finish.  Due to being within 2km of home, there were other runners around me who were also pushing themselves.  I kicked hard and managed to pull away from them.  All of them.  I was flying as I went down the final hill, turned into the playing fields and crossed the line.

5hours and 5 minutes according to my watch.  Far beyond my wildest expectations and also only 3 minutes off a marathon PB (set on a totally flat Brighton Marathon course).  Hang on a minute.  The Three Forts Challenge is 1 mile longer than a normal marathon.  Looking back at the data from my running watch, I was through the marathon distance in 4hrs 55 minutes.  So that is officially a marathon personal best on a super hilly course. I will take that any day of the week.

Finding Bushy and Marie straight after the race, I was simply delighted with my run.  I loved every second of the Three Forts Challenge.  The Tailwind I used for nutrition was excellent.  The course was superb, all the marshals and volunteers were outstanding.  My fellow competitors were friendly and supportive.  All in all a brilliant event in simply stunning surroundings.  I will definitely be running this one again.

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5hours and 5 mins of effort and I am done – and very happy.

One final thought from me before I sign off this blog post.  For the first time ever, the first time in my life, I finally feel like a proper runner.  I was able to enjoy and entire race.  I got my nutrition right, my hydration right, my gear right and as a result I loved every second of this race.  It may seem strange to some, but I had never thought of myself as a decent runner before this race.

There may be a bit more at play than this, and I am indebted to a college at work and his NLP (Neuro-Lingustic Programming) skills, but I will leave this for another blog post.

So I will sign off here.  One very happy runner.

TTFN

Snooky

 

Marathon number 2 of 13 is in a few days time, and I am having a PANIC!

On Sunday 30th April I am running the Three Forts Challenge, a 27.2 mile off road marathon.  The second of the thirteen marathons I have planned over the next twelve months.  This is going to be a hilly one people!

3 forts ascent profile

From the title of this blog post, you would be right in thinking that I am a bit nervous about this race.  This assumption would be perfectly valid.  In fact, I had an anxiety dream about not finishing the race last night.

This is not due to the distance, or due to the hills. It is due to the cut off time.  I did not check this when I booked; however upon reviewing the race website over the weekend I noticed that the race must be completed in 6 hours.  That is 27.2 miles (or 43.5km) of tough hilly off road racing in 6 hours.  Bearing in mind that it took me over 5 hours to complete the totally flat Brighton Marathon just 3 weeks ago, and you can start to see why I am feeling nervous.

Over the weekend I met up with my friend Tom, who is running the Race to the King (my 53 mile June Ultra-marathon) with me.  We went out for a 3 hour run on the South Downs, starting and ending in Amberley.  The terrain is extremely similar to what I will face at the marathon.   The Three Forts Challenge has 1050 metres of elevation spread across the race distance.  On Sunday, we covered 22.7km in 3 hours, with 554m of elevation.

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Using simple mathematics (thank you Mr Hyden and GCSE Maths), we can work out that if I match the exact same pace I managed on Sunday at the Three Forts Challenge in 6 days time, I will cover 45.4 km in 6 hours (allowing for 1108 metres elevation).

So the race itself  is 43.5km in 6 hours with 1050 metres of elevation, and I am theoretically capable of 45.4km in 6 hours with 1108 elevation.  Easy, right?  Nothing to worry about.  I will be back with plenty of time to spare (well at least 10 minutes).

Except sadly there is plenty to worry about.  I will need to stop at aide stations and get water and perhaps some food.  Though this will not take long, it will eat into my time.  As will the inevitability that I will not be able to maintain the same pace I would run for 3 hours over 6 hours.  This is twice the distance, twice the hills and twice the time on my feet.  Alas, I am more confident of returning from the race on Sunday with a DNF (Did Not Finish), than a medal.

This will mean two things.  One, I will need to fit in another marathon over the next 12 months to make sure I hit my challenge of 13 marathons in 12 months.  Two, the realisation of how far away I am from being able to run 53 miles non-stop (on the exact same type of terrain), will hit me like a tonne of bricks.

That’s it for this blog post.  Very cheery I am sure you will agree.  I am going to finish my glass of wine, watch a bit of TV and then go to bed.  Perhaps overnight I will metamorphosize into Scott Jurek, or Charlie Engle, or one of my other ultra-running heroes?  Or perhaps I will turn into somebody who simply doesn’t bite off more than he can chew and knows his limits.

