Monday, 21 December 2009

Snow, Modena and Christmas

Well Christmas is upon us and my training since the Doyen of the Downs has been abysmal to say the least. The week after the run and all i managed was a slow 5k, and the last week was an effort to say the least, having done only 14 miles in total by Friday. With the snow, that usually grinds the country to a halt arriving on Friday the planned trip to see Alex had to be postponed so no run on Saturday morning with him and with more snow overnight on Saturday covering the ice on the roads, my 16 miler on Sunday morning was cancelled too. Looks like my runs over the next few days will be spent on a treadmill, so an early start on Tuesday should see a 10 miler possible before work, once the car has been scrapped free of ice.

Hopefully, atrocious weather permitting, i can get back in the rhythm of things and get ready for the Country to Capital run on Jan 16th, as well as get a proper core and weights programme going too.

Over that last few weeks Alex and i have been pondering future runs and plans. We have already drawn up ideas to run John O'Groats to Lands End in 2011, and possibly LA to NY in 2012, although the latter has been hit by an issue with a chance in an already planned run, which is now a year earlier - so we will have to review that.

Once i found this out i quickly hatched another idea, that sounds more suitable to do in early 2011, with JOGLE at the end of the year - London to Modena - unusual end venue, but this is where X-Bionic's factory is based in Italy, and the hope is that we can persuade them to give us a massive support package, that will help us do the run and help fund accommodation and support crew for the 850 mile run. The route can take us passed the X-Technology department in Schwyz in Switzerland too, and we have to cross the Alps somewhere, which after 2 weeks of running 45 mile days should certainly tax our determination and energy reserves. This idea needs to be discussed with X-Bionic in the New Year and see what they can do to help.

Not a great deal happening anywhere else at the moment on the sponsorship front. The press release in America has been hit with renewal problems, which we hope will be resolved soon. The newsletter from Ardblair has yet to have a response, although with Christmas approaching fast other things occupy peoples minds, so hopefully the new year will prove fruitful.

Planning to meet up with Alex between Christmas and New Year to check all is going to plan and formulating plans for the months ahead.

Hoping everyone has a great Christmas and Happy New Year - Here's to 2010.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Doyen of the Downs

This race must break trade description laws, as the amount of Downs were far exceeded by the amount of ups.

The photos from last years race showed a crisp, sunny and frosty race - this year however was the exact opposite......... heavy rain, 30mph wind and very soggy underfoot. The race was a circular route starting at the foot of Arundel Castle (although it was so gloomy and dull it was hard to see). ½ after the start and having run though the town we were onto towpaths along the side of the River Arun until we hit the roads in pouring rain after 2 miles. a further mile down the road and it was trail - well when i say trail - mud and lots of it, that went on and on.

This was to be the format for the rest of the race, and being further down the field than i would have liked the ground in places was a slop of sticky glutinous mud and dirty pools. The footwear (The North Face Hedgehogs) worked superbly as others slipped and slid around - although the hill at 19 miles that went up for 100 metres in ¼ mile across a ploughed field made life very difficult for even my trainers.
After another decent into the the town of Storrington we faced the 1 mile climb up to the top of Kithurst Hill - 213mtres climb, although most of this was hardened trail and the sun had come out (shame about the very strong winds in you face on the rapid descent). With hamstrings and quads refusing to move properly and energy at an all time low thankfully the last 4 miles were flat as we followed the river back to the finish, which looked close but with the meanders took even longer than i wanted.

It was nice to be greeted my the race director at the end and with an engraved shot glass (as well as t-shirt) the memento was nice, however the facilities at the end were poorly planned. No drinks or food available for us at all. It would have been nice to have tea/coffee and some cakes, especially after all those miles. The check points had limited items, namely water and banana' but for an entry fee of £36 i expected at least a hot drink to be available.

I had been struggling with stomach pains from about 8 miles which at time almost forced me to pull out, but this was an important run for me too do, and the physical and mental strength i gain from it will be dragged up at future events. I must put in more training after this weeks rest ahead of the next race on 16th January - Country to Capital 45 miles and loose a bit of weight too i think.

99th from 170 finishers (300 had registered) in 5:35:11
Winners time 3:36 - 15 mins ahead of 2nd place who was a further 10 mins ahead of 3rd
39th place in 5hrs dead, which indicates how tough it was.
Last placed runner (cut off time was 7hrs) at 6:56 but results don't show DNF

Next year??? - I think not, but one lesson i have learnt is that the hills in Essex will not be any help in the SkyRace in May.

My Kit consisted of
X-Bionic Spykers
Ron Hill Jacket

Hedgehogs with Attitude

I have to say that i can only find one thing that i would complain about with the North Face Hedgehog GTX XCR, and that's only a personal preference - more later, but first the shoes.....

The Hedgehogs are made ostensibly for what the North Face call "Fast-paced outdoor activities" - at first this worried me that they were aiming the shoes at hikers and ramblers (in a hurry), but not at runners, however after my first outing i have to say that these will suit whatever your speed. The shoes are light enough for trail running, whilst being stable and rigid enough for climbing and scrambling across rocks. The sole is peppered with a very rugged and spiky Vibram outsole (hence the nick-name), which seems to grip in even the boggiest of trails and with the bonus of a waterproof Gore-tex upper and padded tongue makes the ride easier and more pleasant than other off-road shoes i have used.

I ran in a 30 mile trail race this weekend in them (Doyen of the Downs) and due to a combination of the recent weather we have had and heavy rain the night before they were thoroughly tested, handling very well in the churned ploughed fields as they did on the compact trails (not that there were many of those) and roads. The sole being as hard wearing and rugged as it is doesn't seem to have a much cushioning as some heavier runners would like and is definitely more of an off-road shoe than a road/off-road shoe, but handles very well on all surfaces. The Gore-tex uppers are brilliant and the only time that water actually got into the shoe was after my foot had been totally immersed over the ankle in a nice deep dirty puddle. Still finished the race without sore feet or any new blisters from the race and better still dry feet (well... foot).

My only complaint (albeit my own preference) is that i would have liked lace-locks with the shoes as the laces supplied are very thin and not easy to tie tightly to prevent the shoes coming off in very sticky conditions, and needed re-tying several times on the run, but baring that i am very happy with what The North Face have created and looking forward to getting them even muddier (if possible) in the winter weather.

Muddy Marvellous

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

In a Glass of their own

Ahead of this weeks Doyen of the Downs race, on Sunday 6th December i have had the chance to use a new pair of sunglasses, generously supplied by Ardblair Sports, of which i can already sing the praises of.

Polaroid Eyewear are world leaders in optics and lens technology and the inventor of polarizing lens technology and their sports range of eyewear demonstrates this perfectly. Both Alex and i have been given 2 pairs of the 7007 range, with 3 interchangeable lenses (Clear, Amber and dark), Now the winter may not be the sunniest time of year (especially in the UK), but the choice of lenses is ideal for someone like me who wears contact lenses. Friday last week i had my first run out in the glasses with amber lenses in late afternoon and i was amazed by how light and comfortable the glasses were. No fogging whilst running, even with a Buff over my nose in heavy traffic, forcing air upwards, no bouncing either and more importantly a clear field of vision, with the amber lenses lightening the gloomy afternoon.

These have made a very pleasant change from the heavier denser framed sports glasses on the market, and will now be a a regular item in my kit bag and more importantly on my nose.

Marks out of 10 - it can only be 10.