1000 Mile Socks- Breeze Multi-Sport Review

2014

I will keep this review short, as most people find a pair of trail running socks they like and stick to them. But I was tempted to try something new to see if I could be torn away from my Drymax Trail running socks, which I love.

These are excellent in wet and miserable conditions but can get a little hot on warm days so I wanted to test something for the summer months that would keep my feet cooler but also offer adequate protection on long ultramarathons and training runs.

In the past I used some twin-skin socks to try and avoid blisters, but found I got worse blisters then ever so it was with some hesitancy that I first ran in the 1000 mile socks. However, as my boss says “buy cheap, buy twice” and I realised these socks were a million miles away from my budget first attempt.

First off, they come with a blister free guarantee. That is quite a statement but having put 50 miles on them on Saturday in the first half of the NDW100 they lived up to the statement. At the halfway point I changed into the trusty Drymax as I knew the storm was coming in and I wanted to use a sock I had used for hundreds of wet weather runs and I didn’t want to take any chances on the day.

The Breeze Multi-Sport are incredibly comfortable and knitted with ‘NILIT’ fibres which are designed to release trapped heat and keep feet cool in any weather, but particularly on hot days. The inner section of the sock clings to the foot and allows heat to release to the outer layer which rubs along the inner layer and lets heat rise. Because the fabric rubs against each other and not skin, there really is no blistering but I imagine getting the size right is key. I went for the large and these were perfect- designed for UK size 9-11.5 feet.

The thickness of the socks is good for hard wearing and they are very supportive and comfortable. There’s not much more to say, than these are my new favourite summer socks. You can buy them here.

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North Downs Way 100- Race Report 2014

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Yep. Back again.

I honestly don’t know where to begin with this one. Several people have said they are looking forward to me writing this and I hope they aren’t disappointed as my memory of parts of this race is already blurred. I suppose running non-stop for 28 hours and 36 minutes, losing some parts of the race is inevitable.

The quick version- I finished. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t enjoyable but it was oh so worth it. I have dreamed of finishing a 100 mile race since 2011 and I was genuinely worried I just wasn’t capable, but I have completed one of the toughest ones in the UK with some of the most appalling weather so whilst I am broken as I write this, I know I will have extremely fond memories of what an achievement it was in the next few weeks and months.

I really set myself up for this one and laid out four reasons why I had to finish what I started last year. I put a huge amount of pressure on myself which certainly helped drive me through the low patches but also gave me no margin for error. I had to get this one right.

Overall, I cannot emphasise enough how much I did not run this race alone. I may have been the one who ran it, but you can’t run a 100 alone.

My folks came up on Friday morning and took care of the kids for the weekend, whilst Solange and I made our way to Farnham to register the night before and get an early night. Knowing the kids were at home and waiting for me to bring them the buckle on Sunday was a big deal for me and I knew they would have a great weekend with Mum and Dad.

Having Solange with me the night before and there at times on the day and waiting at the finish was also huge. I tend to do these races alone but she wanted to be there as a volunteer and it was so good to know she would be there at the end, whatever time I made it. I also knew she would run the kitchen at the half way aid station like a Field Marshall and I wasn’t disappointed…

After a pretty rubbish nights sleep, which I have grown begrudgingly accustomed to before a big race, I was up at 4am to get myself ready, have breakfast and mentally prepare myself for the day. We got to the start around 5:30am just in time for the race briefing as I didn’t fancy hanging around any earlier and having nervous chats. I just wanted to be alone and then start, which ended up being a theme for the day. It was not a social run for me and I was the least chatty I have ever been at a race to date.

Soon after we started I noticed a rubbing pain between my big toe and second toe and stopped to remove the tape I had used on the big toe. This was a mistake to have even taped them in the first place. Everyone knows it is stupid to do something new on race day, but I had seen the state of Jez’s feet post Western States and didn’t fancy losing any toenails myself, so opted to tape at least the big ones. But this meant the tape was rubbing on the second toe and I had a small blister between the toes on each foot. It was annoying now, but would become a real problem later. With hindsight, I should have just used bodyglide or Vaseline as normal and I wouldn’t have had any issues.

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Around Mile 13. Photo: Dave Stephenson.

I told Chris Mills, who was set to pace me from mile 50 or 60, that I should get to halfway in around 11 hours. Having run the first half four times now I know it very well and know my splits even going conservatively. Nothing of any significance happened in the first 50 and I got to halfway in exactly 11:05, bang on target. My whole focus to halfway was to keep it steady, not push whatsoever and if at any point it felt like I was exerting, to walk and start again at a slower pace. Essentially, I wanted to let my body carry me to halfway and be as fresh as possible. I spent minimal time in any of the aid stations, aside from Caterham where I was chatting to (the lovely) Gemma Bragg and (not so lovely) Bryan Webster. I think he called me some mean words and made me leave quickly which was a good thing, but only after I had the jelly and ice cream, which in previous runs I have felt too sick to even try. This was a good sign and tasted amazing. I tried to run the whole of the first half on ‘real food’ and would then rely on gels and shot bloks the second half when I couldn’t face proper food anymore. It was pretty warm, but no big deal and I found I was mostly favouring the savoury food like mini scotch eggs, peanuts and sausage rolls.

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Harnessing the angry man. Reigate Hill, Mile 31. Photo: Dave Stephenson.

