Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The Eventual Road to Sparta

The main running goal of 2013, has well er....become a non-starter.......
The Spartathlon has filled up before I have even had a chance to qualify. Oh well there is always 2014, plus to look at the positive side I should hopefully be fitter and faster with  18 months plus of training before the 2014 edition.

So well I need another big challenge for my 40th year!! Im too late for various different races now, but hold on... haven't I always wanted to run the 'Coast to Coast' (Wainright route) Ok there it is then, a Coast to Coast continuous journey (60-70hrs) 190 miles (if I don't get too lost!) August /September time. Well its that or another Bob Graham Round Attempt!  Sod it Ill try both, so June then for the BGR.

January has been a pretty laid back affair, some interval training on the Treadmill. A few Hardmoors Trail Marathon Recces in waist deep snow and to finish it off a week in Dubai with Shirley and the Dubai Marathon.

Dubai Marathon kicked my arse... My target was 3hrs 40.. well that didn't happen, try 4hrs 27 and a weight loss of 9lbs. Shirley came in as 2nd lady in her category and beat me by 30 plus mins. The start of the marathon was in mist which seemed to cause me to pour with sweat and then when the sun eventually broke through I was drenched. The last half marathon was purely a battle to keep moving forward. Not good! I had some serious dehydration problems going on and I was close to calling it a day.....

I have just managed to get a place in the 'Rombalds Stride' very lucky as the race filled up a month or so ago. I'm hoping to put a good run in at Rombalds (well good for me) and put my poor performance at the  Dubai Marathon to bed. Dubai is a stunning city. A place I will never forget.
My weight has settled to around 14st 6lbs  The low carb diet was relaxed for my time in Dubai. Now on my return I have switched from the Ketone Diet to the Paleo Diet, I have dropped dairy but reintroduced fruit. I will now eat carbs directly before, during and after races/hard training sessions.

Well Rombalds on Saturday, a weekend of Lakeland training with Garry Scott and Mark Dalton the following weekend, the weekend after is the Osmotherley Hardmoors Trail Marathon, I'm not running on the day but will be running the full course to mark it the day before. The following weekend is a Spanish Trail Marathon in Valencia and a chance to spend time with Shirley. Following weekend is the High Peak Marathon (42miles) this is starting to remind me of last year :o)))))

 Dubai Marathon
after the Marathon

Garry Scott below Cringle Moor

Friday, 18 January 2013

The Road To Sparta....

2013 The Road to Sparta......                        
Funny thing really, what do Ultrarunners talk about to other Ultrarunners when they are running an      Ultra? Well most of the time other Ultra's. So half way through the 52 in 52 challenge I was thinking of  what challenge  I could attempt in 2013.

2013 is also the year of my 40th birthday, ok I know I look more like I'm 50 but I am as I write this 39. Several years ago I decided I needed to do something big for my 40th. Two races came on my radar, Badwater  and Spartathlon
Badwater looked well, pretty interesting but bloody expensive (Crew, flights, Vehicle Hire, supplies etc etc ) Spartathlon seemed to look much more affordable, I didn't say doable though!

Spartathalon in a nut shell is a 153 mile race from Athens to Sparta. The race is predominately road and  the cut off is a tight 36hrs. During the day the temperatures can be pretty hot. The toughest aspect of the  
race (apart from 153 miles) is the cut offs. The first 50 miles must be covered in under 9hrs 30mins,
with many more cut offs.
 9hrs 30 may not sound much for 50 miles, two back to back marathons at around about 4hrs.40 Min's for each one, but remember you still have over 100 miles to go and a 3000 ft plus hill to climb.

Taken from the official website; 

Described as the world's most gruelling race, the Spartathlon runs over rough tracks and muddy paths (often it rains during the race), crosses vineyards and olive groves, climbs steep hillsides and, most challenging of all, takes the runners on the 1,200 meter ascent and descent of Mount Parthenio in the dead of night. This is the mountain, covered with rocks and bushes, on which it is said Pheidippides met the god Pan. In 2,500 years man has had no impact at all. There is still no pathway over the mountain that is swept by strong winds with temperatures as low as 4°C. The ascent is marked out by a trail of battery-driven coloured flashing lights and its challenge is a trial for human stamina and mental  strength. Over the mountain the last sections are no less energy sapping and exhausting for the runners as they follow a road that winds up and down hills before descending into Sparta. Even the finest athletes start hallucinating as they  cover these final stages. Having lost all sense of time and reality, they are "on automatic" as they push their weary bodies on towards the finishing line at the statue of Leonidas. At most, only about a third of the runners who leave Athens end 
the course in Sparta. The goal of all participants is to cover the course within the 36-hour time limit. Setting records is the primary aim. Those who succeed in reaching Sparta have trouble finding words to describe their feelings. Spartathlon 

