Chocolate Coated Coffee Beans

Having read Dean Karnazes book Marathon Man i’d heard of chocolate coated coffee beans, but i’d never seen them in the shops, until yesterday that is! I was picking some stuff up in town for my wife after a getting a Sports Massage and happened to walk past the Wittards coffee shop and what did they have on the counter but the fabled coffee beans.

chocolate coated coffee beans

I’m not entirely sure how long they will last, I’m not exactly known for my will power when it comes to not eating sweets of any description  and I’ve already sampled a couple – just for research purposes obviously! They didn’t quite taste the way I expected they would, I mean they were nice, but not particularly strong in either their taste of coffee or chocolate. I’ll report back after my first run with them let you know how I got on.

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Making the 100 club.

Having completed not one but two hundred mile races this year, I began to wonder just how many of us there were, do running 100 mile runs at weekends then going back to work on mondays.

Then I decided that there was no point in just lazily wondering how many there were, when it wasn’t actually that hard to work it out. had already done the hard work listing all the UK Ultras, all I needed to do was filter through the list and pick out the 100 milers, look up the results and copy and paste them into a spreadsheet.

I started off with a simple list of runners, races and times a column with multiple entries for multiple races, then as I started to add more races it became harder to work with. I reworked the format with runners on the verticals axis and race titles in the horizontal.

This seemed to work, so any took the next logical step and started to add the race details, date, distance, amount of ascent, time limit etc.

As this was starting to become quite useful i shared the document on google docs and posted a couple of links to various facebook groups. I got a few suggestions on other race that i should include, such as the LDWA 100 which is technically a walk but which many people run. I also had a few people want me to include results of endurance races where runners simply rack up as many miles in 24 hours as they can, some of whom were well in the hundreds, or to include people that DNF after a hundred mile mark in races like the Viking way. Unfortunately I had to make the decision that this was going to be too complicated to administer, but the list seemed pretty popular.

Its an ongoing project, that I’ll have to keep updating as new races finish, but it you want to take a look , here’s a link – UK 100 mile club 2013.

In a way its quite funny that we put significance on certain numbers, as if achieving a 100 mile run is any more amazing than 98 or 99. There’s also a tenancy to call races 100′s even if they are 105 or 108 miles, I guess the names just that bit more catchy. Even grouping hundred milers into a single category is a bit of a stretch, the distance is only I factor the ascent, the terrain, the time of year and even the level of support make each one truly unique.

The Cotswold 100 was entirely on the roads, the hills had very gentle gradients, there were checkpoints every 10 miles or so and I was joined by my good friend Paul Stoneley for the last 20 miles, so it should have been a lot harder that the Lakeland 100, four weeks later. But because the Cotswolds was so much more runnable than the Lakeland which is almost entirely on trail, with lots more hills and two night time sections, my legs actually felt better after the Lakeland than the Cotswolds.

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The British Trail Running Podcast

A few weeks after completing the Hardmoors 55 this year, Tim Batesman got in touch asking if he could interview me for a new podcast he was producing/presenting call The British Trail Running Podcast, the idea was that it would be a monthly Audio Podcast in a magazine type style with interviews and regular sections on running kit and recent races.

The interview wasn’t quite what I expected, it was all done over skype, and there was very little editing if any, pretty much every err, erm and um went into the show (which was the first to be released), my wife Lucinda stopped counting after about 50.

Knowing that I worked in IT, Tim said  I was welcome to help administrate the website, facebook page and even record some stuff for the podcast if I felt like it, alongside regular presented Alistair Archibald Stewart and Phill Turton. In the same way that some people have a ‘face for radio’, I have a ‘voice for press’. I don’t like recording voicemail messages let alone interviews, but it would be an opportunity to do a bit of editing and use some of the software that I have been supporting others to use for years at work.

A few weeks went by and I posted a few comments on the facebook pages and promoted the podcast on some of my social networks, then I bumped into Tony Holland out running and said i’d be interested in interviewing him for the podcast. Tony is quite an interesting guy and having far some tough races recently and only just opened an online ultra store it should make an easy interview.

I arrange to meet up with Tony and we recorded a show, as predicted Tony did a great interview and I definitely preferred asking the questions to answering them, you can hear my chat with Tony in episode 6 of the podcast.