As I came into halfway I got a big cheer from the people outside the village hall waiting for their runners and then headed inside to get ready for the unknown. This is where I have always finished and where I dropped last year. Having heard I was coming, Solange wouldn’t even let me in the front door in case I sat down and dropped, but I insisted I was absolutely fine and ready for a lot of food and a change of clothes. Having read lots of other blogs from last year, I knew it was sensible to take fifteen minutes here to have a bowl of pasta, soup and tea before changing my t-shirt and Buff so I was fresh and dry for the next part. I sat down and chatted to a few people, the first time I had really wanted to talk all day and before I knew it I was on the road again. I saw Pat Hall at this point who had sadly dropped, but he kindly offered to take my spare shoes to the 82 mile check point so I could change shoes in the early hours if needs be. I wasn’t ready to yet but might be later so this was a real saving grace- thanks, Pat.

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Halfway there. Distance wise, not time…

As I left the village hall I said to Solange and Nikki Mills (new best mates) that 100 yards down the road, this would be the furthest I have ever run. And I was ready for it.

And…into the unknown. I knew it was 10 miles to the next checkpoint but that the terrain would gradually get more difficult with tired legs and brain as well as genuinely being seriously tough going between miles 65 and 85. I told Chris I didn’t need pacing yet but would see him at mile 60 and someone kindly offered him a lift there. I estimated this would take me two hours at best but more like three, realistically so he was prepared for that and I wasn’t rushing. I was well up on the cut off’s at this point and wanted to keep a steady jogging pace until I could jog no more. I genuinely thought the time I had “banked” on the first half would pay huge dividends, but it didn’t quite work out like that.

This 10 mile section felt like it went on forever. Much of it was through built up areas and the pavement really started to hurt on my feet and legs compared with the trail. That said, at least it wasn’t cambered and it was pleasant to jog without having to watch my every step for a rut or rock or tree root. I jogged well here I feel and went past a few people looking like they were suffering. One of these was David Ickringill, who I am delighted to say also finished and gutted out the second half. For much of the first half, David was running with Paul Haynes but Paul had now headed forwards at his own pace but David was upbeat and plodding along.

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Logging a few miles before the lovely Kat Ganly dropped me and was 2nd female! Photo: Dave Stephenson.

Later, rather than sooner, I got to Wrotham and was greeted by the lovely Mimi Anderson and Chris, all set to pace me. It was now 42.6 miles to go and my head started to really want to focus on this distance as a whole and not the aid stations along the way as I wanted it to. The distance left was an ultra in itself and I was already tired and sore. I was so thankful to now have Chris to get me to the finish but also felt for him that he had a pretty shitty night ahead of him with Bobby Cheerful, here. I warned him of this beforehand and he pretty much said what I needed him to; “Get the fuck up, we are getting this done”.

It was only five miles to the next checkpoint, but I have no idea what happened in this section. I literally cannot remember a thing. I know we got lost at one point and I know it got dark and put our headtorches on, but aside from that I cannot remember zip. All I know is I was mixing up jogging with walking and at some point we ended up at mile 65 which is Holly Hill. I can’t tell you what the terrain was like or anything, although I guess we must have climbed a hill or two! Not a clue.

I was looking like shit at this aid station and the team there, led by Richard Goulder, got me sat down and some tea into me. I was downing tea all night and it really hit the spot. I didn’t fancy any food but knew I must eat to keep going so gagged down a cheese sandwich and some fruit, followed by a gel or two. Chris said I could have three minutes in the chair and then we were to be off. That was reasonable. It was pitch black here and the aid station was set up with Christmas lights and the team in various outfits from santa himself to elves. It really didn’t help my delirious state of mind.

On we plodded- 11 miles now to mile 76.2 and again I have little memory of this, aside from needing Vaseline for the unmentionables and getting some from a lovely crew waiting for their runner. We knew that the tail end of Hurricane Bertha was set to hit around 1am so Chris was trying to push me to get as many “quick” miles (15 min miles…) under my belt as possible before the inevitable deluge. And I think we ran this section quite well. I know we stopped a few times and I was a tad sore, but nothing outrageous yet and we just kept grinding out the miles.

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The selfless, yet relentless, Mills’sssss.

I’ve checked with Chris since, as I have no idea if my brain recalls correctly, but I’m glad he told me I didn’t really whinge (if his blog says I did, ignore that- you remember the cow and bull incident). I had no right to whinge as this was my choice to run, but in order to keep him informed I was honest whenever he asked me how I felt. Overall, it was only three things- chafing on the unmentionables, the lower part of my shins and between my toes where the bloody tape had done its worst. All of these could be managed and Chris did my thinking for me. He got me Vaseline when I needed it (but refused to apply it, the wimp), freeze spray for my shins and had the first aiders bandage my feet later in the run so I could finish. Up to this point he had plastered my feet himself, about three times I think, and let me know they truly stank. At least that helped keep him awake as well.

Just before Bluebell Hill, at 76.2 miles, the rain started to really come down. We got our jackets on and hoods up and prepared for a long trudge to the finish, but were still well inside of the cut offs. Here I was really starting to feel the pain but I also knew if I got through the next five miles to the Detling Aid Station that come hell or high water (both, incidentally) I would finish. But I was probably bugging Chris as I kept asking if we were ok for time. I kept trying to do calculations and he repeatedly told me to shut up and run and he would do the thinking.

We marched the flats, walked the ups and jogged the downs and were still churning out 15 minute miles. 4 miles an hour at this stage on this terrain was pretty good going and Chris set the tempo for me to fall in line behind. By now I was so reliant on Chris that I really needed him near me. I was completely lost and there was no way I could have followed the trail markings without him. This was my first night time section of a race and it was strange to just be following the little beam of my torch and have no bearings for what was coming next. I was also becoming increasingly less chatty, so when Chris shouted out things like “Step!” or “Branch!” as he moved ahead of me I could no longer even muster a “thanks, mate” but just a “yep”.