has to be lived through. It is a very personal experience in which the athletes dream about participating. Their imagination is stirred by the idea of being a modern Pheidippides, running in the footsteps of the ancient messenger. 
They train for years to get fit enough both physically and mentally to meet the race's demands.

I am under no illusion that ill finish on my first attempt but I will have a bloody good go!! I am in this for the long haul.
2012 saw some very experienced tough British runners  (pretty fast ones, I now a couple of them well) have to drop out due to a combination of heat and pace. This is a race which finishing is something really special.

To qualify for Spartathon you must of completed either a 200km (124 miles) race before or 100k (62 miles) in under 10.30hrs. I ran the Tooting Bec 24 hour track race in September 2013 to use as a qualifier but unfortunately the wheels fell off in the process.

Spartathalon qualifying events are in short supply in the UK. 100k on hilly trail is a tough call to get  round in under 10hrs 30mins, so the easier option is 100k and 24hr races round a track but these events are limited to small fields of runners and not very often. 200k plus events are limited to the Grand Union Canal race, Viking way race Thames Ring and possibly the Spine. My choice at a second attempt for a qualifying race is The Viking Race in March. The Viking Way is a 147 mile race with 3000 metres of ascent from Barton Upon Humber  to Oakham (Leicstershire) with a time limit of 40 hrs. So no mean feet!!

If the first hurdle is completed (Qualifying) then the 2nd hurdle is being selected from what I guess will be this year an over subscribed race.

My training and to somewhat my races are all geared to getting into the best shape of my life for Spartathlon, leaving nothing to chance. Last year was a year of quantity so this year will hopefully be a year of quality. Fighting the urge to enter everything in sight. I have chosen certain races and given myself time to recover from them before running another race (well on most occasions) My training will include speedwork (tempo runs and intervals) which was missing from 2012. Plus the occasional 10k which seemed to work well for my overall speed in Ultras in 2011. I will actually log my miles and training plus diet. (I am currently experimenting with a Ketone Diet which will probably be changed around a little bit to become a Paleo Diet  i.e. adding fruit and dropping dairy.

2013 Races

5th     Scarborough Rock - 25miles (Trail)  ENTERED
                 25th    Dubai Marathon - 26.2miles  (Road)  ENTERED

2nd   Rombalds Stride - 23miles (Trail) ENTERED
24th    Maratona De Montana 26miles  (Valencia, Spain) (Trail)  ENTERED

1st   High Peak Marathon 42miles (Trail/fell)   ENTERED
              9th  Wuthering Hike   32miles (Trail)   2011 PB -5hrs 35mins  ENTERED
              30-31st The Viking Way 147miles (Trail)   ENTERED

  11th Tadcaster Harriers Old Course loop - 2.55miles (Road)
             21st London Marathon - 26.2 (Road)  ENTERED
             27th Fellsman  62miles (Trail/fell)       ENTERED
             30th York 10k Summer League Pocklington 6.2miles (Road)

  11th  Brecon 40 - 40miles (Trail/fell) or Ingleborough Marathon 27miles (fell/trail)
             19th  Scafell Trail Marathon 26miles (Trail/fell)  ENTERED
             28th  York 10k Summer League Easingwold 6.2miles (Road)

 2nd  Comrades (Africa) 56miles (Road)    ENTERED
           20th  Midsummers Madness Tadcaster Harriers 5miles (Road)
           25th  York 10k Summer League Bishop Wilton  6.2miles (Road)
29th Bob Graham Round attempt

7th  Osmotherley Phoenix 32miles (Trail)   PB -  2011 5hrs 38mins  ENTERED
           9th York 10k summer League Wistlow 6.2miles (Road)
           14th Lyke Wake Race  42miles (Trail)        PB -  2011 7hrs 33mins
           18th Tadcaster Harriers Track 5k (Track)
           27th Lakeland 100   105miles (Trail/fell)     PB -  2011 36hrs 40mins   ENTERED

10th Long tour of Bradwell 32miles (Trail)
               24th Speyside Way 36.5miles (Trail)

TBA   Continous Coast to Coast attempt 190miles(Trail)

19th  Round Rotherham 50miles (Trail)
        20th  Yorkshire Marathon 26.2miles (Road)

November and December are still in the planning stages. No doubt certain races may be added to June 
and August. 