I’m still not keen on the sound of my own voice, put was persuaded to join in a discussion with Archie (Alistair) and Jonathon Steele (another regular presenter) on the mandatory kit for races like the Lakeland 100 for a new segment called kit corner with Staurt Hale of Accelerate. Recording a group discussion over skype was another interesting experience, luckily I we recorded about 45 minutes so I was able to edit it down and pick out the best bits.

It is a big commitment to get involved in this kind of project in terms of time, but its great motivation to seek out some of the post interesting people in running and get their opinions on the sport.

You can find a list of the content of each episode here: The British Trail Running Podcast Index

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Montane Lakeland 100 – 10 lessons learned!

Two years after my first attempted at the awesome Montane Lakeland 100 – Ultra Tour of the Lake district, I finally made it around the full 105 miles to collect my finishers medal.

Lakeland 100 medal and t-shirt

While I could give you a blow by blow account of every nail biting moment of it, I’m pretty sure that every twist and turn of the route has already been covered in some detail on the many excellent accounts already posted. So what I’m going to do instead is say a few thank you’s and to share some of the lesson’s I’ve learned from the experience of my first 2 100 milers.

Suffice to say that I had a great time in the Lakes, the race organisers Marc and Terry did a fantastic job once again (despite a supplier letting them down by all accounts), the sponsors and marshals were brilliant (despite the rain). One of the things I love most about the Lakeland is that every section and every checkpoint is different, the volunteers really make a huge effort, dressing up, making sure that they had everything that you might need for the next section and generally going the extra mile. (A special mention goes to Jo Allan – for driving around and collecting the fruit to make the smoothies at Kentmere happen after the delivery issue, still my favourite check point Jo! – I hope the car doesn’t still smell of fruit though! Also a quick mention to Sunderland strollers who manned the Wasdale checkpoint this year – outstanding effort!).

come in you legend

As you might expect I met lots of new and interesting people, I put a few names to faces from facebook and caught up with many old friends. I also had a toenail painted green by a guy I’d never met before and recorded some people for the British Trail Running podcast. Having read various blog posts on the run, I think as with most events of this kind, its the people that you run and chat with on the day that make the event all the more memorable for us as individuals, and in my case I would like to thank, Chris Tetlow, Chris Enwright, Darren Gillman, Shaun Dunlop, Emma Waterfall, Tara and Lawrence Johnson, Steven Major, Tony Holland, Wayne penrose Nick Ham, the triathalon guy (sorry can’t remember your name), Jon Steele, Annie Gracia, Kevin O’neill and all of the Sunderland Strollers. Also to Paul Stoneley who took a long detour on a drive home to run the last 20 miles of the Cotswold 100 with me,  getting my first hundred in the bag and taking the pressure off for the Lakeland! But most of all massive thanks my wife and family who’s texts and messages kept me going  and who puts up with the hours of training and constant droning on about running.

The start of the Lakeland 100 - photo by Nick Ham

So down to business, what did I learn from my first Lakeland 100 and just under 34 hours on the trail? Well I guess I learnt a lot more expected, some of which I guess I knew all along, others were things I thought I knew but the actually had no idea about at all when it came to it. But the big lessons were that while training is important, getting plenty of sleep before the race, running at my own pace, effective temperature control, proper foot care, carrying the right kit, getting nutrition right and maintaining a sense of humour no matter what happens makes all the difference in the world.


My last post went into the preparation for the race in detail, so I’m not going to go into it in again, but essentially I discovered that it was possible to run two hundred milers within a month of each other and that I did not have to put in lots and lots of long hilly runs in training to achieve this level of fitness, as long as I stuck to my planned weekly mileage I could do most of my training just run to and from work.


In 2011, having signed up to the Lakeland 100 with 3 friends I’d ran with in India the year before, come the day of the race only two of us remained but while I knew Iryna hadn’t done as much training as I had, nor was she perhaps not quite as fast as I was, we had agreed to stick together and I was happy to be running with her again, but it soon became apparent that she was struggling to keep up as we slipped further and further behind the field. Eventually Iryna called it a day at Wasdale as I continued alone trying (to no avail) to make up for lost time before finally timing out at Buttermere. This time around I’d stick to my own pace and if that pace matched anyone else’s then we’d run together for a while, but I wasn’t going to deliberately try to run keep up  with people running faster than me or slower down where I  could run faster, even if that meant running on my own some of the time.

[Lesson 1: While its fun to run with friends, don't let their bad day spoil yours - you will inevitably both find yourself running with someone running the same pace sooner or later!]

