The other side of the Winter 100

The Winter 100 was the first ultramarathon that I volunteered at, two years ago. It’s a miracle I ever volunteered again, after storms blew in and five of us spent all night shivering in the back of a transit van.

But I returned to the same spot in 2013 and again this last weekend. Only this weekend I wasn’t a volunteer but set to pace my good friend Chris Mills the last 25 miles.

Chris stormed the first 50 miles and I left home sooner than planned in order to meet him and get him home. I estimated based on his pace to date, but slowing down a bit, that I would start running sometime between 1am and 3am Sunday morning, but arrived for midnight just in case he was on a flyer.

Whilst waiting for Chris, I can only describe the evening as a surreal experience of true friendship. Before I even entered the village hall which was the event base, I was stopped by Simon Edwards outside and had a good hello. Quickly followed by Gary Dalton (who is much more softly spoken than I had expected for a grumpy copper) and was ushered inside. Here I met Ashok, another social media friend, for the first time and really felt his enthusiasm for the race.

I then met Chris’ (slightly) better half, Nikki Mills who was sat with James Adams (book out) and Natasha Fielden, who was also set to pace the last 25 miles with her husband, Jon, who was running stride for stride with Chris.

And on went an evening with some people I am fortunate enough to call great friends. I few years ago I was truly lost, but with this odd band of brothers is where I truly belong.

In many ways the winner here is James Elson. He is fortunate enough to have some amazing friends and volunteers at his races, but at the same time we are the winners. These events, whether running, volunteering, pacing or simply just hanging out, allow us all to congregate away from social media and really get to know one another.

Even if Mr Elson did constantly refer to me as ‘crying boy’. I’ll let him have that one.

We started to hear worrying reports from the far aid station that Chris had walked there and had taken longer than expected. This isn’t unusual in ultras and he could have been having a bad patch so didn’t really concern anyone. I still remember distinctly how awful I felt 60 miles into the NDW100 so I knew he could bounce back.

Then, later in the evening as more runners arrived who were with him earlier in the day, the news got worse. “Chris is walking and looks pretty green, maybe he just needs some food”. Then “Yep, he is about two miles away but walking with a stick”.

At this point I knew he was in trouble and if he couldn’t walk without aid, he either might not finish or would be taking it to the wire of the 30 hour cut off. But I also remembered Sam at the GUCR and how he dealt with his knee issues and was ready to tell Chris the same.

Chris arrived around 4:30am with his pacer, John, and was looking pretty down mentally. Aside from the knee pain on his ITB he felt good, strong even, but one thing knocking him down had affected his state of mind and he was, I would say, more frustrated than anything else. He made it clear he would leave with me for half a mile and make a decision, having changed his shoes. He wasn’t prepared for an eight hour walk just to finish. From my first NDW100, I could relate to this as well. There are always other days.

Sadly, as everyone knows, that walk didn’t help and Chris drew the line. But he will be back and it won’t beat him next time.

It did make me realise what little things can do for a race and if he had stashed some poles in his 50 mile drop bag, it may have been a different story that night. If you are entering your first 100 soon, just think about what can go wrong and what you can do to remedy that. For me, it was getting cold and shivering, for Chris it was support for his weakened right knee.

Once Chris made the decision to drop, my adrenaline also dropped and I realised it was 5am and I was tired. I said my goodbyes to everyone, grabbed an hours sleep in the car and drove back home.

Chris- you will get your revenge and in turn, I will get my revenge pacing blog. I have never wanted anything as much as I wanted the NDW100 in August, mostly because I failed the year before and you have the fire in your belly to finish a 100 sooner than you think. And coming back makes the finish all the more sweet. I have hit save on the images and anecdotes I planned for this weekend so I need you to finish as much as you do. That work in progress is a keeper.

