Running up and down the Lakes

After accidentally running the Lakeland 50, I had such an amazing time that I’ve now entered the Lakeland 100 in July 2019.  I met a whole bunch of great people and felt so good during the race.  I wrote in my last post that I’d focus on efficiency with training and ran no further than 20 miles during the build-up.  Here’s my full race report on RunUltra:

https://www.runultra.co.uk/Reviews/Running-events/Europe/Lakeland-50-Race-Report

If running the length of the Lakes onces wasn’t enough, a few days ago I also completed Lakes in a Day – a 50 mile race from Caldbeck to Cartmel.  Oh, and how different it was – we battled through Storm Callum over some very testing terrain and it ended up taking me five hours longer than the Lakeland 50! I’m hoping to write a rain drenched report for RunUltra sometime soon, but here is Michelle and I at registration – how little we knew what was to come!

Start pic

I managed a few product reviews for RunUltra recently and have just received a pair of Hoka Evo Mafate to give a thorough bashing.  I’m also due to try out some Exposure Headtorches  which look great and its just the right time of year to get out in the hills in the dark!

Other recent reviews include: –

Montane Via Trail Series – https://www.runultra.co.uk/Reviews/Running-gear/Multi-product-review/Montane-Via-Trail-Series-review

Scarpa Neutron 2 – https://www.runultra.co.uk/Reviews/Running-gear/Running-shoes/Scarpa-Neutron-2-shoe-review

 

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You’ve agreed to do what!?

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You know when you’ve said you won’t do something to the wife/husband/partner, but deep down you know you will? And the likely reality is they know that too.  I’m already feeling the guilt curse through my body as I see my slurred answer of “yes” being written down on the back of an envelope late at night in a Thai curry house as written proof that I’ll run the Lakeland 50.  Which I’ve already agreed with my good lady wife that I won’t do.

As any long distance runner knows, It’s not the actual time for the race that is generally the problem, it’s the time for training and slotting in those long miles in training.  With a first baby due at the end of April, agreeing to an ultra in July wasn’t something I was meant to do.

In my own head, I’d decided it would be fine and that meant i was just going to have to make it work. Opportunities are there to be taken and whatever happens in the race I’d be getting to have a fantastic fifty mile “experience” of the amazing Lake District by foot and you have to be thankful if you’re in a position to be able to do that – as we know, not everyone is.

Since then I’d managed to get two big long runs in; a social lap of the 40 mile Oldham Way Ultra which I’d convinced my wife i needed to do just in case the baby arrived before the actual race day. He didn’t arrive so I found myself running the actual race as well a few weeks later with an emergency evacuation plan if needed!

Wind on a couple of months and I’m suddenly a father and running long distances hasn’t really been a feature in my life. There’s less than 8 weeks of training time now so I’ve cobbled together a vague plan and here it is.

  1. Firmly focus on training efficiency. Less social plodding in the hills around Glossop, but using time wisely around my work life. I’ve started getting off the train a few stops early and running the 10km back, or taking a lunch break to do a focused 30 mins speed session or swim at the gym.
  2. Long running is the real time-eater so I’ve decided to do no more than 20 miles in training over a period of four weeks before it’s time to start a taper. These miles will have to be done hideously early so that I’m back in time to still be able to offer something of a weekend to the family.

With as much stretching and strength work as I can fit in that’s about it. I’m sticking with a positive mental attitude on this, the race is going to be amazing no matter what happens, if I’m slow, then I’m slow. If it hurts, then…. what am I saying of course it will hurt.

The only other preparation I’ve done is peruse the checkpoint menu and wow, I see y’all at checkpoint 8!

I’m sure many of you have experienced time pressures on your running but do you take a break for a while or just work out a way to keep training!? What are your coping strategies to be most efficient with your time? Do you accidently enter races you shouldn’t have?

Watch this space for a Lakeland 50 race report, hopefully on RunUltra.

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Training Miles (Shelf Stones)

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Crying Machine (he’s lovely really)

Montane Event and the Oldham Way Ultra x 2

It’s been a busy time at “All Hail the Trail” towers over the last few months and despite thinking I may never end up running the Oldham Way Ultra, I inadvertently ran it twice.  I’ve also sold a house in Birmingham, purchased a house in Glossop and am currently awaiting an overdue baby, when of course it will suddenly become a whole lot more chaotic.