As it happened there were about 5 or 6 of us running at roughly the same pace and we all went though little rough patches dropping back for a while then recovering and catching up again at the next check point. This seemed to work really well – the dynamic of the group was constantly changing as people dropped back then caught up and I found yourself talking to different people at different times, so the conversation never dried up and our little group slowly made its way up from around 100th to 66th place.

Lakeland 100

At one point I had dropped quite a long way back from from the rest of the group and met up with Kevin O’neill and a couple of the Sunderland Strollers who kindly kept me company for a couple of miles of tabbing from Ambleside to Chapel Style to catch up with the rest of my little group.

The other thing I did differently this year in terms of pacing was not to really thing about it too much. I didn’t worry about how far i’d come or how far I had to go, I simple took it one checkpoint at a time , deliberately not looking at my watch or think about how far it was until the next checkpoint, just running at a pace that worked for me.

[Lesson 2: it's your race run it at your own pace, don't worry if you drop back for a while, chances are after a little recovery you will soon catch up!]

Temperature control

While not as sunny as it was 2 years ago (in my opinion that is – I don’t have any data to back that up), it was a very warm weekend yet at the same time it possibly rained harder than this year than it has in previous years (again that s my opinion it’s probably rained for longer than it did this year but not as hard as far as I am aware), making maintaining body temperature a challenge whichever way you look at it.

The warm weather worked very much in my favour during the first night’s running, the worst of the heat was out of the sun shortly after we set off  and I was comfortable in a t-shirt all night long, so did not need to take time out  to layer up. That being said it was that warm that I was sweating on all the up hills even during the middle of the night and had to taken on plenty of water through out the night.

David Coxon doing Lakeland 100

As the sun came up on Saturday it looked like being a really sunny day and I worried a little that i’d left my sunblock in the half way drop bag, as it happens we reached Dalemane in reasonable good time and I was able to get some sun block before being burnt, I also opted to go with a sleeveless compression t-shirt having learnt that your body uses a huge amount of its energy keeping you cool reducing your ability to run, so any help you can give it to keep cool pays off, I also kept sleeves out  and a longer sleeved soft shell jacket tied around my waist in case the sun went back in.

[Lessons 3 and 4: Staying cool is nearly as important as staying warm! and never forget the sunblock you never know when you'll need it!]

Fortunately I didn’t need to put the jacket on for much of the day, well not until that brief shower and a bit of thunder later on. I stuck with the soft shell jacket later on as it was handy and saved going into my pack in the dark, even as the rain grew heavier…big mistake, by the time the rain had become torrential I was soaked to the skin, going up towards Tiberthwaite with 3.5 miles to go I was starting to shiver, but  knew that there was no point in stopping to get better water proofs or another base layer as soon as I opened my pack everything would be wet through no there was only one option, push on to the cover of a checkpoint and change there. Getting in to Tiberthwaite, it was obvious everyone else had had the same idea, marshals helping people into water proof leggings everywhere you looked.

montane minimus Jacket

I stripped off the wet layers replacing them with warm dry HH base layers and my beloved Montane Minimus Waterproof jacket (opting to stay in cycling shorts for now), with the warm,dry cloths on and a mug of soup inside of me I was warmed up in minutes and managed to stayed dry for the rest of the night. It’s at times like these when you are glad that the minimum required kit list is there. Prior to the race there had been a lot of discussion on just how waterproof a waterproof had to be and why we needed extra base layers on such a sunny weekend. No one was questioning this now, and I was extremely glad I’d invested the extra few pounds on the Minimus. Others were less fortunate either having water get through their water proofs, not having dry clothes or having left it too late and being unable to get warm again.

[Lesson 5: Carry the appropriate the gear for the weather and don't wait until its lashing it down to get it out!]

Luckily I’d put everything in dry sacks inside my race pack, because as great as the UltraAspire Surge is, its not waterproof, I was also lucky enough to had a spare dry sack to stick the wet clothes into and clip on to the side of the pack so as not to wet everything else.

[Lesson 6: If your pack/vest is not water proof pack everything in dry bags and carry a spare!]


I thought that I had Nutrition cracked after the Cotwold 100, where i’d learned that less is sometimes more, and that provided I filled my water bottles at each check point and finished them before the next, all I really needed was a gel or a flapjack every hour or so with the occasional pepperoni or banana thrown in and a handful of haribo at checkpoints and a rice pudding or two at the half way stage.