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Social Media and Ultrarunning 2

Last year I wrote an article on Social Media and why I was abandoning it for a few weeks before a big race. I was finding it somewhat stifling and was often finding myself looking at posts of other people’s successes and it was putting a lot of unnecessary pressure on me. What I realised by having a break was that people often get ‘posty’ when things are going well, but not so often when having a bad patch. Thus I was always looking at other peoples achievements but not their struggles, which are often more motivating.

My break didn’t last long, however. Social Media is a big part of my involvement in this sport. Often we are stretched all over the country and further afield. It can be a lonely sport at times with miles and miles logged alone, so having a connection even via a computer can be a great help. I think this is why the Social Ultra phenomenon has taken off; so that we can share our favourite runs with other people and connect outside of race day face to face, but build up to these via our facebook connections.

However, there is another side to ultrarunning that at times is endearing and motivating whilst at others being annoying and frustrating. In a sport where often runners only meet two or three times a year and in a sport that is growing fast, I have noticed more and more people are using social media as a chest puffing exercise or simply to remain connected and remain in other people’s consciousness. Having a blog that I regularly update, I am definitely one of these so my thoughts below are merely that; thoughts, and not be taken in a disparaging way. You then have those who are the jokers and aim to add comments and thoughts in a lighthearted manner, which can then sometimes get out of hand. Sometimes I am one of these as well.

I saw one post at the weekend which gave me the spark to write this piece. Social Ultra have just released some SU Buff’s and one user uploaded a picture of his wife wearing just the Buff as a skirt and nothing else, but in a way that wasn’t graphic. This was a lighthearted post, but possibly ill thought through, and invoked the wrath of some female users of the Social Ultra group. I can see where both sides were coming from but at the end of the day, no offense was meant and it was clearly posted in a harmless manner. But it made me think, is there anything that gets on my nerves or offends me through ultrarunning social media and also, what right do I have to let that annoy me, if so?

As an example, I only joined the Facebook page ‘Ultrarunning Community’ 18 months ago when it had just 850 members. It now has ten times that, at 8,533 as of this morning. Now, whether some of these people are new to ultras as a sport or merely this group is another thing, but lets say for arguments sake that 4,000 of these are new to the sport as a whole and if 2,000 of these are in the UK that is a huge surge in numbers. Some of these people are just going to get on quietly with training and racing where as others will be the new breed of bloggers, photos of their Garmin uploaders or pictures of the chia seed and flax oil with mist of Alsatian breath porridge sharers with hash tags along the lines of #couldnotlivewithoutthis #traintoperform #livewell

I am better than you.

I am better than you.

Simply, I am pretty hard to offend, but on the flip side I seem to find it very easy to offend people, so since getting into Ultras I have noticeably toned down my comments or posts as, overall, there seem to be some social media users who take delight in getting offended and bashing anyone who does things slightly differently.

But we are a group of people who take pleasure in the extremes of our sport and naturally come from a variety of backgrounds. So surely we should also revel in the fact we are different and above all take a light hearted approach to social media and its connection to our sport. Hardly anyone reading this will be planning on winning a race anytime soon, so we should take strength in our breadth and celebrate differences.

Having said that, I admit, I have temporarily blocked peoples news feeds in the past if they share one too many photos of their watch and how many miles they did that day and at what speed. I don’t care how many miles someone did. We all train and all want to do our best, but how I train or what mileage I ran yesterday won’t motivate you tomorrow or make me a more popular person. I don’t care if someone ran 10.62 miles ‘hard’ on Movescount, because that doesn’t affect me. What I do care about, is that someone enjoyed their run and maybe saw a deer in the mist at 6am as the sun came up. That is why I do this, but equally others are here just for the performance, and that’s alright too. Different journeys, shared paths and all that.

Awesome.

Awesome.

The same applies to people who photograph their healthy food. Is this because they want to share their recipes or because they want to say I eat better than you? I don’t understand this either and it makes me want to take a photo of a king size snickers and coke and give it some hastags like #racedayeveryday #breakfastofchampions

And don’t get me started on the ‘mid run selfie’.

Cretin.

Cretin.