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I can’t tell you what this photo did for my spirits at halfway. Monty and Luena with my Mum.

At night, runners often bunch together as well. Probably mainly for security of navigation but also maybe some inner sense that being alone in the woods in a howling gale isn’t a good thing. Having become increasingly grumpy, I really struggled with other runners joining us and getting inbetween me and Chris. With hindsight this was pathetic, but at the time he was literally what felt like my lifeline and I had to see him to know I was OK. I think he understood this and whilst we didn’t try and shake off other runners, he did push them to the front or the rear so I could follow him. It was just a very raw experience, I don’t know how else to express it.

We came down off a very steep hill eventually to be greeted by a headtorch who’s owner told us we had 1.5 miles to Detling aid station. Chris was unbelievable with navigation and distance monitoring so this threw him and me as he had just told me it was less than a few hundred yards. Tiny in the real world, but this distance discrepancy was really messing with my head and I almost started crying. By this point I was like a toddler in the car, every mile asking “are we nearly there yet?”. How Chris kept his cool and didn’t deck me, I have no idea. Fortunately, Chris was right and the torch was wrong, we were at Detling. It was 3:30am and I knew I would now finish, with 8.5 hours to run just over 22 miles. Even in my state, I could do that.

This was the last indoor aid station and I was told in no uncertain terms to eat two bowls of pasta before we left. This I did, as another amazing volunteer removed my socks and tended to my feet with Vaseline. I threw the socks away at this point, got a fresh pair on but opted for the same shoes as before- my North Face Ultra Guides. I was going to change to the Hoka’s that Pat had kindly dropped off, but I knew they were crap in the mud and rain, so kept with the Guides, as they are just an excellent shoe.

From here we entered hell. This section I had a read about and thought I trained on a few weeks ago. However, it turns out I had trained on the section before this in the other direction which we had just ran (which was bad enough), so I was completely unprepared. James Elson, the RD, was at the Detling aid station and he told us just to hike this and not panic, after these five miles it was relatively easy terrain so to save my legs for the end. We budgeted two hours for these five miles and only just did it in that time. I am not going to talk about this section because if you have run it you will know and if you haven’t, you will never enter the NDW100. It was sickening.

But as the torture ended and the rain wiped away my tears, the sun started to rise at 5:30am. I had 17 ish miles to run and had six and a half hours. Here we go, this is going to happen. But I was really cold now and soaked through. My waterproof is a good one, but no waterproof can hold of the storm we had that night. I was also wet inside from sweating which was fine when jogging but when we walked I was shivering. Chris got me his waterproof trousers (I will never do a 100 miler again and not carry some of these) and gloves and I felt like a new man. He kept up the pace, we removed our torches and I trudged behind. Sometimes we would run up to a mile before I needed to stop for a walk break, but other times it must have been 200 yards. It must have been so hard for Chris, but like me running with Sam at the end of the GUCR, I knew it was indirectly rewarding at the end.

Around this time, Chris told me one of the female leaders had dropped at the 98 mile aid station. This really got to me and I became very worried about being pulled from the race myself as I was so confused by now. But he said that wouldn’t happen and just to keep moving and warm- the sunshine would do the rest.

Eventually we got to Lenham and I sat down to be greeted by the lovely Jacqui Byrne who got me tea and food and gave me some much needed words of encouragement. Never once did dropping enter my mind, but I was honest and said I felt like shit but was going to finish. As we got up to leave, my blister became agony again and so I quickly hopped in the first aiders ambulance to get my feet looked at. I wanted to finish strong and I could do it with the pain I had but much quicker if dealt with. The ambulance was so warm and cozy…I could so easily have dropped, but Chris kept looking at me and was ready to punch me in the face (as requested) if needs be. The first aider was amazing. He got both my shoes and socks off and bandaged my feet fully so I couldn’t feel a thing through my shoes. It was like running on fresh feet and so as I hobbled back into the cold, Chris and I made good time on to the final check point at mile 98.

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The aftermath. ‘More Parmesan, Sir?”

I was telling Chris I felt drunk and he said that was probably normal. I sent him ahead as we got close to the final aid station at mile 98 as I said I didn’t want to go into it. I wanted him to bring me a tea with six sugars and several cookies. This I remember clearly. As I arrived, he gave me these and we were off with a quick thanks to the volunteers.

Just four and a half miles to go and plenty of time. I got my phone out and switched it on to call Solange and let her know I would be in within an hour and a half or so. As she answered I just lost it and couldn’t stop crying, we both knew what this finish meant to me and I was about to do it. I turned the phone off and Chris asked if the wind just affected my voice. Agh, his eyes looked a little red too. He knew what we had achieved that night.

Trudge, trudge, slip, slip, “can I sit down for a minute?”, “no you fucking cant”, trudge, trudge, slip, slip and we were in Wye. As we made our way the final few hundred yards to the finish, of all the things to happen but the railway barriers came down! I had the choice of a steep looking footbridge or wait for the barriers. My look told Chris I was waiting for the barriers but I think he took the stairs and headed off to let me finish alone. Here I met Jonathan Ho and he was as broken as me. We hugged and supported each other as made our way to finish and then out ran Simon Edwards, who is just one of the nicest blokes in the world. He told me what I had done and what it meant to other people as well as me and just set me off into tears. The three of us walked up and there was the finish and there was Solange. I lost it and just bawled. I hugged everyone there, especially Chris and Sol and got my photo and the buckle.