Whilst both of these outcomes is equally unlikely as the other one, what I do know is that the human body is capable of some remarkable things when it is pushed.  The Three Forts Challenge will push me, probably right to the edge, but one thing is for certain.  If I don’t make the 6 hour cut off time, it will not be through a lack of effort!

TTFN

Snooky

 

Am I getting slower………….and is this a good thing?

I have read time and time again, that to get better as a long distance endurance athlete you need to run/cycle/swim more slowly.

The idea is that I should be exercising at an intensity that I could hold a conversation with somebody.  That my heart rate is up, but not up too much.  That I am in “Zone 2”, meaning that my heart rate is in that sweet spot for maximising aerobic capacity.

I usually run my training runs with a heart rate monitor, so keeping track of my heart rate is relatively easy.  Using a calculation taken from the Don Fink book “Be Iron Fit’, and having achieved a maximum heart rate whilst running of 191bpm (just after crossing the line at the Great South Run following a sprint finish), I know that I need to keep my heart rate under 162bpm to stay in the magical “aerobic zone”.

Borrowing further from Rich Roll, who mentions in his excellent book “Finding Ultra” the need for him to slow down his training speed to get fitter for the mega endurance events, I have concentrated on keeping my heart rate at around the 140-145 mark.  This feels about right to me.  I am not out of breath, feel like I can run forever at this pace but am still getting a reasonable workout.  At least I think I am.  But there is one problem.  I am getting slower.

Using good old Strava (click the link to follow me), I can keep an eye on my runs and track if I am getting quicker or not.  Almost universally, I seem to be getting slower.  Despite now running 5 days a week and concentrating on keeping in Zone 2, I am definitely getting slower.

I keep telling myself that perhaps this is not such a bad thing.  Perhaps you have to get slower before you get quicker.  After all, I am not trying to break any world records.  That being said, it would be nice to at least feel that I am fitter and faster than I was two years ago.  I simply must be fitter.  There is no way you can do the amount of training I have done over the last two years and not get fitter.  I have done an Ironman for God sakes.  The problem is, the evidence just does not show this.

In April 2015 I was well over a stone (7kg) heavier than I am now, but I ran the Brighton Marathon in 2015 a full 4 minutes quicker than I ran it just a couple of weeks ago.  I am lighter than I was in 2015 and am almost certainly fitter, but I am slower.  All of my runs on Strava are tracking slower too.

If anybody out there is reading this and has experienced something similar, please get in touch and let me know.  I am especially intrigued to know if you did eventually get faster, or if I am destined to be the slowest fit person in England.

I really hope it is not the latter.

TTFN

Snooky

 

Marathon 1 of 13 – Brighton Marathon – race report

It’s 4:30am and my alarm has just gone off.  Must be time for the Brighton Marathon.

The first thing you might wonder is why the hell have I gotten up at 4.30am for a marathon that doesn’t start until 9.30am.  Well I would like to say it is because I like to be super organised, but the real reason is a much longer story.  To save you from all that, lets just say that I was supposed to stay locally to Brighton for the marathon, but due to one of my kids being ill and a few other unforeseen circumstances I had to stay at home in Portsmouth.  So the early alarm call was to give me time to drive to Brighton and get parked before they shut the roads at 7am.

So following my drive to Brighton I was all parked up at 6.30am and meeting with Nicky from Chestnut Tree House for a taxi up to the marathon start, which is at Preston Park.  Whilst loitering around on the street waiting for her, there was an unusual mix of people about.  Littered amongst the lycra clad, bag carrying marathon runners were a few guys and girls who were just getting home from their night out.  I fondly recalled that I used to be one of those revellers.  Now I get my kicks from getting up early and running marathons.  Funny how times change.

Anyway, soon enough I had met up with Nicky and some of the Chestnut volunteers and was on my way in a taxi to the start.

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We were soon set up in our spot by the clock tower, and in dribs and drabs my fellow runners started to arrive.  Some were running the 10k, with others running the marathon like me.  As I watched everybody go about their pre-marathon rituals, pinning numbers to their vests and chatting about how much training they had done, I was delighted to see so many runners supporting the charity which I love.  Chestnut and St Barnabas had over 300 runners this year, which is hugely impressive.