But rather than get annoyed by this, I now use this. I might look at that Garmin photo and give myself a kick towards some speedwork every now and then, because it obviously helps, even if I hate speedwork. Or I might look at that spinach and flax seed porridge and think maybe I should try and have a salad instead of the Sainsburys £3 meal deal of coke, crisps and a white bread sandwich.

In the same vain there are no right or wrong races. Everyone knows my obsession with Western States, but if you have an obsession with Spartathlon or another race that is great too. For me, I would much rather aim for spending 48 hours at UTMB or 36 hours at The Bear in stunning mountains, than work on speed to complete something like the GUCR or Spartathlon, but that is what is great about this sport. It is just long distance running, but there are so many ways of doing it or avenues to head down.

And, it wouldn’t be right to end a rant about ultrarunning on social media without a meme, the scourge of so many posts. Well said, Stephen Fry. It’s just running; lets agree to disagree on how best to go about it when not out on our feet.

Stephen-fry

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Mule Bar- The Range Keeps Growing

Eastern Express- new Mule Bar

Eastern Express- new Mule Bar

To Date I have only finished one Ultra feeling really good. That was the Brecon Beacons Ultramarathon in November of last year.

I have put this down to two things. Firstly, being hungry for a result after dropping in my last race. Secondly, not being hungry- as I ate Mule Bars and Mule Gels all day long.

I came across them after Anthony Forsyth raved about them after his incredible run at the 2013 North Downs Way 100. I on the other hand had a torrid day at that race, in no small part down to my nutrition choices.

At the Brecon Beacons I had no stomach issues whatsoever and managed to consume a whopping two gels and one bar per hour for the whole nine hours (and a bit) of my race. I talk about Mule a little in my race report from that day.

Mule have since been my go to product but I didn’t use them at my return to the North Downs Way 100, opting instead for the aid station food during the day and taking a chance on Torq gels overnight. This was mainly because I wanted to carry the minimal weight possible and I wasn’t running with the support of a crew. Whilst I finished the race, my second half was poor and slow and I put this down to lack of calories as much as exhaustion. Torq gels were good, but they didn’t give me the same feeling that Mule gels do.

Since then and with my build up to the Brazos Bend 100 in December as my tribute to Lon Lomas, Mule have been great and come on board as one of my sponsors for this endeavor. In return, I offered to write a review of their new Eastern Express bar.

As with most runners, in the latter stages of an Ultra I am sick of aid station food. One of the key things I hate is sweet food later on and the only sweet I can handle is through drinks like Coke and Sprite. Mule have recognised this and taken feedback from a number of their sponsored athletes and customers to create the first savoury bar in their range, the Eastern Express.

To be completely honest I would say this is an acquired taste. If you aren’t a fan of spices (not heat, but flavour) then this probably isn’t for you. However, if you like Eastern food, as I do, you will love this bar. It has a hint of sweetness and is sticky like their other bars but is easily digestible and 90% savoury.

I haven’t yet used this in a race situation, only in training, but I will definitely be taking some of these to Texas in December and am pretty sure they will play a major part in the latter part of my race, if not before. The beauty of that race is it is 4×25 mile laps, so I can re-assess and collect what I fancy after each loop depending on how I feel.

In summary, another great bar from Mule and if you haven’t tried them as a brand, they have a great range of introductory packs and offers available. In particular, the Expedition Pack currently has 24% off the RRP and comes with two of the best water bottles around as well as gels, bars and recovery protein bars.

 

 

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2015 Races

As lottery season fast approaches, I have been thinking about my plans for 2015 and what I want to achieve.

2014 has been a very good year; we kicked off the Social Ultra phenomenon in the UK with the Cotswold Way 50K back in February, I ran a PB at the 50 mile distance at the South Downs Way 50 in April, notched up a third consecutive North Downs Way 50 finish in May and completed my first 100 miler at my second attempt at the North Downs Way 100 in August. Still to come is the Brazos Bend 100 in December.

In 2014, I have achieved everything I wanted and more.

