Episode 11 – Deerstalker Wrap-Up and Arran Ultra Prep

Having completed the Mighty Deerstalker, Alex and Jamie talk about how it went and how tragically under-prepared they are for the Ultra Tour of Arran. 14km to over 90km? Sure, should be fine…

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Events mentioned in this episode:

Mighty Deerstalker – Event Link
Ultra Tour of Arran – Event Link
The Wall – Event Link
Ultra Tour of Edinburgh – Event Link

The Craft Half – 17th February 2019

Distance – 13.1 miles over two laps
Course – mostly trail with a bit of running over concrete paths

Beer. Sweet, hoppy marvellousness responsible for making many of social engagements more entertaining (for me). I quite like beer and I quite like running. I also quite like having beer after running. But the two don’t really mix at the same time. Or do they…? That was the question posed by the Craft Half: a half-marathon in two laps round Wimbledon Common featuring frequent pit stops for mature liquid refreshment.

Out of all the races we’d run so far in 2019, this was the one I felt the most prepared for. I had a few 10ks under my belt as well as some 13-14 mile training runs and I was regularly practicing my beer drinking. In fact, I made sure I had a couple of craft beers the evening before to ensure my palate was prepared. Nothing had been left to chance.

So we rocked up late morning before the run started, queued to collect our t-shirts/race numbers and enjoyed the late morning sun as the start time drew nearer.

What ensued was possibly the most fun I’ve had while running. I certainly wouldn’t recommend this for everyone and it’s important to note that you should always drink sensibly. But the beer was excellent with just a bit of running inbetween stops (three every loop).

We strategised that we would be quicker if we picked up our beers at each stop and then walked while we drank quickly. We then tried running and drinking. We finally realised that it was much more fun to have a chat with our fellow competitors/ Wimbledon Wombles at each stop than focus on the running. By the end, we were enjoying a nice leisurely walk to the finish line. This was probably the only race where I’d be proud of a DNF and we had even lapped one set of astute runners.

The course itself was a pleasant trail with some initial hills over the first couple of miles before we hit the main park itself. We were greeted with some delight by various day trippers who were also enjoying the sun. Obviously we weren’t the only ones who had considered running and drinking beer to be contradictory.

We did get a little bit lost at one point, but any sense of usual panic about losing time was absent and we just enjoyed trying to pick-up the trail of inebriated looking joggers.

Organisation – 10/10
Beer stops every few miles. They nailed it.

Race goodies – 10/10
Lots of beer. 🙂

Race route – 3/10
Just a couple of loops round Wimbledon Common. Very pleasant but not particularly challenging.

Adventure status – 6/10
The beer elevated the adventure status of the race.

We had a huge amount of fun during this race and will definitely be doing it again. It also drew our attention to another run we’re planning later during the year: the
Beer Lovers’ Marathon in Liege. Something to look forward to!

Onward to Arran!

Let’s assess what I said I would do:

1. Assuming I can manage 20miles/week on my first week back comfortably I should be fine. If I’m really struggling then there will need to be some re-consideration on my part. 

2. I will probably need to up my distance more rapidly than the guides stipulates three weeks in to ‘catch-up’; but this I’ll have to keep an eye on.  

3. Get some actual yoga sessions in.

4. Get a flu shot.

Me, 13th January 2019

OK – so I didn’t do 20miles/week on my first week back. Perusing the training forum I don’t think I clocked a 20mile week until w/c 4th February – almost a month later.

The following statement probably sums up my training: 

Was supposed to run 20mi on the weekend (like 10mi/day) – but spent Saturday hung over then Sunday I…just didn’t. 

Me, 4th February 2019

Or this one:

My plan for this morning to do a 20miler went out the window as I was supremely hungover and did not get out of bed until 1400… 

Me, 23rd February 2019 

That said, the day after saying this I did do 28miles (although 10 of that was walking…). That made my first 20mile+ week! (I think, I was a bit too lazy to actually check all the numbers).

Now, I did say some re-consideration may be needed on my part. Sensibly, yes – daftly, no. Last week I did manage 20mi/13mi back-to-back. Although none of the races we’ve done so far have been over a marathon distance… actually…I don’t think I’ve done a marathon yet this year…oh dear… 

Erm. 

OK, anyway – looking at the cut-off times for the Ultra Tour of Arran, they are 12hrs/day and right now I feel that I am able to comfortably meet that timing. Although I will not be running the whole thing. Sorry – but I think a heavy amount of walking will be on the menu.  

But, surely on the other 3 points I’ve done better? Based on the above I think we can skip over point #2 and get straight onto yoga! 

Well, whilst I didn’t go to a tonne of yoga classes I did spend lots of time stretching – until early March. At this point I started having some knee problems and calf issues. So, I’ve cut back on stretching, focusing instead on cross training on the bike (lots of spinning) in the last weeks leading up to the event.

Also, I didn’t get a flu shot. 