[Lesson 7: Graze! Little and often! and try and get as much variety as possible, you'll soon get sick of stuff if you eat it checkpoint after checkpoint!]

This was all thrown out the window to some extent during the Lakeland for a start in the heat, I really didn’t feel much like eating. It was much harder to know what I needed in terms of salt , electrolytes energy drinks versus plain water (the lakeland tap water seems to have a lot of fluoride or something) and I got really fed up with it really quickly.

The Team Montane Drink station at Kentmere

The checkpoints were really well stocked with gels and biscuits and things like that, but seemed to lacked the variety as previous years and none of them had any kind of fruit or anything that wasn’t heavily processed, luckily I had a few treats like cola lollies and cherry infused raisin that were a bit more palatable when I couldn’t face anything else.

[Lesson 8: Don't rely on the checkpoints having everything you'll need pack a few treats in your pocket and your drop bag that you know you will eat even if you can't stomach another gel!]

Foot care and appropriate Footwear

A few years ago I felt very strongly that I  needed to have the right footwear for the right race, I had Asics’s for roads, Inov8 Mudclaws for fell, Rocklites for mixed terrain, Five Fingers for barefoot and Xtalons for everything else.

But after getting I blisters from a new pair of Mudclaws just before last years Lakeland 50 I had the dilemma to deciding between risking more blister from my fell shoes or the lack of grip with road shoes that I knew wouldn’t rub. I went with the road shoes, and it went really well! I questioned the need for so many different shoes and went on to run the Hardmoors 60, 55 and Alendale all in Asics, two of which were in deep snow. I was happy in the believe that my road shoes were not only comfortable but could handle anything I threw at them.

What I didn’t know was that Asics would discontinue the 2180′s in favour of the newly designed 1000′s just before the Cotswold 100 and that I wouldn’t be able to simply go out and buy another pair. Consequently I ran the entire Cotswold 100 and half the Lakeland 100 in my old Asics which had already done 500 miles. They finally died just after Dockray, luckily I had the new 1000′s in my drop bag and was able to change mid race.

The prospect of getting wet feet and the problems resulting from running in wet trainers for hours on end was about as far from my mind as you could possibly get when I lined up on the start line.  But at some point and I don’t remember when we must have been running in some kind of bog because my feet were about as wet as they could get and they weren’t drying out. By the time I could change into dry shoes and socks they were in pretty bad shape, essentially i’d been running on wrinkled up prune feet for quite some time and each of the little ridges had become a little blister.


[Lesson 9: Looking after your feet during a race by loosing a few seconds here and there to tighten your laces or change wet socks mid race is a lot less painful than post race treatment!]

Going into the second half I tried to keep the new shoes dry for as long as possible, and did a pretty good job right up until the heavy rain in the last few miles, but by this time i’d kind of got use to the pain and it didn’t really make much difference. I did have another lesson to learn though, while running on trails in road shoes is just fine 90% of the time, the 10% of the time when your descending down rocky paths in pour rain at night you really need something with a bit more grip, because bouncing off big rocks on your bump after 100 miles is just just no fun at all.

[Lesson 10: You may not need as many pairs of running shoes as Lawrence Johnson, and 90% of the time you will be fine in road shoes, but if there is any chance at all of bad whether your better off with shoes with at least a bit of grip if your going to run on trails!]

Final words go to my friends at Montane, who continue to sponsor this fantastic event year after year and as whom’s guest I ran this years event! Having sworn not to do the 50 again after last year, I really don’t thing I would have have entered the 100 had you not offered me a place! Many,many thanks for pushing me into it, and helping me run further, faster!

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Planning to run a hundred miler?

Two years ago I got a DNF (Did Not Finish) in the Lakeland 100. This was the summer after I’d ran in the Himalayas and really the first year where I’d taken winter training seriously, I could go into the a reasons (or excuses as to why I didn’t finish and why it wasn’t my fault) but at the end of the day, I ended way out at the back and on my own, and I took a wrong turn, when there simply wasn’t time for errors.  I wasn’t good enough! (I did go on to unofficially complete the Lakeland 50 the next day, but that’s a whole different story).

I’d like to be saying that this year I’d set out to set the record straight and complete my nemesis,  but that simply wouldn’t be true. Coming into the final stage of the Lakeland 50 last year I swore that I was going to take a break and not but myself through it again this year.