But what do I want to achieve in 2015? Well, obviously I am hoping that one of my two tickets in the Western States lottery will be drawn on Saturday December 7th. But two tickets is a very small amount in a lottery of circa 2000 names. Having said that, with qualification criteria having changed and toughened up dramatically last year it remains to be seen how full the lottery will be compared with previous years, but regardless the chances are still stacked against most of us.

The new Western States rules state that every year you apply and fail to gain entry if you qualify the year after you will get double the tickets. So next year, if I qualify again I will have four tickets in the pot (if my name isn’t drawn in December). With that in mind, my primary goal for next year is simply to qualify again.

Of the three Centurion qualifiers in the UK, the Thames Path 100 is the only one that will be new to me and I am focussed next year on new experiences ( I haven’t run the South Downs Way 100 but have run the 50 mile version, so wanted something completely new). The cut off here is 2 hours faster than other races in the series, which reflects the somewhat easier elevation change on the course compared with the two Downs 100’s. That said, the finish rate is still pretty low and hours and hours of flat, sometimes boring running can take its toll on the same muscles with little variation. So, the Thames Path 100 is my ‘A Race’ for 2015 and comes in May.

We will hold the second annual Cotswold Way 50k at the end of February as a way of testing to see how fit we are after a long, dark winter and I am following this up one week later with The Green Man Ultra, which is a 47 mile loop of Bristol, held on 80% trail. This race has been on my radar for a while and living in Bath, is less than half an hour from my house. So I am all signed up.

I was going to sign up for the Hardmoors 55 race, but have realised it falls on the same weekend as when Monty turns 5, so will put that on the back burner for another year, but is very high up my to do list.

I am leaving the summer open at this stage to see what happens in the lottery, aside from returning to the Bath trail marathon in July. I loved this in 2013 but pushed myself a little too hard so close to the North Downs Way 100. By not returning to the NDW100 in 2015, I can have another good crack at this fantastic course.

I will also put in for UTMB as I have more than the required 8 points. That said, for some reason it just doesn’t fire me up like the American 100’s do. I can’t put my finger on why that is. But it is a must do race and with the chances at Western States being slim for another few years until I bump my tickets up, it would be silly not to apply and have a hedge at another major race.

Finally, the Cotswold Way 100 miler I have volunteered at two years running. It finishes in Bath and everyone who runs it raves about it. I train a lot on the section near Bath, but have never ventured further north than Old Sodbury for time and logistical reasons, so not only will it be a great race but also give me some exploring on recce runs over the summer. I was scheduled to run it this year, but just wasn’t recovered enough from the North Downs but will make it a priority race next summer.

All three of these ultra races are new to me and I am a firm believer of not over-doing things, but spacing races and distances out over the course of a year. I’d like to do some races in the Alps as well, but financially this is unlikely next year and I will keep building up my ability and confidence here first….unless UTMB and Western States drop in my lap.

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Dominic Grossman and Hillary Coe Interview

Dominic 'Unicorn' Grossman

Dominic ‘Unicorn’ Grossman

I wanted to do something a little different with this interview. Dominic Grossman is someone I have wanted to chat to for a long time and having been friends on social media for a while now, I know he has an eclectic and varied group of close friends. Some of these are ultrarunners themselves, such as Katie deSpliter and others have found different paths but are equally obsessive and focussed.

And it was this that got me thinking; just because I have found ultrarunning as my ‘route’ how many of us have friends that forged other paths of extremity? Naturally, I am drawn to extremes, from the days I would rather forget of my early 20’s through to my running of today. I know I am not the only one and this is why I believe the friendships and bonds carved in and around ultrarunning are hard to beat.

Hillary Coe is not (yet) an ultrarunner, but has found other paths- including the fastest female drag racer in the USA ( ¼ of a mile in 8.72 seconds and 154 MPH in a diesel truck). Like Dom, she has a passion for adventure and pushing herself. Whilst she may yet run an ultra, her friendship with Dom is a result of their shared passion for life, danger, endorphins and above all enjoying this journey.