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There she is.

Chris was the most selfless pacer and gave up 15 hours of sleep to run with me through awful weather and my mood swings, ailments and conditions. Sol and I planned before the race to give him one of my NDW50 medals as a small gesture as he ran an ultra for nothing, for me. It was so good to give this to him at the end and thank you, mate. You made my finish happen and I am forever grateful.

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100 mile buckle. 50 mile medal. We both earned them.

As for my buckle, I don’t want to let it out of my sight, it means so much to me, but it will soon be winging its way to Louisiana for a much better purpose than me keeping it. This race wasn’t for me alone, it was everything that has happened in this last year and all the people that made it possible.

I cannot thank all of the volunteers enough, the first aiders, the supporters, the other crews. These aren’t races, they aren’t even runs. Aside from the leaders, I would call these missions. And everyone helps everyone else achieve their mission, for whatever reason carried them there in the first place.

I am really quite proud to now truly call myself a centurion and an ultrarunner. If I can do this, anyone can.

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About 38 seconds after I finished.

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An Interview with: Rob Krar

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Rob Krar wins Western States 2014: Credit Bryon Powell/ iRunFar.com

This man needs no introduction. But I’ll let him have one, anyway. Rob burst into ultrarunning with a fastest known time on the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim in April 2013. He then went on to run one of the fastest times ever on one of the hottest days ever at Western States, marginally losing out to Timothy Olson. He was later crowned Ultrarunning Magazine’s Runner of the Year.

Following coming second at Western States in 2013, Rob set himself a goal. It was a goal he didn’t tell anyone, not even his partner Christina. But she knew deep down and many ultrarunners could guess. To win Western States when he returned in 2014.

In one of the deepest field ever Rob won- and by a big margin- only the second time someone has run sub 15 hours on the full course. One of the nicest and quietest guys in a sport full of nice quiet guys, I chatted to Rob to discuss his plans after that huge win and what he has coming up next.

So much has been said of your epic run at Western States this year on iRunFar and other sites that I won’t repeat questions, but how has the recovery been this last month and how has the victory now sunk in?

It’s going on 5 weeks now since WS and I had a really great recovery and short training cycle as I’m now backing off the miles and intensity leading into the Leadville 100M on August 16th. Each ultra completed I’ve been a little less sore than the past and the length of time it takes my body to get over the initial full blown body soreness has become shorter.

By Monday evening I was walking with a normal stride and feeling quite well overall. Regardless, I believe there is residual fatigue and muscle breakdown that need to be respected and I took over a week off without running a step.

My tentative plan from early in the year was to run Leadville if I recovered well from WS. The break after WS was short and after the initial euphoria of the win subsided I haven’t had a whole lot of time to reflect on the day. I’m making a strong push over the summer with Leadville and Run Rabbit Run 100M in September and plan a long one month break after that and hope to soak it all in then.

You pretty much dedicated a year of your life to returning to Western States in 2014 and winning it. Can you imagine dedicating yourself in a similar way for such a length of time to just one race again?

Yet to be determined. I don’t sit down and pensively plan my races and goals. I tend to let my race schedule form more organically rather than searching for it. The WS goal came very naturally and was significant enough that I didn’t hesitate to commit to it. At the moment there no races or goals in my mind that I’d dedicate such a great length of time to.

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The moment it sunk in. Credit: Bryon Powell/ iRunFar.com

After WS 2014 you had a number of races you were considering. Have you made any firm commitments as of yet?

Leadville August 16th and Run Rabbit Run September 12th. Successively running three 100M races so close together is another big goal for 2014 and a way to challenge myself in a way I haven’t done before. It’s a bit of an experiment really—how do I recover, train, and rest most effectively between the three races.

You have a great position on the Ultra Trail World Tour (UTWT) now- do you have any international races lined up? I know a lot of people who would love to see you race in Europe? 

I’ve worked as an overnight pharmacist at a retail store the past 12 years. I work seven overnight shifts in a row (9pm to 7am) then have the following seven days off and the weeks begin and end mid-week. It allows for plenty of time off throughout the year but is also very inflexible to traveling much further than North America. I hope to make some changes in 2015 which will allow me time to travel over the pond for a few races.

Having only been running ultras for just over a year and having been essentially catapulted onto the world stage, how has it been adjusting to fame within the ultrarunning community? 

Fame is a relative term! Everything has been great with the biggest challenge simply being not having enough time in the day to accomplish everything I’d wish to. Sponsor, media, and social commitments are part of the game and it’s been fun learning the ropes. The ultrarunning community has been very welcoming and supportive and having dipped my toes around the track and along the roads, I can easily say I feel the most comfortable and am the happiest runner I’ve ever been amongst the diverse population of ultrarunners.

Many top ultrarunners now do not have day jobs, but not only do you work full time, you work a very difficult one week on, one week off night shift as a pharmacist. This must make training all the more difficult? 

I’ve been working the shift for so long I’ve certainly developed a method to the madness but admittedly it’s become more challenging now that I’m fully committed to ultras. The longer miles spent on the trails translates to less time for rest and recovery and I’m often finding myself with little time to spare between finishing a long run in the mountains before I’m headed to work to spend the next 10 hours on my feet—certainly far from ideal rest and recovery. I’m getting it done for now but question how long the schedule is sustainable.

You live and train in Flagstaff, Arizona which is fast becoming the new Boulder, Colorado or Chamonix, France as an ultrarunning mecca. Did you choose to live here for this reason or did it all come about by chance through work etc? 

