13th September : Run for fun : The up and down relay

After the seriousness of the UTMB it was nice to have a go at a purely fun event. A driving force behind Bowland Fell runners club events is Andy Walmsley, who inspired by other similar events decided to organise an up and down relay. It is a beautifully simple idea for a relay race; one runner runs to the top of the hill (in the case the Big End on Pendle) and the other runner runs down.  The most difficult part of this was the necessity to choose a team name. I came up with “the big 3 boys” as both Will and I formed a very unlikely team in that we had both done the big 3 rounds (Bob Graham, Charlie Ramsey’s, and Paddy Buckley rounds).

On a cold showery Tuesday evening 12 teams amassed at Downham car park ready for the race. We walked a mile from the car park to the start line and I waited along with the uphill runners, for the downhill runners to get to the top. I must have clocked up 2 miles of running trying to keep warm whilst waiting the 30 minutes to start. But soon enough we were off. On the lower easier gradient I ran slightly conservative and slotted in behind front runner Clive Davis and 2nd place Declan O’Duffy. After about 400 meters Declan ushered me on as a steeper ramp appeared. I pushed on to close the 50 meter gap that Clive had pulled out. I climbed well and when the course flattened out again at about half way I caught Clive up. Trying to steady myself, and not being sure of the route, I held onto the back of Clive as the course steepened. I started power walking so as not to overtake, and Clive eventually did the same. We then came to the left traverse that I thought was the line. As Clive turned left I started running first and got In front. Christ I was leading a race, fair enough it wasn’t a top level fell race but I will take it, I was still leading some good runners and I vowed to not let it slip. So digging in I ran the reasonably steep traverse and never looked back. There was no point in doing so as I was working as hard as I could anyway. If I got caught well so be it. After about 200 meters the course flattened out and eventually I saw the changeover point a further 200 meters away. A throng of downhill runners were waiting in full waterproofs getting buffeted by the strong wind. But where was Will. I pushed hard into the side wind to reach the gate for the changeover.
I had managed to pull out a 21 (19.02) second lead on the 1.7 mile 1,250 feet ascent, but all this was lost as my partner Will Houghton wasn’t ready. He never expected me to be first to the changeover (neither did I) and was sheltering in a hollow 50 meters to the left. So by the time he came over and took his winter gear off Clive had made the time up and Will and Lee Dowthwaite set off together. Unfortunately Lee better at descending and he proved this eventually beating us into 2nd by 47 seconds. In truth I would have needed about a 45 second lead for Will to stand a chance of victory. But it was a really fun event and everyone enjoyed it and 2nd  in 28.54 is far from a bad result. A drink and chat in the Calf’s head rounded off a great club event. Roll on next year. Remember Will I am the downhill runner!

The UTMB 2011 a few after thoughts and photos

Having had a break from running over the last week, I have had time to mull over the race and also my last ultra-race, the Highland Fling back in April. Yes I did do the Highland Fling. I had to look through my Blog to see if I had posted on it. It wasn’t a shock to discover that I hadn’t. I meant this Blog to be about the highs and lows of running, so I was a little disappointed in myself for not reporting this disappointing performance. The main reason for the poor run was a chest infection which lasted about 3 months, spanning Christmas and continuing up to late February. I could not train at all through this period and lost most of my base fitness. I didn’t have enough time to gain any fitness other than my base level.  This resulted in a finishing time of 10 hours 23 and 79th place, my personal worst by 54 minutes to a point where I nearly missed my bus back to Milngavie!

Ultra running is all about the preparation both physical and mental. They are both trained at the same time. So without the long runs to facilitate this physical and mental training it is very hard to get the best out of yourself. It wasn’t that I didn’t try, at the end of the Fling I was shattered, but this was at a much slower pace than I knew I was capable of running. In essence I was running much less efficiently and had a depleted cardio system to deal with it.

It was good to get back to a good performance at the UTMB. I had had a good uninterrupted stint of training leading up to it. This gave me confidence to perform and get the best out of myself. I even coped well with the uncertainties that surrounded the event. Firstly the start time being delayed 5 hours and the course shortened, and secondly finding out the course had been re-routed, and extended to miss out Bovine, and whilst at the point in the run where it had changed.

The delayed start ruined my race plan. Which was to try to finish in 28 hours (or better) thus meaning that I would have only 1 long period of night and then finish just as it would be getting dark (22:30). I would maybe have had about 9 hours of dark on this proper UTMB course and correct start time. But with the delay and the extra Matigny section it meant I would have two long periods of darkness totalling about 13 hours. The 5 extra hours definitely cost me some time, maybe 40 minutes couple this with an extra 5 km and 200m ascent and I think that I would have made that 28 hours target.

So taking all this into account I can only be pleased with my effort. I think I will have another go in 2013 but I will hopefully drag some support over there with me to try and compete with the sharp end of the field. I think I spent about 1 hour 40 minutes in CPs. With support I think I could get this down to 20 minutes. This combined with a bit more specific training and more confidence in my ability should equal a faster time.

I had my first run today. It was only 7 miles but I managed it reasonably comfortably. My legs ached a little around the quads and my right big toe was a bit sore but generally I was o.k. Things are looking good for a quick recovery so I will have to think of another race later in the year.

Below are a few pictures from Chamonix, highlighting the tendency for the weather to be nice in the day then stormy into the evening, also showing the start of the long PTL kind of race. Lastly my damaged right toe nail, the left looked much the same. This was taken straight after the run. I’ll have to practice at not kicking rocks for next time!