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

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Free Running?

I just started adding up what I’ve spent on running and swiftly gave up so as to not cause serious fluctuations on my Garmin HR monitor.  I enjoy gadgets, buying new stuff and seem to delve quite deeply into a “hobby”, so taking up running was a recipe for credit card trauma.

Of course, on the purest scale running is free.  A simple pair of trainers, which most of us own anyway, and jogging round the block is as cheap as it can get.  No matter how obvious this is, many of us can’t help gazing longingly at all the new running gadgetry available, with promises of better performance, more statistics and a vague possibility of looking like a running magazine cover model.

Then what about races themselves?  I added up the cost of doing a 15km trail race in the Lake District a couple of years ago – whilst the entry fee was around £30, I spent another £470 hiring cars, hotel, eating out etc.  Of course there would have been cheaper ways to do it, but I imagine many of us often way exceed the entry fee.

So is all this spending necessary and could we get away without it all?  Well of course as runners haven’t always had access to such kit, but if I’m out for several hours on the trail then a certain amount of kit is sensible to keep me comfortable and safe.  It does start to add up; trail shoes, tops, shorts, baselayers, rucksacks, watches/GPS (at one point I went out running with three watches …… there was a reason honestly), nutrition/gels, race entries and associated costs.

So how much is too much? As with any hobby, is there a point where it becomes beyond reasonable? I think so and if it comes to the point where you’re spending more time reading about and/or buying kit than actually running then clearly it’s become a problem.  But if you can afford it, then does it matter?  Maybe not, but if all the purchases are an attempt to enhance performance if you haven’t already nailed the fundamentals of training and nutrition, then you really need to consider your priorities.

In this modern world with endless tech being released all the time and the internet thrusting it all down our throats with modest performance gains offered to all levels of runners, it’s no wonder our cupboards are bursting at the seams with trainers!

I suppose I should be thankful that I’m not a triathlete.

Sunny Weekend Running

Being a fully signed up northerner, the North Downs Way is a remote prospect.  I ventured down there for the Project Trail photoshoot around September 2016 and had no idea when, or if, I’d be back.  This weekend I’ve been back.  My top running buddy, Michelle, decided it truly is grim up north and moved to London late last year.  Always on the look out for a running opportunity we decided to meet up and get a good old long run under our belts, and run we did.  Michelle is renowned for her route planning (two in a year at the last count) but had woman’ed up and planned a couple of route ideas from Guildford expanding out from the town and dipping into a few parts of the north downs way.

The sun firmly gripping the sky I headed down early Saturday to arrive to a beautiful day.  Potential late-afternoon BBQ talk running freely, we headed off for a 20 miler through the busy streets of Guildford, shopper dodging, chatting and feeling fully weekend-ready.  This being my longest run this year and last big run before the Liverpool to Manchester 50 miler in a few weeks time, I was hoping this would be a relatively comfortable experience.

This was a mixed bag of woodland trail, lovely open sunny paths, bits of road and generally great running territory.  The country seems to have been blessed with sunshine this weekend so there were large gatherings of humans around the busier areas of the route.  In true form we got lost several times and trudged completely off-path praying to the GPS-Gods that all would be OK.  A wild deer and several squirrel sightings later we were back in Guildford for a well-deserved pub dinner and few beers!

Weird Shining Ball in the Sky

Team Lost-in-the-North (but it was the south this time)

Great weekend.  Liverpool to Manchester… bring it on! 🙂

Liverpool to Manchester Preparation

The Liverpool to Manchester Ultramarathon is a fifty-mile jaunt along the Trans Pennine Trail (TPT) starting close to Aintree in Liverpool and finishing in Didsbury in Manchester (unless you’ve selected the 100 mile run and have to run back as well!!)

This isn’t one for the mountain dwelling beasts out there with only around 300m elevation over the whole route.  However for those dipping their toes into ultras or anyone who just wants a flat out fifty mile PB its perfect.  Since I’ve moved to Glossop I seem to get 300m elevation when I go and fetch some beers, so the climbing isn’t too concerning but the race is certainly a big mental challenge as there’s really not much to break it down – it’s just a long ol’run.