Soon I was deep into conversation (well mainly banter really) with Mark, Martin, Dave and Josh who I have all met through Chestnut.  None of us are expert runners, but we are all equally dedicated to Chestnut / St Barnabas and fundraising for such a great cause. It was lovely to talk to them before the race.  Martin was only supporting, as he has London Marathon in a couple of weeks.  Mark was running the 10k with Dave, Josh and I all running the marathon.

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L-R Me, Dave and Josh

Soon it was time to make our way down to the start corrals and await the off.  There were a lot of people around.  Having not run at Brighton in 2016 I was amazed how much more busy the event had got since 2015.  There were literally 10’s of 1000’s of runners in all shapes and sizes.  I said goodbye to Dave and Josh (who were in a different starting group to me) and made my way into the yellow starting wave.  Each wave is seeded depending on your predicted finish time.  I had gone for a very ambitious 4-4.30 finishing time group.  A 4.30 marathon would probably be my best possible effort, but nothing ventured nothing gained……..right?

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You can see the yellow hoop of my starting group in the distance

Once the white and green waves had gone, the yellow group shuffled slowly towards the starting line.  There was a real buzz in the air, with people cheering and shouting.  Despite this, I had an overwhelming sense of sadness wash over me.  I run to raise money for Chestnut Tree House.  Chestnut care for children with life shortening conditions.  The children they care for rarely make it to adulthood.  I was thinking about those kids, what their lives must be like and the wonderful work that Chestnut do to enrich them and a tear formed in the corner of my eye.  It is an honour to run for Chestnut, and the weight of this honour fell deeply on my soul at this moment.

Slowly as we inched closer to the start it was time to start jogging and over the line I went.  2 years ago I started the marathon far too fast and paid the price, so I started nice and slowly at my target pace of 6:30 per km.  We were off and running, and as we made our way round the park and off towards Brighton the sun was shining and it was a great day to be a runner.  I felt fit (despite my lack of training) and was excited about the race.

Sticking closely to my pace through the first 5km, and then past 10km I was running well and feeling good.  The crowd was noisy and all was well.  Rather amusingly, due to wearing a back pack you could not quite see my name properly on my top.  As you can see from the pictures, it looks like I have Nooky written on my top rather than Snooky.  This lead to many smiles from me as the crowd shouted out “go on Nooky”.  Some people were a bit quizzical about me having Nooky on my top, but never the less the crowd were cheering and shouting my name.

All of this was brilliant. All except for one thing.  It was very very hot.  For so early in the morning (around 10:30am at this point) it was really warm.  The forecast had been for up to 23 degrees.  I had no idea how hot it was, but it was easily 20 degrees at this point and was only going to get hotter.

As we proceeded out onto the seafront for the long slog towards Ovingdean, the heat became very real indeed.  There was a light breeze blowing into our faces, but the sun was relentless and I was ploughing though my water bottle and topping it up at every aide station.  Others were clearly suffering in the heat too, and you could hear the mutterings of other runners all around, all saying how hot it was.  Having almost no experience of running marathons in the heat, I decided to keep my pace steady, concentrate on drinking a lots of water, and keep on going.

Turning around at Ovingdean and back towards the pier to complete the half marathon, I was still feeling good but was very worried about the heat and the impact it might be having on me.  For the relevant pace I was going, my heart rate was about 15-20bpm higher than it should have been.  I took this as a sure sign that the weather was taking it’s toll on me and was starting to fear that I was running into trouble.  Sometimes, it sucks to be right.

Running relatively strongly past the 15 mile marker I started to suffer.  I was so hot.  Ridiculously hot.  It must have been in the mid 20’s (or it certainly felt like it) and I was struggling.  There was no choice but to start a walk/run strategy.  Giving my heart rate a chance to slow down a bit whilst walking was a good idea, and God. knows I needed a bit of a rest.  I continued this strategy through the 18 mile mark, started to feel a bit stronger and picked up the pace.

All the way round my friend Sarah (who was there supporting her girlfriend Liz) had been bumping into me and she gave me a little pep talk as I approached the dreaded power station section.  My hip flexors had given up by this point (as they often do) and I lamented to her that perhaps one day I will get them sorted.  Haven’t managed this yet in 3 years of endurance racing, but you never know.