Like so many other things in my life it was really chance that I ended up in Flagstaff. It was meant to be a short move from Phoenix in 2005 while I studied for my Canadian board exams with plans to move north once I’d passed. I hadn’t run in years but met some folks shortly after I moved to Flagstaff and slowly found myself running and getting fit again and focused on the roads for a few years. It wasn’t until 2012 though until I really embraced the trails, and Flagstaff has been the perfect place to explore and train for the longer trail races. More people are certainly discovering the wealth of trails Flag has to offer which is exciting.  For me it is the city as a whole as well as the trails that made Flag home in 2005 and continues to keep me here.

I saw you at several moments at Western States and you were incredibly focused. But you also had your Partner, Christina, by your side at all the key moments. What did it mean having her there with you- sharing that epic run, knowing what you wanted that day?

It was huge having Christina crewing me out there even though I doubt we said more than a handful for words to each other the entire race! I really appreciate the bond that we have and it means a lot to me that I can come through an aide station and see her face – I find her energy comforting and feel so lucky to have someone who can read my mood and energy without saying a word. It was amazing sharing the day with her as she plays such an integral role in my health, happiness, and success in training and racing.

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Rob & Christina at The Grand Canyon. Credit: iRunFar.com

You strike me as a very grounded and humble individual. Do you feel your calm personality helps you prepare for a race well?

I really believe actions speak louder than words and believe that is reflected in my training and racing. I think I would call myself a pretty pensive person, I spend a lot of time in my head – I think this attribute lends itself well to the long and sometimes lonely miles of training. I like to do the majority of my running alone to give myself time to think and I think this also can help in the mental preparation for a long race. I’m happy to share and discuss when folks are interested but also feel it’s important for me to find a balance and maintain the intimacy of what running has become for me. Staying relatively quiet and keeping it personal allows me to stand on a starting line very confident of what I’m capable of.

If you could change one thing about ultrarunning, what would that be? 

That is a tough question.  I really support the growth of the sport on the elite side.  I think that it is exciting to see this newer aspect and the money and sponsorships provide more opportunity to make a life out of what we all love so much.

The exposure that this brings is a wonderful thing bringing more people out to test their limits and lead a healthy lifestyle.  Overall I think I would really like to see the continual growth in the number of races out there, as with the lotteries and other pressures many of the most well known races can only be entered through luck.  Providing more opportunities to create new “classics” is a great thing.

I also think we need to continue to have strong advocates for conservation and preservation in the sport who help keep an active conversation in the community about how to minimize the impact we have on the areas we all love to run in.

Now you have ticked Western States off your victory list, do you think you will return or will your focus move to other races?

WS has quickly found a special place in my heart and I will most certainly be returning in the future. Its history, the volunteers and organization of the race, the energy and competition—it really stands above the rest for me and I feel very fortunate for my experiences there.

You are quite rare in the fact that you seem to excel at a range of ultra distance events. Do you have a favourite distance?

I hesitate to say this because I still think it’s a really, really long time to be running, but I think the mental and physical challenge the 100M distance presents is my favourite and likely my strongest distance.

Many of your The North Face team-mates have set some pretty epic Fastest Known Times (FKT’s) in the last couple of years- of note Hal Koerner and Mike Wolfe on the JMT and Jez Bragg on Te Araroa Trail in New Zealand. You already have the Grand Canyon R2R2R record, but do you have any other routes you would love to set an FKT on?

I’m really enjoying the racing at the moment and don’t have any immediate plans for an FKT attempt. However, I love the simplicity and individual nature of FKT’s and there are some amazing routes in the Southwest near my home that I think will find a place in my schedule in the future.

To follow Rob on Twitter @robkrar

Or, better still, follow his beard @RobKrarsBeard

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Lon Lomas- A Tribute

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Lon Running during a triathlon in 2012. Credit: Lon Lomas Facebook

Social Media has changed the way athletes get to know and follow one another. Since I entered the sport of Ultramarathon running in 2012 I probably have more connections outside of the UK than within it- most of whom I have never physically met.

One of these was Lon Lomas, a triathlete based in Fayetteville, Louisiana. Lon and I got to know each other as we moved into Ultras and both planned our first 100 mile footraces for this year. Lon will not run his, as he was killed whilst cycling in a hit and run on 7th July, just a couple of miles from his house. He leaves a wife, Alicia and two young children, Slaydon and Rylie.

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Still Racing. Credit: Lon Lomas Facebook

Whilst I never got to meet Lon, his death has really affected me. Being a husband and father myself, it has made me appreciate how fragile life can be and how it can be so senselessly and horrifically ripped away in a heartbeat.

Lon’s first 100 miler was set to be the Brazos Bend 100 in Texas, on 13th December http://www.brazosbend100.com/ . A few days later it will be his wife and children’s first Christmas without Lon.

The first 100 mile finish is a race to be cherished and remembered forever. The award is a shiny belt buckle, a legacy of when 100 mile races were on horseback as opposed to on foot. Lon will never earn his award, so I am going to go and run the race in his honour and give the belt buckle to his wife and kids at the finish. I like to think if the situation was reversed, this would mean the world to my family.

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Lon at the pool with Slaydon. Credit: Lon Lomas Facebook

I have had a lot of support in this endeavour and have been offered a free race entry and free accommodation by the race organisers, knowing why I am coming. However, I have stumbled with getting the flight which is currently £750 return London to Houston. This was not a planned trip and I just don’t have the money to make it happen alone.