Hillary Coe

Hillary Coe

Dominic, what drew you into ultras in the first place and what got you running at all before that?

I was coming back out west from going to school in Maryland, and I just wanted something new and different from collegiate running. Ultras really fed my hunger for adrenaline, adventure, natural beauty, and challenge.

Hilary, when did you first start car racing and why?

I saw professional drag racing for the first time when I was seventeen. Watching an 8000 horsepower engine spin up and launch a dragster down the raceway was shocking and intoxicating. It felt like the first time I had truly seen something extraordinary. After the race, one of the drivers offered to let me sit in his seat. I remember telling him “I don’t want to sit in it, I want to drive it!” I guess I’m drawn to these adventures that push my limits.

Dragster

Dragster

How did you guys become friends in the first place and what was it that inspired you about each other?

Dominic- I met Hillary through my friend Peter I used to run with. Hillary is basically a huge dork, who is also very thoughtful, intelligent, and creative. I think we’ve got a similar outlook on life about going big and working hard.

Hillary- I met Dom through a mutual friend (shoutout to Peter Williams) and the first thing I noticed was how ridiculous he is in everything that he does. He is vibrating on a totally different scale, and something about that bonded us. He is obsessed and determined in a way I have rarely seen in people, and it makes me feel a little less insane.

Dominic, how has your year to date been in your races?

I was hoping to run a little faster in my races, but I’m happy with my progress and finding my limits in training and racing. I think I over-trained a bit for Western and Angeles Crest, but I was still happy to finish as well as I did… but I want to go back to Western and run faster.

Western States 2014

Training in Southern California

Dominic, I saw you finish Western States and I know it didn’t quite go to plan but was the experience everything you hoped for, even if the result wasn’t?

Runners always want things to come together neatly and nicely, but we secretly know that things will get ugly. I think the middle of the race was very tough for me, but it made the end much more sweeter as I started to pass more runners. It gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to rally in running and in life.

Hillary, you guys both lived in LA for a long time and now you are based in San Francisco. How has this changed your adventure planning together?

Nothing compares to a text from Dom that says “we’re going to cowboy camp in Altadena and then run 25 miles through the Pacific Crest Trail before lunch, you in?” It’s definitely harder to have sassy, spontaneous adventures, but I manage to make it back down to LA periodically to hang out, or for big events like the AC-100.

Dom and Hillary at Angeles Crest 2014

Dom and Hillary at Angeles Crest 2014

Dominic, what is next for you race wise and do you plan to challenge any of your competitors into a Fastest Known Time (FKT) record any time soon?

I’m just coming back from a hiatus, and might race in TNFEC in December, or I might wait until February to race at Sean O’Brien. I want to become a better climber and lower my time on the Mount Wilson Trail, which is a great place to suck wind and pump lactic acid.

Dom finishes Western States 2014

Dom finishes Western States 2014

Hillary, any plans to enter an ultramarathon in the near future?

I think it is going to take a couple more years of training before I tackle such an honored feat. But it is in my blood now, and I am going to keep on running.

Both, what is it within your friendship that helps spur you on, whether it is a work or running or adventure challenge?

Dominic- I think Hillary gives off a lot of positive energy. She usually is saying something like “well, hell yeah you’re going to kill it, you’re a friggin’ badass” and I know if someone as accomplished as Hillary believes in me, then chances are my goals are valid and worth chasing.

Hillary- When I lived in LA, Dom would get me up twice a week to run seven miles before the sun came up, and sometimes he’d take me to the Angeles Crest to get lost in the mountains for another eighteen. I bled, I blistered, and I cramped up in places I forgot were even on my body, but it was exhilarating. I saw in Dom that same excitement that I had watching my first drag race. He has an inspiring energy that stays with you. He should figure out a way to bottle it and sell it – he’d make a fortune.

Hillary mountain biking on the trails of Mount Baldy

Hillary mountain biking on the trails of Mount Baldy

Both, if you could take on one challenge in 2015, what would that be?