Where PB is, this relates to my Personal Best which I plan to beat this year.

Wainstones ( Wainstones Trail Marathon Recce Jan 2013)

Looking over towards the Wainstones



Bob Graham Attempt  May 2012 
L-R Myself - Andy Norman - Rorie Macintosh (foreground scratching his bum) Mark Dalton - Shirley 


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Ultra 52 in 52 Stats

Ok Im not very good at this as I haven’t really kept many in the way of stats, so what follows is a compilation of things which may or may not interest you. Im an ‘Arty Farty’person not very technical. So please bare with me.

Top Races
(my favourite races of the 52 in 52)

Rombalds Stride
 (all round great event)
Wadi Bih
(Stunning scenery and all round experience)
Hardmoors 55
(great scenery, fantastic route, well organised and an awesome Race Director ;o) )
Wuthering Hike
 (all round great event)
Dukeries Ultra
(all round great event, well organised)
Leaden Boot
(Stunning Scenery)
West Highland Way Race
Osmotherley Phoenix
 (Perfect event)
Lakeland 100
 (all round good event)
Smugglers Trod
 (all round good event)
Glenmore 24
(Great event)
Saltergate Circuit
(all round good event made even better by running the whole event with Shirley)
Frostbite 30
(All round great event, well organised)

Over the year I have run various Ultras which havent been races, some of these have been my favourite runs of the year. Time spent in the North York Moors with Shirley, Mark Dalton, Garry Scott and Dave Cremmins. Runs in the Lake District reccing the Bob Graham Round with Rorie Macintosh. Times in the Peak District with Stuart Walker, John Vernon and Karen Mc Donald. The Marlborough Downs route with Shirley. Bob Graham Round attempts with Sarah Booth, Andy Norman, Jenny and Ken Wyles, Danny Aldus, Mark Dalton, Brian Melia, Andy Scaife, John Vernon, Rorie Macintosh, Shirley and Karen Mc Donald. It would be rude not to mention my crew at the Tooting Bec 24hr Track Race, Julien, Ernie and Debbie.THANKS GUYS

Least favourite Races

Yorkshire Ultra
 (where do I start, so I won‘t)

Fastest Races

Filey Flyer
(23miles in 3hrs 12mins, about 10 minutes behind winner and leading pack.)
Rombalds Stride
 ( 1 minute up on my 2011 time)
West Highland Way Race
( 3hrs 25mins quicker then my pb in 2008,)
Glenmore 24
(Target 100 miles in 24hrs, managed 112 miles in 24hrs)
Ingleborough Marathon
 (2nd place)

Slowest Races

Osmotherley Phoenix
(50 mins slower then 2011)
Wuthering Hike
 (40 mins slower then 2011)
Yorkshireman Marathon
(60 mins slower then 2011)
Tooting Bec 24hr Track race
 ( Target was either 120 miles and/or 100k in 10.30hrs, managed 89miles in 24hrs)
Liverpool Marathon
 (4hrs 38 mins - felt shocking, ran 30 miles day before, first road marathon)


Round Rotherham
(dropped out after 24 miles due to severe pain in my knee )
Second Bob Graham attempt
I don’t class as a dnf as I still covered an Ultra distance before hypothermia could take hold (severe conditions over the Dodds) and I dropped out of the attempt.