With BA and United having said no to a free flight and in discussion with The Guardian, I have set up a page with Crowdfunder- who specialise in helping people raise money for community projects or special events, such as this one. I know that the running community- particularly within ultrarunning- is a special place and I am reaching out to fellow runners, cyclists and parents to help me make this possible for Alicia, Slaydon and Rylie.

The link to the page is here: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/a-tribute-to-lon-lomas/

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Rylie and Slaydon. Credit: Lon Lomas Facebook

I will be keeping donors updated via my website www.fromsofatoultra.com as I build up to this event and will have Lon and his family in my thoughts as I race the North Downs Way 100 this coming weekend. If donations happen to exceed the £750 mark, every penny in addition will be passed to Lon’s wife for her to contribute to her children’s upbringing and education.

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Rylie and Slaydon visit their Father’s ghost bike. Credit: The Advertiser

Lon’s death is an absolute tragedy and so senseless. As time passes on and grief fades, it is often the family who suffer alone. To run this race six months after Lon’s death is very important to me and I hope together we can make this happen and keep his family in our thoughts.

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Lon and his wife Alicia in happier times. Credit: Lon Lomas Facebook

Thank you.

Tim Lambert

4th August 2014

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Tom Tom Multi Sport Cardio GPS Watch Review

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A couple of years ago I was reading a book called ‘Finding Ultra’ by a chap called Rich Roll, which is still one of my favourite autobiographies, charting the tale of Rich from a couch potato to one of the best endurance triathletes in the world at the age of 40.

One chapter caught my eye in that when he first started to train he noticed he could gradually run longer, albeit painfully, but wasn’t getting any faster or losing any weight. At this point he decided to seek the services of a personal trainer who promptly told him to get a heart rate monitor as item number one on his to do list.

The problem Rich had, which affects a lot of runners in the early days and can plague runners who are already fit, is that he was running too fast. He wasn’t burning fat and was running in an anaerobic zone- where your heart rate is high and you don’t burn fat, as to aerobic running which is where endurance stems from and burns fat instead of muscle. This was why Rich felt fitter, but wasn’t making any physical progress and had little stamina.

Using the heart rate monitor and keeping to a low level of output, he felt like he was running outrageously slowly and initially had to walk even the smallest of hills to keep in the correct zone, but over time as his fitness developed and his weight and blood pressure started to fall, he slowly built himself into the athletic animal he is today.

Whilst this chapter caught my eye, being a bit of a technophobe and a thinking it didn’t affect me, I disregarded it, but in the back of my mind I have always wondered about heart rate training, but I wasn’t prepared to pay hundreds of pounds to find out.

Then came the opportunity to test and review the new Tom Tom Multi Sport Cardio watch. This is a new watch priced at a much more competitive level than many watches of similar functionality, at £249.99. There is also a version just for running at just £219.99 called the Runner Cardio. The main difference being that the Multi Sport has a bike attachment and is also designed for swimming. Perfect for triathletes or those who cross train regularly, as well as running.

The watch is very light and has a thick rubber feeling strap that ensures it stays in place when secured to your wrist. The watch is functioned by the toggle below the screen and this allows you to move left, right, up and down to select what you are looking for. It is incredibly easy to use- even for someone like me who is utterly useless with most items of technology (or flat pack or painting…you get the idea).

On the under side of the watch is the heart rate sensor and this picks up your pulse from your wrist. Unlike many previous incarnations of these types of watches there are no straps to attach to your chest. Having spoken to a colleague in the office, the strap versions are particularly annoying and cumbersome for women with it needing to fit around a sports bra.

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Out of the box, you connect the watch via its cradle and a USB to your computer and can start inputting your personal data. This includes your weight, height and resting heart rate so the watch knows where your zones are. The watch then calculates five zones for your exercise which are easy, fat-burn, endure, speed and sprint. The gist being ‘easy’ is pretty much walking, through to ‘sprint’ which is all out running. For endurance runners ‘fat-burn’ and ‘endure’ are the zones to be aimed for.

Initially on my first run I was petrified that my heart rate would be much higher than I thought and was worried that it might affect my approach to running. However, I was pleased to see on my first run that my heart rate fell between 130 and 150 BPM which is exactly where I wanted it to be based on my resting heart rate and square in the ‘endure’ zone (calculated my top heart rate is apparently 188 BPM). After a few runs I could pretty much tell based on my breathing where my heart rate would be and I used the watch to slow down when I was working too hard (notably on hills).

What I found really interesting was also the opposite of this. There were times when I felt I was working hard and would usually slow down a tad, but upon looking at the watch I realised I was actually running too easy (depending on the distance of the day) and this provided a boost to push myself a little harder. This is where speed and endurance are built.

As I build up to the North Downs Way 100 on the 9th August, I have found the watch really useful to keep me pushing on my shorter mid-week runs as well as keeping me in the fat-burn/ endure zones on my long runs. It has provided a lot of confidence in the fact I am already doing this right but can use this to keep myself in check.

Over the winter months I have serious plans to use the watch to really work on my endurance and speed and will be working closely to improve further by the time the ultra-season starts again for me next April.

Starting out on a run and using the toggle to start searching for satellites for the GPS function, this picks up a link usually in less than 20 seconds, which is remarkably quick. You can the track your distance on the screen as well as your overall pace, pace right now, heart rate, heart rate zone, distance travelled, stopwatch or real time clock all by simply moving the toggle up or down. I tend to set it with the heart rate on the screen right now, but over time may change this to pace as I get more used to heart rate workouts. At all times, however, your distance travelled remains in the top right hand corner and your stopwatch time in the top left, so at a glance you can see how far you have run and in what time.

