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Breathing in the forest air, my heartbeat and footfall are settling into rhythm as I climb the trail... The autumnal canopy is scattering bronze, copper and golden jewels like a carpet beneath my feet. Ducking under a spiderweb laced with diamonds of morning dew, I see the stag as he scampers deeper into the forest.... My muscles and heart are pumped as I push up and out of the tree line and onto the ridge. Climbing up onto the top of the world, and a panorama I silently soak in. A buzzard lazily flaps away from the cairn. Now the fun begins as I run down the trail, twisting, turning, feeling every contour of the earth beneath the soles of my feet. A log to jump, a branch I scoop under, my feet going quicker, quicker, dancing down into the tree line as a fox darts across my path.... This blog is based on tales of my trail and ultra running exploits. Enjoy!!!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Shropshire Way Ultra 55

Most of my Ultra adventures seem to begin as I leave the front door and this was no exception....

Logistics of the linear race meant I dropped my car at the finish, then undertook a 2 mile jog in the dark, solo, along a dodgy B-Road to the nearest railway station in the delightful Craven Arms.

I survived the South Shropshire drivers but the Shropshire rail passengers on a Saturday night on Halloween have left me scarred for life...

Maybe it was I who was the weird one, dressed in my race gear and backpack on such a Saturday night? :-D

Anyway, costumes revealing not such pretty sights and comments such as "You can spend a long time skinny, in your coffin!", followed by a train ride to Wellington where a cocktail of spilled beer and p*ss  sloshed about the carriage in true Saturday night style..... made up the eve of my Ultra race.

The Minihanes quickly bought some sanity back with food and drink and a bed for the night... It seemed perfectly normal to us, to be running 55 miles on Sunday, to finish after dark, travel home, get washed up and some shut-eye, then up for work as normal on Monday morning... I'm sure work colleagues disagree.

So Sunday morning saw an early start... We were grateful for the extra hours kip due to clock change.

Highlight of the journey to the start venue, was when I decided Marks positive driving techniques would be better appreciated from the back seat with my eyes closed. So I frantically fumbled to operate the shiny rear door handle only to discover it was a petrol cap and the car only had two doors....

The runners turned out on time and we were off. A very small, but rather competitive field...
Safe in the knowledge that all I had to do to take home the 1st lady trophy.... was to complete! That was in the bag, unless I died trying.

We knew it would start with 12 miles of road and although it flew by pretty rapidly, it really took its toll on my legs. Maybe X-Talons were not the best choice, I developed a pain in a muscle on the inside of my calf, that I never knew existed...

Anyway, as with most Ultra's the niggles subside, things go numb and I find myself putting one foot in front of another, in a mostly pleasant air of contentment, to reach my goal.

I usually run an ultra solo, because I can run freely with my energy flux as it dips into lows, and soars way up high! So running in a team that stayed together was a new experience...

I felt pretty naff early on, the guys clearly had a slightly quicker "comfortable" pace than me and I was spiralling down, psychologically. I kept telling them to jog on, but they wouldn't.

Then as I was having a "proper strop" through the trails of Haughmond Hill, Daz turned up to run with us, and what a lift he gave me! "Storm" ran/walked by my side into Shrewsbury and it really picked me up.

After Salop we called in at Andros's mothers in Bayston Hill and she fed us Cypriot bbq chicken, marinated peppers and olives and homemade bread.
OMG... proper food gave me super energy and for many miles after I was flying! So much so, that I ran ahead through boggy trails then sprawled out on the ground chewing on a grass stem, waiting for the lads :-)

We checked in at Lyth Hill, so lovely to see Jan and the kids at every CP.... sorely missing my little 'un... He wasn't there, but maybe he will read my blog one day?!!

So we pushed on with a flying descent of Lyth Hill,.. only my fell running habits kept my quads in one piece!
A bit of tarmac to Pulverbatch  and then.... true South Shropshire.... our stomping ground!
After a super gluggy boggy climb up onto Betchcott Hills, I was chomping at the bit! I knew Bridges was a couple of miles of perfect, scenic, downhill twisty trail away.....

The Horseshoes (aka The Bridges) at Rattlinghope (aka Ra-chop) really is the perfect country pub, so it would be rude not to sup a swift half (LMH de ja vu) for the ditch!

Quickly washed down with a pot noodle and up onto the Mynd. The first and only proper climb, and it was tough. It was freezing as we ran across the gliding field, Andros was very strong, he had no mercy.. run! If we run, we will be home quicker!

We chased the muddy footpaths, up the 78 steps ( I counted) and kept pushing down to Sibdon Castle, the finish! To warm, smiling faces and plenty of bling!