2 x Salomon Speed cross ( abandoned now, due to having a high heel lift which seems to exaggarate the overpronation of my gait = knee pains.
1 x Hoka Evo Stinson  (Courtesy of Mark Barnes)
1 x Inov-8 x talons 190 (Courtesy of Rorie Macintosh)
1 x Inov-8 x talons 212 (Courtesy of Rorie Mc) Favourite trail shoe as long as there is minimum road.
1 x Brooks Cadence (Pure Flow) 1 road marathon so far ( 6mm heel to toe differential)

Throughout 2012 I remained pretty much injury free apart from Knee pains which started in October, with lots of great advice I managed to continue the challenge and sort the knee problems through the months of October and November using the following ;

Rock Tape
I was introduced to Rock Tape by Mark Barnes. The stuff is awesome! From the end of October to the middle of December I religiously used it on both knees on every Ultra. While wearing it the knee pain seem to subside.
Sports Massage
Karen from Sports Stadium gave me sports massage on my very tight calves and some work on my itb plus resulting in less painful running and the massage was a big factor in sorting out my knee problem
Foam Roller and Stretching
I started in October to work on my calfs/quads/hams/glutes twice a week with a foam roller which was as hard as a fire extinguisher.

I find 3-6mm heel differential to be the best for my gait, I can keep a midfoot strike avoiding overpronation and thus no Knee or ankle problems. The day after my dnf at the Round Rotherham I ran a 32 mile Trail Race (Ennerdale Ultra) wearing a knee support and using x talons plus concentrating on a midfoot strike with short steps resulting in no knee pain
Omega 3’s
I increased the amount of Omega 3’s in my diet by including more efa’s in my diet and including supplementation. Omega 3’s are great for combating inflamation.
Throughout 2012 I covered 3015 miles (Ultras + weekly training miles) would have been more but October November and December I stopped running during the week to give my knees a break and concentrated on weight training (upper body) purely to give myself a diversion from running. I quickly built up to Bench Pressing 300lbs for reps (something I hadn’t done in quite a few years). 

Throughout 2012 my bodyweight remained a constant 15stone. People were surprised I hadn’t lost weight. My diet had stayed the same for the year, a lot of brown rice and Tuna, jacket potato’s with (yes even more) Tuna, fruit, salads etc with my vices being Diet Coke, Coffee and chocalate.
I believe the reasons why I didn’t lose weight is my body had adjusted to the Ultras and in fact held onto weight to fuel my body through 30 plus runs (almost like a camel state) The second reason is Ultras can make the body release Cortisal (the stress hormone) Cortisol can also cause you to store body fat etc (ok there is a lot more science about it then that)
Body weight - losing weight is  a lot more technical then eat less and exercise more, Im living proof of this, the body soon adjusts to exercise and is very adaptable The body will reprogram itself to use less energy for any given task. Run 30-40 miles and the body will go into a panic and burn whatever it can to produce the energy , now run that distance week in and week out and the body will say ‘How can we do this with less calories?’ Yes people do loose weight running Ultras but how much of it is muscle? The body will use its pathetic 2000 cals storage of Carbs and carbs coming in in the disguise of flapjacks, gels etc etc when its used both those stores up what does it use next fat? No unless your body is Ketone adapted those 40,000 cals of fat storage (no matter if you are a super waif you will still have about the same storage) will probably only be tapped into after your body has started on the protein in your body/muscles 

Big Weeks

Throughout the year I had a couple of big weeks to catch up with ultras I had missed 

Saturday - Sunday Bob Graham Round 28hrs 68-72miles
Thursday - Osmotherley Phoenix Route 28 miles
Saturday - Dukeries Ultra 42 miles
Sunday - Leaden Boot 28 miles

Total - 166 - 170 miles

Saturday - Frostbite 30 - 28miles
Sunday - Edale Skyline plus - 28 miles
Tuesday - Treadmill Ultra 30 miles
Saturday - Edale Skyline plus - 28 miles
Sunday - Stratford Trail Marathon 28 miles

Total - 142 miles

The Year of Ultras has been an awesome year. Ive made some great freinds and seen some stunning scenery. Travelled to places I have never been before both externally and internally. I have had highs and lows. The whole thing has been like an Ultra, a 100 miler, a relatively fast start, a few tough miles then some highs and easy miles then at the 70 mile stage real lows (October) but like in a 100 miler you push on and this energy appears from nowhere and you get faster and you go along like nothing can stop you and in the last few miles a big hill slows you down (Sickness bug in December) So you get your head down and trudge on slowly wondering if you will finish the 100 miles, but then you get there, a couple of miles left so you speed up and then...your there..its all over, You have lived a lifetime in a100 miles (52 weeks)

Thank You for reading my blog and persevering with my ramblings etc etc...