I have to be honest the idea of running the Lakeland 100 was a little daunting, thinking back to 2012, I remembered sitting in the school hall at the finish with a bowl of Chilli in front of me and just not having the energy to lift the folk to my mouth, the idea of turning around at that point and running back to the start seemed incomprehensible. It wasn’t just the mileage, it was the hills and the time on your feet. I really did not want to DNF at the Lakeland again, but the nagging doubt remained, could I really do 100 miles? I started thinking there must be an easier 100 miler and that’s when I found the Cotswold 100. Maybe not everyone’s idea of the ideal 100 miler, ran entirely on the roads, and a just a little close to the Lakeland (only 4 weeks before) but with just 2639m of ascent it would be a great test to see if I had what it took to do a hundred.

I now found myself with not one but two hundred milers to do and only a month between them.

Having had the regular colds and coughs over the winter, I sat down in front of the computer in January, with my training plans from the 50 the year before and the 100 the year before that and started making a training plan for 2013.

I was going to starting at a position of zero miles a week and build up gradually over the thirty weeks to the Lakeland. Idea was to use 3 simple principles I’d discovered from Ultra plans found online; build up the miles each week, take a rest week every fourth week, then drop a back a couple of miles before building up again. (Here’s how the plan looked: Lakeland 100 Training plan 2013)

This strategy was based entirely on weekly mileages, I’d fill in the daily mileages week by week, based on work schedules trying to include as many runs to and from work as possible (11.5 miles each way). This should leave as many weekends free as possible for family/social life. (I have a 5 year old Nephew and Niece and like to spend as much time with them as possible at the weekends).

As the weeks, turned to months the training seemed to be going well, I was getting up to fifty and sixty miles a week. Of course there was the occasional blip when I had a busy week at work or a family event to go to, and just couldn’t get the miles in,  but on the whole I was around about on target. I just wasn’t getting any hills in. The run to work is along a river bank. With about 12 weeks to go I started to include a few more hilly runs from the office before work in the mornings. Still largely on the roads I found a little loop that would take me around the angel of the North and clock up about a thousand feet.

By the start of the Cotswold 100, I’d ran just under a thousand miles but I’d only been over 20 miles in a single run 3 times all year. This was not an idea position to be in, but it was the position I was in and I’d have to make the most of it.

The Cotswold went better that could be expected.  There was a field of a mere 40 runners and only 30 would get to the finish, but many of us were around the same standard so I was never far from the runner in front and in a race were support was allowed, I was joined by my friend and Himalayan roommate Paul Stoneley for the last 20 miles. I made it around in 22 hours and 10 minutes and to my great surprise came in in tenth place.

The problem now was that having completed the Cotswolds, I was going to have to take on the Lakeland (and in only 4 weeks time). In the back of my mind you see, I’d expected to have struggles in June and to use that as an excuse to pull out of the Lakeland, only I hadn’t and I couldn’t!

All conventional wisdom told me that 4 weeks was not enough time to recover, I would be going straight from recovery into tapering and there would be no more time for getting in any extra hills or distance, but I’d ran my hundred miler this year and no one could take that away from me, so whatever I did in the Lakeland would be a bonus.

As expected race day came around before I knew it and as I lined up at the start, I saw a lot of familiar faces, but both Dave and Ian that I’d ran with in 2012 had had to pull out due to injuries. I was the last man standing, but if the Cotswolds had taught me anything, it had taught me that while its nice to run around with other people, at the end of the day you run your own race and you have to run it at your own pace.

The run started well, I was taking it one check point at a time and made Wasdale before I needed to grab a head torch.  I was happy to get passed Buttermere (although there is nothing at all wrong with Charlie’s checkpoint – its was were I timed out in 2011 and anything beyond that would be a fantastic). Having made it through the first night, I was feeling pretty good, but the heat of the day affected pretty much everyone at one point or another, and some sections felt better than others. Over the 33 hours and 55 minutes from the start I ended up running a constant game of cat and mouse catching runners only to be over taken by many of them later on, but I slowly inched my way up from 100th place to finish in 66th. It may have taken 2 years but I finally got an ellusive Montane Ultra Tour of the Lake District, Lakeland 100 finishers medal.