As I got to the power station the heat started to become very real.  There were fellow runners conking out everywhere.  People were laid on the ground.  Many were repeatedly being sick and there were St Johns Ambulance people all over the place.  Those volunteers do a great job, but I definitely did not want to see one up close.  I knew my wife would be worried about me running in the heat, so I gave her a call at this point.   Usually I would not have my phone whilst running, but I have been practicing wearing my race backpack that I will use on the ultra marathon, so had my phone close at hand.

Cat was very glad to hear from me, and as I walked along talking to her she reminded me that this was my first marathon of 13 this year, and all I needed to do was finish not “kill myself” on the first one.  I took her counsel well, and proceeded with my walk run strategy round the power station.  As we got to mile 22, I tucked in behind a couple who were running together.  The man had an M-dot tattoo on his left calf, meaning he had completed an Ironman triathlon in the past.  I have a very similar tattoo myself, so decided that I would stick with him and he could pace me to the finish.  Sticking close behind the couple for a couple more miles, I then walked the first half of mile 24 before deciding to run to the finish.

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Almost done

As the saying goes, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray”, and I could not maintain the run for that long.  I was clearly way more dehydrated than I had thought, so after one more brief walk I ran the final mile and crossed the line in 5:07.

Bearing in mind the ridiculous heat, I was very pleased with the time.  Sadly I felt absolutely awful when I stopped running and had to make my way to the Chestnut Tree House tent in the event village for a well earned packed of crisps and a nice cold coke.  Following on from this I felt OK again, and reflected back on what I now consider to be my hardest ever marathon.  I have run much hillier races, an also run a marathon at the end of an Ironman after swimming 2.4 miles and cycling 112, but Brighton this year was definitely physically my toughest.

I guess I just don’t do too well in the heat.  Still I have learnt some valuable lessons from this marathon, and will take these with me into my next marathon, the Three Forts Challenge, on the 30th April (3 weeks time).  This will pose a whole new set of problems, with over 1000 metres of climbing over the 27 mile course.  Let’s hope it’s not so hot!

As always, I would like to say a massive thank you to the amazing Chestnut Tree House supporters who turned up in the heat to cheer us all on.  Also a huge thanks to my wife Cat, who was busy spamming Facebook with updates as my race unfolded, trying to get the sponsorship money flowing.

So with one marathon under my belt, and 12 more to go (including two ultra marathons), it is time for me to sign off and get my head into gear for the next short burst of training before the 30th.  Hope you are all well.

TTFN

Snooky

PS – if you can please share my website using the buttons below or in the column on the left I would be hugely grateful. I really want to raise as much money as I can for Chestnut and everybody who shares this on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media will be helping raise much needed money for this hugely deserving charity.

Thank you.

I feel my epic journey has finally begun

This morning I sent out my first Facebook post to start the ball rolling on my fundraising for my 13 marathons in 12 months challenge.

It is always strangely nerve wracking trying to raise money for charity.  In 2015 I set a very ambition fundraising target and managed to hit it (see article here).  This year I am trying for even more.  To better what I achieved in 2015.

You never know whether people are going to be inspired to donate or not.  You cannot tell whether your story is interesting enough, or people will care as much as you do about the charity you support.

All I want is to do Chestnut Tree House proud.  It truly is an amazing place, full of inspirational people and some of the loveliest people I have ever met work for them.  The care that they provide is second to none, and without them there would be 100’s of children with life limiting illnesses that would receive nothing.  No care at all, during what must be an awful time in their lives.

Fingers crossed this fundraising goes well.  Fingers crossed people are inspired.  Fingers crossed that me, one man, can successfully run 13 marathons in 12 months and raise a bucket load of cash for a very deserving cause.

Follow the link below to see more about my fundraising, or click here to read about it on this website.

Humbly yours.

Snooky

Visit my fundraising page on BT MyDonate

QE Spring Half Marathon – race report

It is 6.30am on Sunday 26th March and my alarm has just gone off.  Must be time for the QE Spring Half Marathon, run by Second Wind Running.