If you want to sponsor me for last years exploits please visit 


Monday, 7 January 2013

Ultra 52

ULTRA 52 was going to originally be the 'Tour De Helvelyn'. Accommodation had been booked and I was due to run with Mark Dalton, David Cremmins, Garry Scott and Tony Holland. A stomach bug (food poisoning??) put an end to that and I spent the weekend in bed. Ultra 52 had to be rearranged and time was of the essence leaving Boxing Day to be the only possible option.

Christmas day I was still in a decent amount of pain but I would just have to recover quickly or just suffer during the run. Early Boxing day morning I picked David Cremmins up from Knaresborough and drove to Beeford (Near Bridlington) To a good friends house, 'Steve Walker' (Steve used to be my running partner when I lived on the East Coast. We had ran various Ultras together other the years such as the Woldsman, West Highland Way Race, Highland Fling and a Bob Graham Attempt to name a few.) Steve regularly runs the Hardmoors 110 and 55 to keep his toe in the water so as to speak.

The plan was to drive to Skipsea and run on the beach plus cliff tops to Flamborough Head North Landing, via Bridlington, a total distance of 31 miles, majority on sand with dozens of steps up and down cliffs thrown in for good measure. The first 10 miles flew by, chatting about numerous things (I hadn’t seen Steve in person since he had supported me on the West Highland Way race in June so we had a lot to catch up on)
We stayed on the beach below Sewerby rather then taking the cliff tops and battled over the rocks which slowed progress. This didn’t seem to affect Steve as he kept on at his steady pace. Myself and Dave struggled to keep up. The coastal erosion is very much in evidence around these parts.We reached the half way point at Flamborough Head and ran to the bottom of the steep Lifeboat Launch slope before running back up to the top ( we had in previous years done reps on this in training for a BGR attempt and for my 2010 UTMB) I started to suffer on the return journey feeling very weak, just digging in deep to continue. Bridlington promenade was reached and 7-8 miles was left. 6-7 miles of the miles in sand with a headwind, not an easy proposition anytime never mind when your recovering from food poisoning. We had several drain outlets to cross which were now pretty deep with the tide coming in. The second crossing for me was waist deep and bloody cold!! And I’m 6ft 2. would have been over Andy Knowles’s head ;o))
The lads pushed on but waited for me for the last mile and we ran in together to the finish. It had been a fantastic run with stunning views and great company but the food poisoning had taken it out of me and the last 15 plus miles had been very tough. No regrets though, what better way to spend Boxing Day if it couldn’t be with Shirley.

The run had taken just over 6 hours. Earlier in the year (March) I had completed Ultra no 8 with Steve, running the same course in just under 5 hours but not taking the rocky beach section opting for cliff tops. Also while rereading the Ultra no 8 blog I had mentioned suffering with a tooth abscess before the run. A month or so later I had the tooth removed. A few days after Ultra 52, 2 tooth abscesses had started giving me a whole world of pain. I had a tooth removed on New Years Eve and some work on another tooth a couple of days later. ( in 2004 I had hit the back of a truck at 30mph while on my mtb with my face, in fact they found traces of paint from the van on my tongue, I had split my tongue in two, it had taken them about 8 hours to sew it back up. I had fractured my jaw from one end to the other, Broken my nose and had had some head injuries, my teeth had been wrecked from the accident, so every year I usually loose one or two or have to have work on them. Ultras in cold weather can usually bring on quite a bit of facial pain. The crash was 3 days before my second proposed Bob Graham Round attempt.

On the 5th January  I ran the Scarborough Rock (a 25 mile LDWA event) I ended up doing over 26 miles due to several navigational mishaps (I was not alone in this) It was such a relief not to have to add 2 miles onto this to become an Ultra. The end of January I have the ‘Dubai’ Marathon.
My knees are back to normal, no pain, no rock tape or painkillers needed for either Ultra 52 or the Scarborough Rock. After my immune system has been lowered by the food poisoning I have caught my first head cold (man-flu) since last Christmas making yesterdays run pretty tough. I almost expected to become quite prone to illnesses/colds etc after the challenge was completed and my body would start to rest.
I will post a blog soon with some boring stats and an overview of 2012 plus what my 2013 challenges will be.

I had photos for this blog, but either blogger or my computer isnt playing ball and won't let me upload them to this blog. Sorry
Thanks for taking time to read my ramblings.
See you on the trails/roads