Looking back it maybe wasn’t the most text book training plan, and running another hundred miler 4 weeks before possibly wasn’t not the best training, but in an odd sort of way I think I benefited from a couple of things, doing mainly shorter runs meant I spent less time injured or recovering and running twice a day meant that I was used to running tired and to recovering fast.

The only question remaining is what to plan for next year!

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Setting the bar for 2013

2012 was a sort of mediocre year as far as running goes for me. I started and ended the year with flu which interrupted my training a bit, I only managed to run a couple of fell races all year, and I tried a new brand of trainers which played havoc with my calfs almost causing me to pull out of the Wall Ultra in June.

It was all bad though, I managed to put in a reasonable at the Lakeland 50, (running around with Ian Young and David Best), I was happy with a sub 15 hour run for the 70 Mile ‘Wall’ (Finishing outside my office a couple of hours before my 42nd birthday) and I managed to get around the 62 mile Hardmoors 60.

With another go at the Lakeland 100 planned for July, I’m hoping that I’ll find a little more motivation in 2013. There are 28 weeks between now and the Lakeland, and looking back at my training plan from 2011 (when I last tried the Lakeland 100) I had just come back from the Himalayas and was running 44 miles a week at this stage in my training. Over the past 3 months  i’ve been averaging a mere 1 run a month, although I managed to up that to 18 miles this week I seriously need to up my game and start playing catch up fast.

…did I mention I am around a stone or 1 jean size over my idea running weight.

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Ultra…the new marathon

With the ever increasing popularity of running, the number of people tackling both half and full marathons is on the rise. So it should come as no surprise that more and more of us are pushing the our boundaries beyond the marathon.

There is currently only one word to describe runs which are longer than 26.2 miles and that word is ‘Ultra’.

At first you may think that there is little different between an ultra and any other run other than the distance, but in truth ultras come in all different shapes and sizes, and are as different to each other as a 5k is to a marathon.

While some ultras like the Cotswold 100 are entirely ran on the road, most are ran largely ran over trails. Races like the Montane Lakeland 100 or Hardmoors 60 have personalities of their own, taken from the dramatic landscapes through which they pass and the characters the people that live there.

As with any new challenge, there are many new disciplines to master. Some of the longer races cover a hundred miles or more, which necessitate having to run through the night not once but twice, and if you think night navigation can be tough, try it after 36 hours without sleep.

Possibly the most important factor to consider is nutrition. Nutrition is can be make or break for an Ultra runner. Getting the right balance of salts, sugars, carbs, proteins and taking on just the right amount of water is crucial. Unlike a marathon with aid stations every few miles, in an ultra there can be a marathon between aid stations.

Ultra don’t just test you physically though, they test you mentally as well. The will power required to keep on pushing yourself mile after mile is immense, which is one of the many reasons that the drop out race for this kind of race is so high. Its not unusual for over fifty percent of those starting a race to drop out before the end.

Just how far you push your own boundaries is up to you, put more and more people and discovering that those boundaries are far far further than they ever could have imagined.

[Note - Some of the credit for this post goes to Phill Turton, Tony Allen and Adnan Khan, as this post sort of came out of a conversation had while running around Kielder Water on friday evening. In fact this post start off as an introduction to a piece on head tourch running

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Hardmoors 60 – harder than expected!

The Hardmoors 60 route follows the Cleveland Way from Guisborough to Filey passing through coastal resorts and fishing villages such as Saltburn, Staithes, Robin Hoods Bay, Ravenscar, Scarborough and Filey while following cliff tops for the main duration of the race.”  That’s how the Hardmoors 60 is described on their website, sounds idilic doesn’t it?

What better way to spend a Saturday in September. Fresh from training in the Italian Lakes and having put in pretty good runs already at the Wall and the Lakeland 50, I’d never felt more prepared for an Ultra.

My bag had been packed and sitting ready to go next to the front door for a week by the time race day came around. I’d have to be up at 1am to get dressed and have a bit of breakfast before taking the 3 hour drive down to filey in time to catch the bus the 60 miles back to the start in Guisborough for registration at 7am.

Driving down to Filey you pass through Guisborough, Whitby and Scarborough, I couldn’t help but wonder at the enormity of what I was about to do. The 60 mile drive had taken well over an hour in the car, and soon i’d be running it.