Well I say my alarm has just gone off.  This is not entirely accurate.  I have a 4 year old who gets up at somewhere between 6am and 6.30am every day, so no need for an alarm really 🙂

I was looking forward to this race.  Despite my training going nowhere near to plan due to injury and illness, I was feeling fairly fit and this hilly half marathon is a preparation run for Brighton Marathon in a few weeks time.  No need to try and rush round, just turn up, complete the race uninjured and move on.

This race had been entered due to my friends Mike and Neil both signing up and persuading me to do so.  Since then, they have both had to withdraw from the race due to injury, leaving me to it.  No real drama, as they both run WAY faster than I do so would only have seen them at the start, and then again at the end.  They would have been looking all lithe and fit and well rested as I hauled myself over the line hours after they have finished.  So really a blessing in disguise I was going on my own, as I wouldn’t have to suffer that.  🙂

Queen Elizabeth (QE) Country Park is just up the road from where I live in Portsmouth.  Nestled along the absolutely stunning South Downs Way, QE allows access to miles of mountain bike and running tracks, and is just about as nicer place as you could ever want to run.  All except for one minor point.  It is hilly.  Very hilly!

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One of the stunning views on the South Downs Way

Now I am not somebody who balks at hills.  In fact I quite enjoy a hill.  Those that are too steep for me to run up I simply walk up, meaning I get a well earned rest and can then fly down he other side of the hill like a mountain goat running away from a snow leopard.  At least that is the idea anyway.  Plus my ultra marathon that I have booked in June is along the South Downs Way, which means that any hill practice I get in now will hold me in good stead for that race.

Arriving at race HQ at around 9.15am for a 10.15am race start, I quickly registered and set about the tedious business of trying to pin my race number onto my vest.  Luckily, I had the ever cheerful Dave Ludlam to talk to.  Dave is a fellow member of Portsmouth Triathletes, and also a fellow blogger.  His blog is well worth a read if you fancy it.  You can find it here.  I always enjoy talking to Dave and we were discussing his race schedule for this year, my race schedule and various other bits and bobs as I got prepared for the race.

Soon enough the race brief was upon us and we filed over to the race start.  I had never run this race before, so didn’t know what to expect (other than hills), so the plan was to start slow and see how I got on.  This plan worked perfectly, as soon after the start Dave and others were powering up the first switch-back style hill, as I slowly trundled along towards the back.

Once we submitted the first hill we were in the woods at QE, winding through well worn paths and out away from the park.  The run was essentially either uphill, or downhill with very few flat sections.  I was concentrating on just keeping it steady.  Not worrying about the pace on my watch, just nice and steady.

After a few kilometres I caught up with Dave.  We had a brief chat on how we were getting on before getting to yet another uphill, where I slowly moved away from him.  I was feeling good at this point in the race and wanted to maintain a nice solid pace.  On we climbed through another switchback and out into the sunshine at the top of the hill.

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There are worse race carparks around!

The scenery around QE park, the Downs and the Meon Valley is simply stunning.  On a warm morning in March there is nowhere better.  Each turn presented another stunning view and I felt very privileged to be able to run in such a beautiful place.  As we continued onwards I glanced down at my GPS watch, which seemed to be stuck, saying I had only run 2.79km.  Oh well, I wasn’t planning on using it much anyway, so would just keep going.

Soon we were through the first aide station (at the 4.5 mile mark), manned by some cheerful volunteers.  I was running with my race pack on (that I will use for all my marathons this year) so had water with me.  There was no need to top up the bottle, so I just kept going.  We were running through some great single track at this point and I had settled in with a group of runners who all seemed a similar speed to me.  There was pink top lady, green jacket man and another lady with some very colourful trousers on.  We would all take turns overtaking each other, but essentially seemed locked together.  It is funny how this tends to happen in races.  I never plan to stick with certain people, it just seems to naturally occur.

As the race wound on and I was feeling good.  After 1 hour of running I had no idea how far I had gone (cause of the watch), but I felt really strong.  The sun was beating down on me, but my legs felt great, my breathing was easy and I was running well.

Onwards and onwards, uphill then down again, I continued.  At the second aide station (at the 9 mile mark) I stopped to top up my water bottle.  It was really quite hot and my water consumption rate had risen.  Luckily, I had run enough races to tell when I needed to drink more and had adapted my water intake accordingly.  I had also taken a couple of energy gels by now to keep the energy levels topped up.  These are great but sometimes give me a bit of a stomach ache.  This would prove to be the case shortly.

