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Welcome to my blog which I hope to develop with some interesting material on ultra running both on the trails and road including reports on races and interesting training runs, views on kit and equipment as well as anything else I find of interest. I love running for adventure, opportunity and well being. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Western States 2009 (take II)

Entry in and place confirmed for Western States 2009......

After the cancellation of this year's race due to forest fires the organisers offered places for the 2009 race to all those on the 2008 start list. It wasn't a particularly difficult decision to make, but it still involves a massive commitment both in terms of training and travel, and the decision required some serious thought. It is also the most prestigious ultra in the US and very hard to get a place, so the opportunity had to be taken.

Anyway, I have bitten the bullet and confirmed my entry so I will definitely be there at the start line in Squaw Valley next June. Looking forward to it already......

The Western States trail dropping down from Emigrant's Pass (June 2008)

The final climb up to Watson's monument at the top of Emigrant's Pass (June 2008)

Boddington - 50km Time Trial

On Saturday I ran what must be one of the UK's smallest ever races. Well technically it was a race, but at the same time it wasn't really. It was a 50km time trial, specifically setup so Lizzy Hawker and myself could 'prove fitness' (UKA rules) for the forthcoming World 100km championships taking place on 08 November in Italy. Prove fitness: we both did. Lizzy ran a superb time of 3hr 29mins, I was just ahead in 3hrs 22mins. Mentally it was a difficult 'race' to run. We were really just against the clock rather than each other, although the target times which we both achieved were not particularly easy.

Despite my admitted scepticism, it turned out to be quite a pleasant affair. The course was the one used for the annual Boddington 50km, just north of Gloucester, on a 3.5km flat road loop along pleasant country lanes which were very peaceful aside from plenty of farm traffic! Conditions were good - foggy and chilly with no breeze - perfect for fast running.

It was really a case of job well done. It is still only four weeks since the Ultra Trail, and to be running that sort of distance, at a brisk-ish pace, is still a bit risky. But we can both now look forward to the event itself in less than six weeks time. Back to the speedwork on the roads.......

Hardmoors (110) Heroes

The Hardmoors 110 is a new race to the ultra running calendar and from the evidence of it's first running last weekend (26-28 September 2008) it will grow and become a great success in years to come. The UK has very few ultra trail races above 80miles in distance, in fact you could probably count them on one hand, so it is great to see a new event established.

In my view a classic route is the most important criteria for a successful trail race and that's where Hardmoors scores maximum points. There is no doubting the Cleveland Way, which runs 110 miles from Helmsley to Filey, is an absolute classic, and extremely tough at the same time. It combines classic rolling hills, remote moorland, coastal cliff paths and plenty of cumulative ascent/ descent. The runners reported it was more UTMB than WHW, in other words a serious challenge.

I was due to be marshalling a checkpoint for the race but unfortunately had to pull out due to commitments elsewhere, so instead I attended the prizegiving in Filey on Sunday lunchtime where there was a fantastic post race atmosphere, and plenty of talk about a hugely successful race.

The race organisers, Jon and Martin, deserved all the praise they got for putting on an excellent event, and all the signs are that it will grow to be as successful as races like the WHW race which this year filled it's 175 places in a matter of weeks.

L to R: Mike Mason, Jon Steele (Race Director), Julian Pansiot, Mark Barnes, Murdo McEwan, Jez Bragg

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc - 166km - 9400m +/-

I’ve now discovered the measure of a bad race; not being able to face the blog write-up for a week…….

My UTMB run was a massive personal disappointment; I finished way off target in 38th place, in a time of 27hours 28 minutes. I had high hopes this year, and for some reason, it just didn’t quite come together. To start with the heat was a big factor. My core body temperature was above what it should have been before the start, and then the humid early evening conditions had me suffering far too early on in the race. The sweat was pouring off on the first climb up Col de Voza, and I simply couldn’t get enough fluids and salts back into my body to keep everything working as it should do. Coupled with the heat my stomach was bad and simply wasn’t playing ball. It is a long standing problem which causes me trouble even when I’m not running, and it was just unfortunate that my recent bad patch coincided with the race. In the end it took nine hours – until Lac Combal – for me to settle down into the race properly, feel as though I was in control and to start running with some purpose.

In and out of Cormayeur I felt great, and at that point I actually felt it wasn’t too late to pull back enough time for a respectable finish. My climb up to Refuge Bertone was strong, and all the way up Val Ferret I was a new man, but perhaps not surprisingly, my troubles returned on the way up to Grand Col de Ferret to the extent that I was just getting plain frustrated. From there I was starting to lose time again when I desperately needed to be pushing on, and so followed a painfully slow down hill to Praz du Fort followed by a crawl up to Champex. There I met my fabulous support crew who tracked me right through to the end including Caroline and members of her family. They provided massive psychological support and dragged me through the final ups and downs of the race to ensure I did see it through. Without them the outcome would have been much worse, that’s for sure.

Without wanting to dwell too much on my personal disappointment, the UTMB race itself is undoubtedly going from strength to strength. It was great to be involved in what has to be the world’s biggest and best 100 miler - what other race comes close? Once again Chamonix had a special buzz from the race being in town and the support, organisation and strength of the field all matched the race's world class status. No doubt the bar will be raised even higher next year and even more people will want to be part of it.