We had permission to park at Filey School over the weekend, where the race would finish later that night, but when I pulled into the car park at 4.45am there were only a dozen or so cars dotted around the outside of the car park. I got out to stretch my leg, some of the other runners were trying to catch a last few moments sleep in their cars while others seemed to be changing into their race kit or sorting their packs.

During the next half hour, still in the dark before dawn more and more cars arrived and those runners that had been sleeping when I arrived started to stir. Judging by their gear, these guys looked like pretty serious runners, I’d be surprised if any of them hadn’t ran a bunch of Ultras already. This hunch has confirmed on the bus to Guisborough as the conversation inevitably turned to talk of previous races, current form and todays route.

The race starter from the Sea Cadets in Guisborough, where we had our kit checked and left our drop bags. This was the first race I’d ran where food would not be provided at the aid stations. I’d be responsible for making my own nutritional choices. I thought back to the Lakeland 50 and the wall, trying to remember what i’d eaten, ensuring I packed enough sugars, salts and electrolytes. It turn out the aid stations were very well provisioned anyway and I really didn’t need to take a fraction of what I took, but i’d rather have too much than too little. In the end the bigger problem was that on the day I just didn’t have an appetite and struggled to eat at all during the race.

Hardmoors 60 Drop bags

The race got off to a slightly delayed start (140 starters and only 2 toilets having lead to a bit of a queuing problem), but they added 35 minutes to each of the cut offs and it gave me a chance to chat to a few people that i’d spoken to on facebook but never actually met.  At this point I was still hoping to get around in 12 hours and even with the 1/2 hour delay would just about get around in day light.

The first 10 miles of the route take you up through Guisborough Woods up to HighCliff Nab then back on yourself down the Cleveland Way to Saltburn. While it was wet though the woods and part of the route took us through a housing estate, I really enjoyed this section of the trail with its gradual climbs and fleeting views out over the woods to the sea.

My strategy to use bright orange sea to summit sacks for drop bags worked well. I barely stopped at Saltburn, grabbing the drop bag and clipping it to the front of my pack I was off along the coastal path that would take me the remaining 50 miles to Filey.

We couldn’t have asked for a better a day to be running. There were clear blue skies with a light breeze at our backs, and the trails were good. So I really had no excuses for not putting in a fantastic performance. But I guess that some days I run well and other days I don’t and unfortunately today was just was one of those days were i was going to struggle. My calfs were tight from the start, I seemed to have no energy and I was struggling to eat, today was going to be a long long day. Slowing to a sustainable pace, this race was going to be ran in my head more than on the trail, it was going to take a lot of will power to keep going to the finish but I’d ran longer races and I would make it one way or another.

Running a coastal trail sounded idealistic. I mean love the beach. So what could be better than stunning sea views and dramatic coast cliffs. After several hours of running along those cliff tops the novelty began to wear off though, and the coastal route began to play tricks with my head. You rarely got a clear view of where you were headed, seeing only the next headland and when your destination did come into sight there were inevitably several hidden sets of stairs to go up and down before you got there.

That being said, the route 60 mile route was undeniably beautiful.  There were some real high points, a winding path along a stream bed coming off the beach at Runswich, some of the quaintest little fishing villages, Whitby Abbey, Scarborough sea front, and the sight of the full moon reflecting over the sea was stunning.

[side note: while you would be forgiven for thinking that a 60 mile runs is possibly not the most romantic of  occasions the couple in the photo above managed to celebrate every sytle fence or gate they crossed with a kiss and he even raced up the 199 stairs to Whitby Abbey to be waiting with an ice cream for her at the top!]

As with previous ultras I found myself chatting to fellow runs on many sections of theroute and was very thankful for the company of James Penson for much of the secondhalf, without who’s company it would have seemed a much longer day.

The finish was a very welcome sight with only 15 minutes to go before the 16 hour cut off and I was very happy to settle for joint 77th place in a time of 15 hours and 46 minutes.

All in all, I had a great day. It just wasn’t my race on the day, but I’m a believer that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I obviously wasn’t the only one to find harmoors lived up to its name with 48 of the 140 starters not making it to the finish.

As ever many thanks to the organisers, marshalls, supporters and runners.
You may also like to see Tim’s , Phill’s and Alistair reports.

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Barefoot in the park

About a month a go Dr. Michael Wilkinson, senior lecturer in sport and exercise sciences at Northumbria uni ran a workshop on Barefoot running at the university. Barefoot running has seen a huge rise in popularity recently with the success of books like ‘Born to Run’ so not surprisingly the workshop filled up incredibly quickly, so quickly in fact I didn’t manage to secure a place.