Dominic- If I had the time and money, it’d be to run the PCT. Realistically, it’ll probably be Western States and/or UTMB.

Hillary- I would love to surpass 30 miles through the Marin mountains, above San Francisco. Followed by 3 In N’Out Double Doubles. With fries.

Hillary's tribute to Dom after his Angeles Crest 3rd place of 2014

Hillary’s tribute to Dom after his Angeles Crest 3rd place of 2014

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Merrell- Bare Access Trail: Review

Photo: iRunFar.com from the Outdoor Retail Show 2014

Photo: iRunFar.com from the Outdoor Retail Show 2014

Last winter I had the pleasure of testing out the Merrell Road Glove 2 , a zero drop, fast road shoe which I quickly fell in love with. I used these on 90% of my road runs over the winter period and found them particularly great when running uphill.

I believe these were one of the reasons I got a personal best of 8:47 at the South Downs Way 50 back in April as my uphill running on that gentle course had improved a lot over the winter.

When Merrell offered me the chance to review the new zero-drop Bare Access Trail, which is a new trail shoe for 2014, I was very keen. If these incorporated many of the things I loved about the Road Glove 2 I would be on to a winner.

The option that I was sent were the Gore-Tex version, which are water repellent. In the past I have found Gore-Tex shoes sluggish, heavy, sweaty and also once water does inevitably get inside, it won’t repel so your feet slosh and blister. Gore-Tex shoes sound great on the surface, but given several hours in the mud and puddles, no shoe can keep water out.

So when I opened the box and picked up the Bare Access Trail I thought they had sent me the non Gore-Tex versions, as they were so light and didn’t have that thick feel that most Gore-Tex shoes have. At just 235 grams each (8.3 ounces) these are a very light shoe.

Despite the light weight nature of the shoe, they offer a heavily padded inner and especially around the heel and the tongue. This creates a snug fit but with plenty of room for flexibility. As the shoe is of a more minimal design than the likes of most (similar in height to a Salomon Sense), it doesn’t encase your lower ankle so there is a lot of flexibility when you turn corners or twist coming off a rock or a root. This is good in many senses as you feel free, but can make you feel a little more exposed than more traditional shoes and takes some getting used to.

Photo: Merrell UK

Photo: Merrell UK

Following the success of the previous version, the Ascend Glove, Merrell have built on this to create the Bare Access Trail. They have taken elements from shoes I love like the Pearl Izumi Trail N1, such as a single fabric upper with no stitching which drastically reduces the amount of friction, rubbing and irritation this can cause on long runs. As a result, even though I don’t, you can run in them without socks.

There are a whole host of features such as technology called ‘M-Fresh’ which eliminates odour causing bacteria. Right now this seems to work- but we will see in a few months and I will let my wife be the judge of this. If it works, it’ll be my first pair that aren’t consigned to the garage permanently. ‘ConnectFit’ is another trade mark and is based on the supported and comforted level of fit and they are incredibly comfortable with minimal movement over a variety of terrain.

As with the Road Glove 2 and several other itineration’s of the Merell brand, these are zero drop shoes. As the barefoot craze wanes, Merrell have stuck to their guns and are of the belief that natural is best. Having spent the summer running in the N1’s and TNF Ultra Guides, which offer 4-6mm of drop, it was a bit of a shock to the system to go back to a zero drop. Initially I felt very sore in my calves but this soon subsided and I quickly adapted to a lesser drop. I always feel faster for some reason in barefoot style shoes but they did make me realise they are better for shorter distances and I would unlikely wear these for further than a marathon distance.

However, with autumn very much in the air, these are an excellent shorter distance or cross country training shoe and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of fell runners wearing these over the winter. Their comfort and support is great, but what really sells them is the Vibram outsole. The lugs are simply fantastic and grip on steep muddy paths, rocks, roots and wet roads. I wore them a few weeks ago during a stormy deluge and they performed on and off the road. I have rarely worn a shoe that is so dominating in terms of grip, yet transitions through the seasons well. I would put these up there with the N1 or the Ultra Guides as one of my favourite shoes, but if you are new to a zero drop they do take some getting used to.