I had the pleasure of attending the Montane showroom near Kendal a few weeks ago to try out their new Via Trail range and went for a run and interview with Debbie Martin-Cosani.  Whilst I’m still reviewing the kit which will follow in due course, here is an overview of the day on RunUltra along with an interview with Debbie (click the pic below).

So why did I run the 40 mile Oldham Way twice? The official race was on 18th March and those with good memories will remember that the UK had a somewhat unusually harsh storm – the Beast from the East.  Despite valiant efforts to get there, my buddies and I were admittedly struggling in the snow and about halfway there the race was cancelled anyway.

With the baby due on the 25th April and the rescheduled race set for the 22nd I was dubious about me being able to do it. So on Easter weekend three of us set out to do the route as a social. Forty-two social miles, half of Chadderton parkrun and a little over ten hours later and we were finished – job done.

Oldham Way Ultra “recce”

Even before my legs stopped aching my brain was contemplating how fast (or slow) I could get round in potentially drier race conditions.  After carefully planting the seed with my understanding wife she accepted that, if the baby hasn’t arrived, I could do it. On the strict conditions that I never utterred the words Oldham Way Ultra ever again.

Preparation was a bit strange, because I’d peaked then tapered for the 18th March, floundered for two weeks, ran the route as a social and then had three weeks thinking that I probably wouldn’t get the chance to run the race so just generally plodded a bit, bought baby things and spent time on the phone to mortgage providers and solicitors. It’s not the standard way to prepare for an ultra.

I’m not going to write a “full” report on the race this time.  It ended up being quite a quiet affair with around 50 entrants as unfortunately about half of the original entrants couldn’t make the new date.  This doesn’t stop the enthusiasm though and everything was looking well organised at Team OA race HQ. I ran most of the first half with a group of people but after the first 20 miles I stopped at some incredibly well timed toilets and after that I didn’t see anyone at all for the remaining 20 miles, and ended up crossing the line in 8:03.  I’d made a few navigation errors and ended up doing an extra 2 miles overall so I think the sub-8 should have been achievable.

Real life obstacle course racing

Glossopdale Harriers ready for the off

Somewhere on the Oldham Way

I’m now full speed ahead reviewing the Montane gear and the rather smart Scarpa Neutron 2’s.  Whilst there’s various races coming up on the Race List, the next biggie is the Lakeland 50.  My biggest focus needs to be on efficient training, with an imminent baby I’m clearly not going to be able to train the way I used to so its all about training “smart”.  We shall see……

Men’s Running – (Wo)Man vs Barge

It’s always great to get an article published and this month I have one in Men’s Running – A tale of running over a damp hill in at “(wo)man vs barge” !!

In other news I’ve finally entered another Ultra after a particularly disappointing 2017.  Whilst I’m not fully fit, I have until March to prepare and am keeping things ticking over with as much running/cycling as I can.  The race is Team OA’s – Oldham Way Ultra – a race I unfortunately decided not to do last year whilst training for the Liverpool to Manchester 50 miler.

We’re back in that dark season again, so here’s a picture from a short run I did this week in the dark damp Peak District.  Headtorches out again!

On the mend?

It seems like forever since I’ve run “properly”.  I spent most of 2016 training hard but 2017 has been a bit of a flop with a few races, but not to the extent I wanted due to various injury issues throughout the year.  I’m currently waiting to see a specialist and am managing to do some low mileage so keeping things ticking over.  This site isn’t about moaning though, so here’s an update of other items in All Hail The Trail world….

In an effort to defend last years (Wo)man vs Barge shock first place, I went back again this year.  To spoil the story completely, I came 9th and ate a monsterous chip butty at the end.  Full report will be published in Novembers’ Men’s Running magazine.

More gear reviews for RunUltra, here’s my thoughts on the Craft Breakaway range.  Click the pic below:

In my longest section of non-running I decided to crack on with 6 x 10km laps of the Conti Thunder Run.  For a full race report click on the link below:

For the first time I’ve also entered Cross Country for Glossopdale Harriers which hopefully will be a nice end of the year getting back into training and racing again! Onwards and upwards!