I did a recce of the route last weekend arranged by the Race Organiser www.gbultras.com.  They’ve actually done recces for the whole route in three sections but I’ve only been able to make one of them.  What a great option to give to entrants though!

That’s me on the left and last years winner (Matt Rushbrook) behind.  I guarantee this is the only time I’ll be in front of him

With less than four weeks left, here’s a few things that need to get sorted before a big race.

Gear choice: Get it nailed.  I already have my “favourites” so not too much trouble here.  I’ve just kicked off a new pair of shoes (Columbia Montrail Rogue FKT) to make sure I’m completely happy with them.  Many suggest doing this race in road shoes but having done the recce, I’m sticking with trail – nothing too grippy though!

Food plan:  I know what food I can stomach and my plan will be to eat very regularly from about 30 mins in and at similar intervals.  I’ll be building up a more detailed plan to take out the choice when my brain is frazzled.  Oh, and i’ll be drinking like a horse.

Know the route:  Unfortunately I haven’t been able to attend all of the recces, but the route should be well marked and is largely along the Trans Pennine Trail.  Stories from last year suggest there were a few wrong turns, so I have the GPX file loaded to my watch – again to stop any need for thinking (difficult after hours of running).  I’ll also have the map stuffed in my bag which I’ll have studied (probably…. 😉 )

Mental Preparation:  I definitely need to (wo)man up for this one.  Quite a challenge as my training has suffered due to tightness in my hip.  I’ve tried all sorts, rest, extra stretching, pilates, sports massage, strengthening exercises and just about seem to be getting past it but still feel a bit “awkward”.  What it boils down to is my longest run is likely to be 20 miles with very little speed training.  This is definitely not how I’d like to be going into this but not really much I can do to change it.  Now is not the time to panic train.  I’ll be sticking to the same plan as the Wendover 50 – stay positive, avoid negative thoughts and have fun and ENJOY IT! We enter these because we want to run ultras right?

Don’t worry, be happy

Getting through this one will give me a great mental/physical boost for the 110km Lakeland trails run in July, especially given the issues I’ve had with training.  Not getting through it, for any reason, would be really tough to deal with knowing that the next race is longer and tougher….

The finish line doesn’t move, you do!

Wondering whats for lunch.

Also I’ve finally added a few reviews to the gear section HERE

The Terrible Taper

The taper.  The final few weeks of preparation and contemplating the challenge lying ahead.  Some runners seem to love it as a chance to fill their faces with carbs; others are bouncing off the walls, desperate to get to the race. Here’s a few of my tapering observations…

Where has all the time gone: You’ve had this race booked for months. Training plans were meticulously created with mileage building up until race day. Suddenly, you’re mere weeks away and the taper is here. You begin asking yourself, “Have I done enough?”; “I don’t think I got enough long runs in!”, “Why on earth did I skip so many sessions from my training plan?” It’s not the time to play catch-up, though; the work is done and suddenly doing back-to-back runs to “catch-up” is only going to end in disaster.

All sorts of things start hurting: You’ve worked far too hard for anything to scupper your race now. But every run is a potential disaster, and the phantom injuries start to appear. Twinges appear in the knee/ankle/hamstring without warning, but are you imagining it? Is it the paranoia of a potential injury? Why does everyone on the bus/in the lift start stepping dangerously close to your toes?  Why have they organised a BMX night at work? (This actually happened).

Embracing the carb load: Everything contains carbs, right? At least that’s what you tell yourself.  The fourth biscuit from the office cupboard is just taking advantage of a carb-loading opportunity, and no-one can tell you to stop eating because you quite simply need the energy. Best to try not to end up stuffed full of white pasta and a dodgy stomach the day before though, eh?