As I approached around 2 hours of running I started to flag.  We were out in the open.  The wind was blowing and the sun was strong.  I was running out of beans.  Hardly surprising on the amount of training I had done, but never the less it was a problem.  I decided to take my final energy gel, even through I had taken the previous one only 20 minutes before.  Usually I have to leave it at least 30-40 minutes or I am guaranteed stomach ache; however this was not a luxury I had. I needed the energy boost.  No sooner had I taken it than I got stomach cramp.  I knew this would happen, so just kept on running.  Concentrating on my breathing I got the cramp to pass, lifted my head up and got on with the race.

Shortly after this I was overtaken by a very fast runner.  He was running the full marathon distance, which was two laps of the same course I was completing one lap of.  Bearing in mind I had only been going for 2 hours, he was on for a very fast marathon time, as I couldn’t of been that far from the finish at this point.  Impressive running indeed.

Making it back into the woods I recognised where we were.  I often run the Parkrun at QE and we were at the bottom of the biggest hill that the Parkrun runs down.  Turning right to head up that hill, I knew what a beast it was.  The pink top lady from before was still with me, and she took the lead up the hill.  We both had to walk in places.  Boy was it steep.  About half way up I gritted my teeth and decided I would just run.  I knew how far we had to go to the top of th hill (about 150 metres), and knew once I was at the top there wouldn’t be much more of the course left.  Powering up the hill, I left pink top lady behind.  I was breathing heavily, but summited the hill without stopping.

Turning left, I knew I was on the final descent to the race finish.  Picking up the pace on the downhill section I felt great.  I was going to finish in less than 2hrs and 30 mins (which was my target).  Not only that, I had run a good race.  My hydration was good, my nutrition plan mostly worked and I had not got injured.
Down the final hill and across the line I was done.  2hrs and 22 minutes.  Not bad.  Most encouraging was that after the race results came out I finished 103rd out of 198 runners.  No more finishing last for me.  Perhaps I might make a go of this running thing after all.

TTFN

Snooky

 

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Happily finished wth my bunny medal

Why I run

Since deciding to take on the Ironman in 2013, I have increasingly gained a reputation as a distance endurance athlete.  Those who knew me before 2013 and how I lived my life would laugh at this.  Those who have met me after would know no different.

Never the less I often get asked why I run.  Not only run, but run long distances or challenging races.  So below are the top 5 reasons why I run.

 

  1. I run to raise money for charity.  I support Chestnut Tree House, a children’s hospice who cared for my friends daughter during her last days of fighting Neuroblastoma.  This childhood cancer took her at the tender age of just 2 years old.  Ever since I have raised money for Chestnut, who rely on fundraising just to stay open.  You can read more about Ambers story here.
  2. Running resets my brain.  There is a quote I read once, which simply states “show me a man with a problem.  Once he has run for 2 hours, he no longer has that problem.”  Running give me time to think.  To organise my thoughts and plan.  It is wonderful headspace.
  3. I feel 1000 times better when I exercise.  It took me a very long time to get fit enough to be able to just go out and run.  Not months, but years of effort to get to this point.  But now I can just run for an hour without thinking about it, I rely on that exercise and my body seems to need it.  We are, after all, Born to Run.
  4. Running outside connects you to the world. Whether you are running on pavements through a city or town, or on trails through woodland or rolling hills, running connects you to that world.  You see some amazing stuff whilst running.  Things you would never normally see.  It is a beautiful world out there when you run through it.
  5. Pushing yourself to your limits makes you realise what you really can achieve. Each time you push yourself to your limits, you realise that you really don’t have any limits.  When I started running I couldn’t even run to the end of my road.  This year I am going to run 13 marathons and two Ultra marathons.  Who knows where next year will take me.  I feel truly limitless.

 

If you are reading this thinking to yourself that you could never be a runner, or that running isn’t for you, I would strongly encourage you to think otherwise.  I genuinely was the worst runner when I started.  I got injured.  I consistently finished last in races.  But perseverance and determination has opened up the world of running to me and it really is a wonderful world.

Plus, if it was easy, there would be no satisfaction in doing it.  Right 🙂