Liverpool to Manchester 50 miler Report

I’m not a morning runner.  I’m not even a moaning runner, but I do moan about mornings.  Especially 4am ones somewhere on the outskirts of Liverpool.  Of course, it’s a lot easier to get up for exciting things such as jetting off on a remote holiday.  Or running an ultra.

As is the norm with such races I’m standing in the middle of a field with a bunch of compression clad warriors decked from head-to-toe with the latest stretch fabric, multi-bottle, hydro-ultra-tech-lightweight rucksacks crammed with expensive waterproofs that no-one wants to actually use.

This is the Liverpool to Manchester Ultra Marathon, a 50 mile jaunt along the Trans Pennine Trail (TPT) starting close to Aintree in Liverpool and finishing in Didsbury in Manchester.  For those who have a strange desire to run back to Liverpool there is 100 mile option (on a different date).

Silence falls over the field for a minute in honour of Stephen Carragher before an enthusiastic cowbell signals the start of the race.  My strategy is to take it easy at the start, running around a 6 minute kilometre, but knowing I’ll slow down and hopefully finish in 8-9 hours.  Others clearly have different plans as I glance concerningly at a stocky fellow powering past me during the first kilometre huffing and puffing like a steam train.  I hope he didn’t misread the distance when he entered this one……

The marked route was easy enough to follow although it soon begins to blur into one, moving from long sections of road/tarmac to basic trails.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, a smell permeated my nostrils that is so foul my carefully planned nutrition strategy is almost ruined but I know immediately where I am.

Widnes.

I had experienced this smell some 18 years earlier when I worked there for several months and it was almost like I’d never left.  My pace quickens as I continue out of the area into the fresh air beyond.

As an extra twist the race organisers have offered up Gold medals to the top 50 finishers, silver for 51-100 and bronze for all finishers after that.  Deep-down I want a gold medal but as the pack thins I don’t really have any idea of my position, so I just concentrate on moving forwards.

Ultras are a great social experience and I chat to loads of people along the route, many saying this is their second time at the L2M after the inaugural one last year.  Somewhere after halfway I start running with Dave Fort from Burnley (more accurately Padiham), and we soon stick together to start ticking off the miles and discussing how we felt about the race so far.  In one of those “small-world” moments, it turns out Dave knows my auntie, but then I imagine most people in Padiham know my auntie, but that’s a different story altogether……

Men being such fine examples of humanity, we soon start discussing how “stomach problems” can become an issue on ultras.  Earlier on I’d made a rather horrific trip to the bushes which emotionally I hadn’t yet recovered from.  Dave casually announced he just popped in to a luxurious Premier Inn (I’m still dubious about the existence of this) along the way which made my hunt for a secluded spot seem ludicrous. Note to self – mark Premier Inn’s on race maps in future.

With around 25km to go, one of the friendly aid station volunteers let slip that Dave, myself and Paul Carse (who we’d also spent some time running with) were in 42nd, 43rd and 44th position.  Now this is serious!  We know there is a lot of time to gain some places, but also plenty of time to lose some places.  The focus moves on to keeping position, so with military type enthusiasm I scoff another pork pie and we plough on.  Our heads regularly spin around like paranoid owls as we keep checking if anyone is on our tail.  Occasionally runners crept into our rear view so we push on as hard as we can knowing that our gold medals are at stake.

We have a minor panic towards the end as we took a couple of wrong turnings but emerged victoriously into the final field where, in one last cruel twist, the route continues past the finish, around a large field before crossing the finish line.  Job done.  I complete it in 41st position in 8 hours 43 minutes.

Can you order me a lager please?

So how would I rate this race?  The organisation was top-notch, especially considering the three recces to covering the entire route offered in advance.  There was lots of social media buzz, plenty of information sent out and a true enthusiasm towards getting people through an ultra.  Reflecting on the route I’ve realised I like to be inspired by running down a valley, remote woodland trails, or climbing a peak to witness natures beauty stretch out below.  Whilst you won’t get this at the L2M, what you will get is a solidly organised race, huge support at the aid stations and a great crack at a 50 mile PB!  Thanks GBUltras!

Pimp my medal