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What I really like about this watch, aside from the simplicity, is the ability to harness your competitive side if you run a regular route. The watch can detect where you are and you can race your previous personal best on that route. Again, as I use this more over the winter months I will work closely with this functionality to know I am improving.

Once your run is done, you connect it via the USB to the computer and it automatically drags all of the data from your run onto one clear and easy to analyse screen. This shows at a glance, your average pace, calories burned, average heart rate, miles or km covered (depending on which you prefer), elevation change and strides per minute. Then, below this is a map showing the route run, which you can zoom in on and below this the full range of heart rate at all time on the run next to a graph showing elevation change and a third chart showing your pace change. Typically running quite hilly training routes, it is great to see the correlation between heart rate and hills as well as pace. Usually, all the graphs generally mirror one another with my heart rate being highest and my pace being lowest when climbing a hill. You can even roll your cursor over each stage of the run and data pops up on all three graphs to show what was happening at that exact point. It is all very clever and most of all simple to use.

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However, it wouldn’t be a full review if I didn’t mention a couple of the downsides:

If the strap is too loose, after a while as sweat gets into the sensor or it struggles to pick up your pulse from your wrist, the heart rate can either drop or spike significantly. To look down and see your pulse is at 193 BPM when you are working gently can be a bit frightening! However, with a quick adjustment it quickly pulls up the correct heartbeat.

As an ultrarunner, whilst fine in training, the only other downside is the battery life. Whilst better than most out there, I understand this tops out at around 12 hours. However, it is the GPS functionality that really drains the battery so if you do not need this during a race 50+ mile there is a solution. The watch has a ‘treadmill’ function typically for use indoors when GPS is not required. By selecting this I can still see my pace and stopwatch time as well as my heart rate, which is what I am quickly caring about most. As an example, for the NDW100 I will use this setting for the first 50 miles to make sure I am never working over 150 BMP up until half way, when I will meet Chris, my pacer, and I will then continue to use this as long as the battery allows (circa 20 hours) whilst monitoring my pace with him for the second half of the race. I know it is a 100 mile race, so I don’t need a watch to tell me where I have been during it once finished.

For the price, this is a cracking GPS cardio watch. It doesn’t have some of the functionality of a Garmin or Suunto, where you can upload and follow your route via a GPX file, but for me this does not matter. This is a training aid, which can really take you through and into a race. I have only had the watch for just over a week, but already I feel I am a better runner and it has really boosted my confidence.

You can see more on the watch here.

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North Downs Way 100 (NDW100) Take Two- 10 days to go

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Somehow, already August is knocking on the door and it is just 10 days to go until the NDW100 2014. In fact, as I write this, in ten days time I will already be several hours into the race.

This isn’t going to be a long piece but I wanted to jot down how I feel going into this race. Essentially, very different to this time last year.

Whilst I had a number of issues when I dropped at mile 50 last year, I could have finished. I know that now. I just didn’t want it enough on the day to put myself through what would have been required to finish. Dropping is not the issue, but how I dealt with those problems on the day is the issue.

Reading through Tommy Nielson’s Angeles Crest 100 race report last night really struck home. He almost dropped from that race during a long bad patch, but went on to win and beat Scott Jurek by 23 minutes. One sentence really struck me that when he wanted to drop he consulted (in his head, obviously) his ‘Rolodex of Injuries’ to see which one he would use to justify his drop and tell people when it happened.

I distinctly remember running through a very similar scenario last summer. I had some genuine issues, but hammed them up at the time for other people and also my own head so I could justify that dropping was sensible and above all, the only option.

Since then I have worked on the mental side and adopted the mantra “It never always gets worse”. I know bad patches will happen, but will be followed by good patches. When it hurts, I will smile. This got me through the Brecon Beacons and worked a treat. I will be positive and know I will finish- not in an arrogant way, but in a confident way.

Often when I go into a race I remind myself that I am not going to win and I won’t be last. This time around I have told myself I won’t win and I might well be last. But I’ll be the happiest last place finisher in the world when I cross that line sometime on Sunday 10th August.

I am going into the race 100% focussed for four key reasons. This race is still the only race ever that I have failed to finish and I am not good with that. Failure does not sit well with me and whilst it has affected me for sure, I have also grown stronger from it. Since that race the three ultras I have run I have run really well. Brecon Beacons was a great race, South Downs Way 50 was my fifty mile PB back in April and my North Downs Way 50 run in May was a sensible and calculated finish.

The three reasons this race means so much more this year are:

1. With Western States qualification criteria having been upgraded to a select few 100k and 100 mile races, this is my only shot at qualifying for the Western States lottery this year. Simply put, I have to finish in order to keep the lottery momentum going.

2. I dropped last year. I am not prepared to deal with dropping again. To quote Marshall Ulrich “We leave the course if we are dragged from the course”. The only reason I will not finish is if I am timed out at an aid station after the cut off or pulled for medical reasons. It will not be a voluntary drop.

3. It is the 100 mile distance. Whilst I am technically an ultrarunner after six 50 mile finishes, I don’t truly believe you are fully fledged until you have a 100 mile finish. This is currently the monkey on my back.