Steve Worrallo put on a great race...  SW (that's Shropshire Way, not Steve Worrallo!) was an iota of the Races he has put on this year... check out


I will remember SW as a gift from a friend who couldn't run (Thanks Rog!), I will remember running with Mark and Andros from start to finish (you nearly killed me!), and thanks to Jan and Steve for great checkpoint food and support...........

Phew... rant over :-)

Friday, 26 October 2012

Longmynd Hike 2012

As this year's Hike approached I was feeling somewhat cocky, I'd completed three Ultra's and a number of trail marathons during the past year. Heck, I'd done CCC! The Hike should be a warm-down after that ;-)

My knees and joints had strengthened up as a result of a years trail running with my new club - the Wolf Pack.

So my question this year was not "Can I do it?" but "How fast can I do it?"!!!!

Trouble is with running with the Wolves... they are mostly faster than me and I bust a gut trying to keep them in sight!! So Hike 2012 was by no means a doddle. I blame Mark Minihane for making it a tough day, but I also thank him for helping me get a PB!

Registration was a hive of busy bees stressing about taped seams, micropore and reflective strips. For those unfamiliar with Hike registration... you basically have to carry specific kit in case of emergency and this is checked pre-race.

Anyway we all made it through check-in and went for breakfast. I thought a Full English was perfectly acceptable but the others thought I was a bit nuts....

We walked up to the starting field, fired up and ready to go. My plan this year was to go out quite hard and hope to be grouped with some reasonably paced runners, then survive the second half without slowing anybody down....

We were off... the charge towards Caradoc is always too fast, but when the adrenalin is pumping, who cares!! Pretty soon my heart, lungs and legs were also pumping... lactic acid, as we started the first steep climb. So I settled into my own pace and said goodbye to James and Kris. I kept Droid in sight a little longer, but soon he was gone and then Mark.

Down Caradoc weeeeee.....! Up Lawley urrrrgh......!

I decided it was time for some music as I tackled the insane steepness and it gave me wings. I went a bit loopy coming back down Lawley and over took several people including Mark and Droid. A fun descent it was though!

On the flat bits across the valley, I swiftly lost all the places I made up on the descent! :-D

I had Mark in view ahead and really, this was when he started pushing me on, not that he knew it.
I caught up during the long slog up Gog B**ch and we endured that section together up onto the Mynd. Very much deja vu, as we had ended up doing that section together in the Skyline a few weeks before.

Then as it flattened out, I got left behind again, but I wasn't going to push above my aerobic threshold, not on a 50 miler!

I continued solo all the way to Stiperstones, all quite uneventful really... just plod, plod plod. Tarmac always bores me!

Then off the road and onto the Stiperstones, this was a turning point in my race... I was up for it now!
I pushed on up the climb then flew along the ridge, 20 minutes of pure "foot to eye" co-ordination and not for a moment could I let that concentration lapse....

Stiperstones ridge is strewn with... errr stones!  Many people walk this section as its easy to turn an ankle.
Droid had said "If you can run Stipers, you will make up loads of time on people". He was not wrong, and the more I overtook, the faster I went!!

My reccying payed off when I took the maize field route and I over took a few more who chose to hit the tarmac. Down into Habberley for refreshments and through the cow poo track, on up to Earls Hill. Still feeling good and not far behind Mark. I was out to get him, but for company really, nothing competitive, I know he kicks my ass with his speed! Back down the hill and through the cow poo again... lovely aroma!

Next came the long roady stretch from Woodgate to Tankerville... I ran with Ben and Chris at times, I still felt good and wanted to catch Mark.... I was grinding out a run/power walk/run routine and as I came to Shelve CP, he was just about to leave. I decided to give refreshments a miss. I wanted to group with him rather than wait for the guys behind me who were cramping up and getting slower.... (how cruel!)

So various people faffed about, groups kept changing, but eventually Mark, Stu and I were pointed outside to join two others lads, who were waiting.. I promise you now, when they looked at me they failed to hide their look of despair. I can only assume they thought I was going to slow them down....

This made me VERY determined NOT to slow them down. After a bad start (where I needed to stop for a pee, therefore slowing them down!), we all ran comfortably together across the fields and to the bottom of Corndon. Here I decided to take the lead and push quite hard to show them I wasn't going to tag along at the back all night!

The group worked well together I believe, and we made our way steadily across towards the Mynd. Some were stronger than others, some better on flats, others on hills...
I'd say I was probably mid-group, not the slowest, but Mark and Stu were definitely stronger at times.
Simon really started to suffer on the descents... Mark kept us all running on the flats... That is what grouping is all about I suppose... give and take and lots of encouragement!

Ragleth was pure evil to climb, it was the same as 2011... it was enough to stop myself falling backwards! But this year the descending was fine :-)

Through the town to the finish, I think Mark would have happily sprinted... but I had nothing left, I could only jog. I think I did give Hike 2012 my best shot and was really happy with my time 11h22m. Taking 1h30m off last years time :-)