I would like to see Merrell modify this shoe a little to offer a second version. To also offer a 4mm drop for those who prefer a more mid-foot strike and also lift some of the padding to encase the lower portion of the ankle. I believe if these changes were made, it would be a virtually unbeatable shoe. In the meantime, I will be using these for the majority of my shorter training runs off-road.

You can find retailers for the Bare Access Trail here.

 

 

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NDW100 Recovering, Brazos Bend and Kindness

The North Downs Way 100 mile race was exactly a month ago today. In many respects it feels a lifetime ago and in others, such as energy levels, it feels much more recent than that.

Whilst I knew a 100 miler would affect me more than the 50 mile races I have done to date, I had no idea it would affect me so much. Immediately after the race I slept virtually all of Sunday. Most of this was on a coach to Farnham from the finish in Wye, followed by my father driving me and Solange back to Bath.

I was in desperate need of a proper wash and this dealt with the chafing, although wasn’t pretty or quiet… My main problem was blisters on very sensitive parts of my feet but mostly agony in my lower shins. I genuinely thought I had done some serious damage so had them checked that night and was relieved to hear it was just muscle damage, nothing more. Just an overuse injury but one that hurt like hell nonetheless.

The next week I can only really describe as like jetlag but with pain. I took the Monday off to do very little, but was back at work on Tuesday. This week was spent mainly in the office and gradually I felt better, albeit going down stairs like a crab and taking ibuprofen for the shin pain and swelling. I also saw a chiropodist who dealt with my feet as best as she could…and certainly earned her £38 that hour.

I then had a couple of weeks holiday, which was mush needed. I feel now that the pain I went through was not just attributed to the distance I covered for the first time, but also the amount of slipping and sliding I did on the night leg as the storm hit. I was running in a compensatory form every step and this aggravated already exhausted muscles. I believe this is the main reason for my shin issues.

On the Tuesday of the holiday, 9 days after the NDW100 I took my first running steps. And felt amazing. For a mile. I was then utterly exhausted and completely wiped out. I walked the mile back to the house after that. The next day I managed two miles and by the end of the week I was back running hills and up to 8 miles.

But even since then, I haven’t beaten the elusive 8 mile mark! Partly this is just because I am not actively training right now and just letting my body dictate the distance and pace. Partly I am just enjoying not running much.

I fly out to the Brazos Bend 100 three months today and this now starts the ramp up period again in training. I have dropped the Cotswold 100 and will volunteer instead and have also dropped the Winter 100, where I will return the favour to Chris Mills and pace him the last section of the course. These were sensible moves, although I ummed and ahhed about the Cotswold 100 up until last week. Whilst I have my body back, I just don’t have the stamina to put myself through that again so soon. I admire anyone who can run back to back 100’s and whilst I do this to push my limits, I also do this to understand my limits and my body too.

I am now starting to look forward to December and it will no doubt be a very emotional experience. I mostly train on hills as this is what I enjoy, but with this being a “flat and fast course” (it will definitely be flat but I’ll be the judge if it’s fast…) I will be spending a lot more time working on maintaining speed and pace on the Kennet and Avon canal, which fortunately runs right through my village. This will also be good as I build up to my Western States qualifier in May of the Thames Path 100.

What has really amazed me has been the support towards my race in Texas. My flight has been paid for by a collective of friends and strangers putting in anywhere from a fiver to £100 to make this happen, Mule Bar have offered me free gels and bars, The North Face are supplying me with a tent and sleeping bag and so on. It has just been incredible and at the heart of it this is because people want to see something good happen to the Lomas family before Christmas after a tragic year.

I am looking forward to starting to build up the training again and I want to thank everyone who has helped make this possible, again. It is an overused phrase, but I truly couldn’t have done it without you.

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