4. Lon Lomas. Lon is a friend of mine who died on 7th July when he was struck whilst cycling in a hit and run. Lon had his first 100 mile race lined up in December and will now not finish it. Knowing what it meant to him (and to me) to finish the 100 mile distance I want to collect the buckle at the finish and then post it to his family. I will have plenty of opportunity to earn more buckles, but Lon won’t. Furthermore, I am trying to raise funds as we speak to go to Texas in December and run the race he planned and give the buckle there to his wife and kids at the finish. By dedicating this race to someone else, it will take my mind off my own personal weaknesses on the day.

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On the way to the start last year from my hotel with Mum and Dad in the car, I distinctly remember saying “Wow, I can’t believe I will still be running at this time tomorrow…”. I think I had already mentally lost just by uttering this sentence. I just hadn’t got my head around what I was about to do. This year I know it will be the hardest thing I have ever physically done and I respect the course and the distance whilst having the belief that I am trained and capable.

Last year I also tried to run my splits from the fifty mile version of just over 10 hours for the first half, focussed on a sub 24 hour finish. This was lunacy for a tough race and my first 100 mile run. This time around I am not focussed on splits, but running the first 50 miles gently. I will then be heading into the evening and the unknown without a finish time goal in mind, aside from it being under the 30 hour cut off. When I finish is when I finish.

I have prepared my gear and fuel better and am keeping it simple.

So, as you can see, this race is a big deal for me. It really matters and I look forward to it with excitement, not intimidation.

“100 miles is not that far” Karl Meltzer…

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Salomon S-Lab Exo Twinskin Shorts- Review

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I suppose the only place I can start this review is with the price. At RRP £130 these are pretty much the most expensive running shorts that money can buy. During the week, as I run to and from work or out on the hills before work I typically wear shorts that cost 2% of these- my £3 Sports Direct Slazenger beauties. I found it hard to imagine why I would spend 98% more money on the S-Lab shorts and wanted to find out what could possibly justify that price tag.

That said, shorts have been the bugbear of my running since starting ultras. I am not blessed with a fast runners physique and have a build more suited to Rugby than running- especially in my legs. I have very large calves, which make calf guards a no-no, as well as very large thighs which tend to expand a significant amount as the miles go on. Consequently, chafing is the biggest potential derailment to my running long distances over any other potential ailment.

Having winced my way to the finish of my first two ultras in significant pain from chafing between my thighs I started to research alternative options. Working on a budget I opted for the Race Ready compression shorts.

At just £31 these are at the cheaper end of the spectrum for compression shorts and have pockets sewn into the rear to fit gels, headlamp and other small items. These got me through my next four ultras but started to suffer wear and tear and had to be binned earlier this year. Whilst it’s not a fashion show, I was self-conscious always in them as they are, well, tight in all areas. Extremely comfortable but they don’t leave much to the imagination, unless it’s a cold day. Which is maybe even worse…

Having reviewed a few Salomon products in the last year I was very happy to give the Twinskin shorts a whirl and see if they could possibly live up to the price tag.

As soon as I put them on, they felt different to other shorts I have worn. The compression material, known as Exo Muscle Support, is essentially a honeycomb shaped mesh that almost suckers itself to your skin much like a mollusc to a rock. Once in place, it stretches and expands and moves with your movements, but it does not slip. This means once on and adjusted correctly you cannot chafe as the hexagons grip and stay in place. The longest I have run in these so far is seven hours and from start to finish I had no issues with the shorts movement or chafing whatsoever.

Whilst chafing is my key issue, the design of these shorts is to get blood flowing and reduce quad damage over long distances. I cant comment on blood flow as I have no idea how I would measure that, but all I can say is my legs felt supported and comfortable on long downhill stretches and I suffered less in terms of fatigue, too.

In addition, over the compression material is an overlay of a normal short which not only protects modesty, but also make them look really cool. No one got into ultras to look cool, but you can’t help but feel good wearing these. I believe Jez summed it up perfectly when I wore them for the uphill challenge when he (clearly jealously) stated I had “all the gear and no idea”.

Above the mesh and shorts upper is an elasticated waistband which holds true all day long and has a series of pockets which wrap the whole waist. Having pushed them to the limits of capacity they can hold up to 16 Gu gels. In addition they are accessed by pulling on a small tab to open the pocket quickly, but means when not pulled the pocket holds really tight and ensures nothing can slip or drop out.

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Sadly, not the author. Ryan Sandes wearing the S-Lab shorts. Pic: TrailrunnerMag.

I am typically a scrimper when it comes to running- one of the main reasons I started running more in the first place is I couldn’t afford the time or money to keep up a gym membership after Monty was born back in 2010. At the same time, whilst running can be done on a budget, there are certain items that are essential to get right for me as an individual. I am not saying that everyone needs to spend £130 on a pair of shorts to have a good experience in an ultra, but for me if it prevents chafing and ensures comfort and deals with a preventable problem so the brain can deal with all the other problems an ultra will inevitably throw up, I am willing to do that.

I only use these shorts on the weekly long run at weekends and use the cheap pairs during the week. So I cannot personally yet confirm the durability of these shorts, but from other reviews I have read and having seen no damage at all to mine so far, it seems they are highly durable- something everyone would demand with a price tag like this.

Running for me is not about speed or rankings, it is primarily about enjoyment and enjoyment stems from comfort and confidence. These will unquestionably be my shorts for the North Downs Way 100 in three weeks-time and whilst they won’t be the reason I will finish this time around, they and the other carefully selected items of kit I will be wearing, will all contribute to giving me the best shot possible. But mostly it will be my physical and mental preparation.

As you would expect from Salomon, these are an excellent bit of kit and I can’t recommend them enough, if you are willing to spend that little bit extra.

 

 

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