Giving up the beer: Months and months ago when you booked on that race, you promised yourself to go tea-total for at least the final two months, well maybe one month. As time creeps along, you suddenly realise there is your cousins wedding, the works outing, and at least four Fridays during your dry period, so you decide two weeks will be enough, maybe one week. Roll on the night before and you’re convincing yourself that surely one glass of red wine will be OK? It’s mainly fruit, right?

You’re about to stop boring everyone to death: Everyone will be glad this is over. The missus has heard so much about your current kilometre pace and which socks you’re going to wear that she only has to look at you and starts glazing over. People dive for cover in the office in case you start to talk about your upcoming race. Don’t worry, it’ll all be over soon and you can bask in the glory of all the hard work you’ve done. At least for five minutes until you start scouring the internet for the next one!

Originally published on Men’s Running: http://mensrunninguk.co.uk/uncategorized/the-tale-of-the-taper-2/

Lemon, Chicken and Rice Stew

Marathon time is here and we all know it’s wise to get some extra carbs in before race day.  What this doesn’t mean is you have to stuff your face with piles of white pasta that you’re not used to and barely anything else (which is the “advice” I’ve seen dotted round the internet).

Here’s a carb-heavy simple recipe.  Along with some bread on the side, perhaps not the white bread pictured 🙂 it makes for a nutritious meal leading up to race day.

a-plate2

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts (free range)
  • Several decent sized potatoes
  • Servings of rice (2-3 people)
  • 1 Courgette
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • Large clove of garlic
  • 1 Lemon
  • Salt/Pepper
  • Bay leaves

a-ingredients

Method

  • Cut the chicken into small chunks and fry in a small amount of oil until lightly cooked.
  • Meanwhile chop the potatoes, courgette, celery, carrots, onion and garlic and place into a large pot along with a few bay leaves

a-stove

  • Add the cooked chicken and just about cover with water and add salt/pepper to taste.
  • Bring to the boil and then simmer for around 45 minutes.
  • Add the rice and squeeze of lemon and simmer for another 10 minutes until the rice is cooked. This should have absorbed much of the water giving a thicker texture.
  • Serve in a bowl along with bread and another squeeze of lemon.

a-plate

I generally make this, eat it, then look over and see a lemon on the worktop that I’ve forgotten. As a reminder, here is a picture of a lemon.

a-lemon

TV and some Snow Running

As the new year is fading into a distant memory, it’s been relatively quiet in All Hail The Trail world. Other than a random TV appearance of course! OK it was only for a few seconds and was Freeview Channel 7 but it’s a start! It was “Photo of the Day” on the news which happened to be a rather nice view from my work desk. I put it on Twitter with a #Manchester and the channel contacted me to ask if they could use it.  Shows the power of a mere hash tag!

tv-shot

The first @allhailthetrail TV appearance

tfgm-view

The original picture.  It was a nice view!

On to running news, the reality has now truly kicked in that I won’t be at all ready for the Oldham Way Ultra in March as I’ve had to take it really easy due to tightness in the hip.  18 miles a week an ultrarunner does not make.  I’m progressing though and trying to remain sensible and planning a gradual build up to make sure I’m ready for races later in the year…. next stop Liverpool to Manchester in April, I hope.

I’ve also ticked off my first “proper” trail run since moving to Glossop it was tough, not due to distance, but weather.  The observant amongst us will notice it’s been snowing….. and in the Peak District it was snowing a lot!  I started gently due to my hip but it seemed to ease off as I ascended towards the summit of Cock Hill (mainly walking to be honest).

ds

The weather got more and more extreme and as I ran over towards Clough Edge and I began to go blind in my right eye as the snow and wind battered the muscles around my right eye socket and eye lid.  I started to have one of those strange moments of euphoria as nature was showing me who was boss.

snow2

snow1

I continued down into the relative calmness of the Longdendale Trail and along the road back into Glossop.

Talking of Glossop a final picture of the view from my spare bedroom window.  What a change from City Centre Living!

glossop

Lots more planned for this site and a great carb loading recipe coming up soon for all the marathon runners – chicken, lemon and rice stew.  White pasta gorgers move along, there’s nothing for you here!