Ok, so I’m batting 0/4 going into the first ultra-marathon of the year. But, based on my running to date I am confident I will be able to complete it through adequate pacing. Two weeks to go, yay…

Don’t try this at home… 

Hadleigh Legacy 10k – Race Report – 27th January 2019

Distance – 10k over 2 laps
Course – Rocky, trail & mud

Benfleet. Not a name that makes you immediately think of running, or anything really (sorry Benfleet). So what were we doing early morning on a Sunday, sans coffee and at an isolated and graffitied train station in Essex? Well, this sleepy seaside location is home to a certain prominent mountain bike course featured in the the London 2012 Olympic Games. The race promo from the organisers (Castle Point Joggers) had promised hills, more hills, mud and more mud! How could we resist?!

This race appeared to literally be a steeper challenge than our previous ones in Crystal Palace and Stratford and, being on the coast, it was very windy! The race reception was a quick cab journey away and we hustled into the warmth to queue for food and coffee. Rather than have my usual unhealthy treat after the race, I went with one before…

If you’re wondering if I regretted this by the end of the race, you’d be right.

So pre-race nutrition was going well, but how about training? I’d failed to do much after the Stratford 10k, so was keen to make sure I improved on that record at least. I’d managed to attend a couple of pilates classes in a belated attempt to improve my core strength, which I think was likely behind many of my niggles. With a couple of mid-week runs tacked on, I felt relatively ok.

With the sound of Status Quo’s Rockin’ All Over The World, we started running. The organisers certainly weren’t wrong on the hills. We immediately plunged down a trail that had obviously been frequented by mountain bikes moments earlier and then curved round to go right back up the hill, which was pitted with interesting points of scenery like boulders/ concrete tunnels that I imagine muddy bike tires would make short work of. One thing I did enjoy in-between gasping for air was seeing the crowd trail off in front of me and behind as I progressed along the course.

Making the top of each hill was greeted with a windy applause; probably sarcastic as I definitely walked a fair bit. But these sections were balanced by some fun descents. I had some running battles with a few racers of a similar pace, but by the second lap we were having a good natured joke about the hills. Finally I neared the end and there was just a penultimate weaving hill climb and then a straight run up to the finish line.

At the end my watch read 9.25km, but to be honest I was thankful it wasn’t the full 10k. With over 200 metres of elevation gain, it was truly a challenging course. Probably quite entertaining with a mountain bike as well. I don’t think my enhanced core strength had helped, or my mid-week runs. Back to the training drawing board!

Organisation – 10/10
Well organised with a nearby cafe with junk food for me. Perfect. Brave wardens considering the wind as well.

Race goodies – 4/10
Jaffa cakes were on hand, but I’d had my treat already.

Race route – 6/10
Very challenging and great training for the start of the year. Lots of hills but not that much mud.

Adventure status – 4/10
A seagull looked at me funny at the station.

After the race we grabbed a lift back to the station and opted to wait for our train in a cosy pub instead of the windy station. The Anchor Inn was friendly, warm and had some tasty ales; as well as being 600 years old. Looks like there were at least two interesting things in Benfleet after all.

Crystal Palace 10k – Race Report – 13th January 2019

Distance – 10k over 2 laps
Course – Various (concrete, trail & gravel)

Another week, another race. Since my valiant running the week before at Stratford, my training hadn’t necessarily gone very well – in fact, I hadn’t done any at all, despite my best intentions. This will be the key for me in our upcoming programme and the driver for how much pain I’m going to be in. To start getting fitter, you need to be training at least a few times a week (running, cross-training, stretching, etc) rather than just a single outing at the weekend.

Today’s race was the Crystal Palace 10k, which incorporated two laps of Crystal Palace’s picturesque park. So not only would I get a look at some pleasant scenery while flitting between fellow park goers, I could also test myself against the substantial hill the park precariously balances on.

I took a different tack relative to the race at Stratford. Rather than start at my 10k pace and try and hold it, I thought I’d take it easy over the first few kilometres before pushing it. This strategy ended up working quite well as, ignoring an initial climb, it was pretty much downhill for a few kilometres. I managed to run my quickest kilometre (mildly proud) according to my new watch, assisted by my substantial bulk & gravity. Running downhill is definitely an acquired taste and something I took a while to get used to. I don’t think my knees necessarily agree. Either way, it was funny to uncontrollably rush past better runners and then see them run past me again on the hills.

My tactical (read lazy) approach allowed me to conserve my energy for the second lap, which I ran quicker by about 30 seconds per kilometre. I just had enough gas to have a cheeky sprint at the end as well.

Conserving energy mode

After such a strenuous run, it was only fair to treat myself. There is a fabulous café at Crystal Palace station called Brown And Green that I heartily recommend.

Nom nom nom…

Just like the Queen Elizabeth 10k, this was a nice, local run, but a bit of a step-up because of the hill. But hills are good!

Organisation – 10/10
RunThrough staff were nice and the race was well stewarded. Free photos published on facebook as well.

Race goodies – 4/10
Some low pH water. Not quite sure what’s going on there.

Race route – 6/10
I enjoyed the route and the hill was challenging…both times.

Adventure status – 3/10
Crystal Palace is slightly more adventurous than Stratford.

How about two runs?