Following on from the workshop, Michael set up a facebook group and has an open invitation to join him and other barefoot runners running around the town moor on Thursday evening’s. The group has been attracting 4 or 5 runners a week, so I thought it was about time I went along to see what it was all about.

barefoot runners
Regular readers of this blog will know I’ve done a bit of running in Vibram Five Fingers which are a minimalist shoe and have  ran truly barefoot on the roads a couple of times, but I’ve never ran with other barefoot runners.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I got there, or what sort of reaction the group would get from other runners. When you run in minimalist shoes you kind of expect to get strange looks, when you run completely barefoot you can expect even stranger looks, but what sort of reaction would we get when there were a group of us all with no shoes? To be honest most people just seemed to ignore the lack of footware. a couple of people looked away and one guy on a bike warned us to watch out for the cow dung on the track.

Most the the townmoor has good tracks, but there are a couple of sections that are a bit rougher and a couple that are just gravel which is one of the hardest surfaces to run on barefoot. Running on the grass and some of the smooth paths through the park was pretty much like any other social or cub run, chatting about previous runs or future plans, as the track became more broken and running became more difficult the experience started to change a strange sort of machismo began to kick in, I found myself running over terrain much tougher than that I would normally have dared run on had I been onmy own. It was as if the whole group collectively just decided to ignore any signs pain from the roughness of the broken track.

I noticed more than before that the feeling of running on smooth surfaces like soft grass or finely finished tarmac paths was quite cool and soothing where as running on sharp spikey broken tarmac tracks felt like tiny little intense pin pricks of heat. 
Not yet being used to running on these kind of surfaces I found that by stride and style changed switching from one surface to another where as I noticed Sumanth who’s obviously been doing this for longer and who’s feet are obviously much tougher than mine barely batted an eyelid as we switched from surface to surface. 

We ran a similar loop to Park run in glorious sunshine, something just short of 5k, then after posing for a quick group photo, I put my Five Fingers back on and decided that as it was such a lovely night I may as just keep on going and jog home instead of taking the train as planned. This had the added bonus of taking my miles logged on Nike+ to just over 3000, although as I had brought any water not having planned to run home, I did have to make a quick detour to Asda on the way back to collect a few essentials like, water, haribo and coke (which i had to shake up to get it to go flat). The haribo were 3 for a quid, and if I thought the looks I got running in minimalist shoes were bad, the looks I got standing outside of Asda stuffing 3 bags of haribo and a bottles of coke down my throat before continuing were in another league.

Posted in gear, social, technique, training | 6 Comments

Remembering how to run

They say that “you get good at what you train to do”. Well for the last couple of years I’ve been concentrating on running ultra’s, so I’ve been focussed on distance over speed. In an ideal world I would be splitting my time between speed, distance and hills, unfortunately I don’t live in that ideal world. The reality is there just aren’t the hours in the day.

Running between 50-60 miles a week at the peak of my training, there’s little time for rest days and especially as I often fit training in around running into work. Somedays I barely have the energy to do much more than shuffle around those training miles.

running feet
Watching the Olympics over the past couple of weeks I’ve noticed not only how impressively fast they are but just how different their technique is from my own. The heals of the olympic athletes coming that high that they practically kick themselves in the bum as they go along.

Running into work on friday morning I was about as far as its possible to get from running like an olympic athlete. It was 2 weeks since I’d ran the Lakeland 50, I’d just stepped up from a 12 mile week to a 30 mile week, and my calfs felt like they were made of stone, but it suddenly occurred to me that I could be pushing off a little harder.

Without really thinking about it I gave it a try. The extra boost from the push off brought my heals higher and to my surprise it also propelled my knees further forward extending my stride. I went from a 10 minute mile to an 8 minute mile. What’s more my calfs actually ached less when I was running at this faster pace than when I was running at the slower pace. I alternated around every half mile for the rest of the run, going between this faster pace and my normal pace. Instead of running a recovery run time I ran one of my fastest runs into the office i’d ran all year.

I’d experience improves in my pace before, after reading ‘born to run’ there was a gradual improvement over the course of a couple of weeks or a month, this was much more sudden, almost like flicking a switch. It was like I’d suddenly remembered how to run again. I just hope that I  can do the same again the next time I go out.
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