Thursday, 18 November 2010

Dorset, Somerset & the Gower Peninsula 16th October - 13th November 2010

So yet again, I’ve let the blogging slip, with uni work, attempting to earn some money and generally asking people for money for Polar Challenge everywhere I go, its not surprising, but still inexcusable.  I look forward to settling the polar payments (however it needs to be done) and getting down to some serious Polar specific training.

In a way, having fallen behind on the blogging will spare you my usual verbosity as I try to spin out an entire blog for a single event when I could do it in a fraction of that.
Three events to catch up and those are:
  • Dorset Coastal Trail Series Marathon - 16th October
  • Exmoor Beast Sportive - 31st October
  • Gower Coastal Trail Series Marathon - 13th November


After the disappointment of a DNF at the Isle of Wight, I was looking forward to being fit and ready to do justice to an Endurance Life event.  The usual routine of dinner at home, then rolling out late on a Friday night missing rush hour is such a familiar feeling now- to me it now works as a trigger the start of my preparation for these races.  Lotte and I headed down to her mum’s house in Taunton as a night-time stop over – to be joined by Jay and Oli a little later.  With the excitement building and the usual store of mum’s homemade flapjacks slowly digesting I’d been told this was one of the tougher races in the series. 
Once again we were greeted with a fresh clear morning and generally stunning conditions for running – I enjoyed catching up with some of the familiar faces at these events and it was time to get going.

It was a tough start along the beach with uneven rocks interspersed between the sand. I focussed on efficient running and keeping my HR down in the earlier stages of the race, walking the hills and making up my time on the descents.
After about 13 miles a competitor behind me fell and cut his eyebrow. With no first aid kit of his own, I offered him some antibacterial wipes which helped him to clean the wounds out, it had stopped bleeding and after running with him and asking some questions about whether he felt concussed (I’m certainly no doctor)  I pushed on. Unfortunately we had lost contact with a group of people I’d been running with at the time.

After the second checkpoint, I made a move to pick up the pace, well let’s say increase RPE. Despite doing so I was passed by a couple of runners a few miles further down the road. Hmm. It was starting to get warm and I rolled my long sleeved thermal up as I hit the second beach section, dangerously reminiscent of  Portland, the delights of which I look forward to reliving in 3 weeks time!
After the final checkpoint with about 4 or 5 miles to go I started to run the uphill’s and really push the pace on the descents and caught 5 more competitors. I finished in about 4.40 in 19th place and had a great run. – just a shame I had to stop for the injured runner, although I hope someone would do the same for me!

The Exmoor Beast

This nice ‘little’ sportive followed the same usual routine except it was a Sunday event, and once again Lotte and I , having watched Saracens put on a poor display at home to Exeter drove down Saturday evening to her mum’s house in Taunton for the night before.

The weather forecast was atrocious and I was ‘looking forward’ to rolling out of Butlins, Minehead for 3000m of ascent across the 100 mile course.  Having wrapped up warm, it was surprisingly hot, and about 2 miles down the road, I was roasting, yet at least it wasn’t raining.  After stopping to undress somewhat, first up was Porlock hill.  For some reason there were already people walking, and although it certainly was slippery with the leaves, and the cattle grid on a particularly steep section I ground it out in my bottom gear, trying to remain seated and keeping my weight over the back wheel to stop it slipping.
From a brief glance at the map I thought we were going all the way over Dunkery Beacon, a hill that almost was the end of me 250 or so miles into the Tour of Wessex.  I held back, but the route suddenly dropped away from the misty summit of the Beacon. What a relief! Although I was quite looking forward to the destruction it would have caused!

I kept holding back and kept eating at the feed stops, knowing that the course finished with a loop of the 70.3 course. Having not ridden properly for many months, I knew I wouldn’t have the cycling endurance, but with my legs still strong from hours of running at the Transalpine, I hoped I’d maintain some sort of strength to the end.

I got a puncture as we passed through Dulverton, dangerously close to a coffee shop that served an awesome carrot cake & ice-cream that I had stopped off at with Lordy on a ride out here at the end of August. Unfortunately it was far from open, or as sunny as back then.  For many hours now it had been misty, foggy, and windy and rainy all in one. Truly miserable weather. Fortunately it wasn’t cold.
We got going again and stopped for a final feed stop at the start of the loop of the 70.3 course. After another munch, we pushed on and just at the end of the difficult section of the loop I looked around and Lotte had her head on her handlebars, bit of a weave going on there too. After she stopped and had some more flapjack, we pushed on and I towed her and a few other passengers along the faster flat section at the top of the loop. As we turned right, with about 9 miles to go, began a HUUUUUGE descent that had my hands aching and my breaks wearing!

Not long after we were back in after 8.15 hours cumulative time, which with feed stops and punctures was probably closer to 7.15.   A very tough route, but great fun. I’d certainly like to give it a go on a nicer day!


Same as usual, after a feed on Friday night, Lotte and I embarked from casa del Bruce loaded up with flapjacks and this time an Irish companion in the form of Naomi.   Unfortunately Jay was kept back by work over the weekend since they had a bit of a rush on, which was a real shame.  We arrived at the cottage in Gower at about 10.30pm and after a quick hello to the fellow Tri-London and other lodgers of the cottage it was straight to bed.

I was down to run the ultra and after registration collected my new skins a400 compression top and tights from Oli kindly supplied to us by Skins (@skinsiders).  The weather had reportedly been atrocious all week even described as ‘biblical’ by some of the race organisers.   Yet it seemed to have cleared up on the day. Not having seen a forecast and not trusting the weather to hold out, I thought I would take the opportunity to test out some new kit, and chucked on the long sleeve top – very snug and comfy!!

Anyway, the race kicked off and almost immediately my legs felt tired.  I had gone for a couple of runs earlier in the week with my Vibrams and my calves had been aching for a few days after.   I’m not sure if this was contributing to that at all – they didn’t feel good though.

Maintaining a reasonable pace, my new inov8 mudrocs were however doing the trick in boggy conditions - a must have for the muddier races!

After the second beach section (a bit of a theme with the CTS races) my mind really wasn’t in the race at all. I think it was at some point around here I decided not to run the full ultra. A decision largely based on enjoyment more than anything else.  I like to think I run for enjoyment, I had run the day thus far and had a great time and I didn’t think I would enjoy the extra 10/12km so I called it a day. Simples.  I came in on 5.04 for a 46km marathon – slightly disappointed not to go sub 5, but it was still good for an effective 19th place in the marathon, and I believe I easily had 15 mins in me having been pacing for an ultra.

I was also feeling particularly tight across my hips towards the end, and so I think it was a right decision. Avoiding injury in the run up to Polar Challenge is now also a real priority and with Oli unfortunately picking up a nasty strain in his foot I’m glad I didn’t run on (not that I could possibly say I would or wouldn’t have got injured had I continued) – but hopefully you get the point – y’know…wouldn’t want to overdo it!  Just in case later that evening I whipped on the compression tights, which in comparison to my 2XUs are just as good compression wise, and certainly more comfortable.

That said, the next day, having only run the marathon I was keen to get out and go for a short run to help build some endurance but to me what I felt was without the same injury risk, having had the chance to recover. I went for a damp yet ultimately enjoyable 10km jog around the moorland surrounding the cottage and delightful ‘Swansea Airport’.  I felt strong, no sign of tightness, and very much enjoyed that run too – I don’t know if the same could have been said for the 10km loop for the ultra add on!  Another great race – thanks @endurancelife!!

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