Saturday, 17 January 2015

Hebden 22 (again)

A wonderful, value for money, challenging event. 22 miles, over 4000 feet of up and down, technical trails, open moorland, lots of food at the checkpoints, tea and toast at the start and a hot meal at the end. Shall I stop now!

I travelled south from my home in south east Scotland to West Yorkshire on the friday afternoon, parked my van up in a free car park 200 yards from the start/finish of this race. And headed to the pub for seriously good cheap food and beers.

This event is organised by the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) is can either be run or walked. What a fantastic organisation this is. The organisers and marshals are so friendly, enthusiastic  and helpful, which rubs off on the competitors. Everyone is there for the same reason and knows it. Fellow runners offer you food, hold gates open for you until you get there.

Race morning brings sleet down at race HQ, which obviously means snow up on the course. For once, I got my race kit spot on. From the ground up: Inov8 mudclaws never once slipped in the mud, snow or slush. Inov8 race tights with my trusty kilt to keep my arse warm. Three merino base layers and my Montane Polartec jacket. And of course, buffs ! One round my neck and one on my head (note folks: never run buffless)

The light snow showers continued on and off all day. Perhaps there was 2-3 inches right on the tops but it was not a problem. On the plus side, you could follow the tracks of the other runners more easily as this is not a straightforward, marked route.

My run? Well it went better than expected. I had quite a tough running year in 2014 and so have been taking it easy for a month. I ran this last year in 5 hours 5 and thought anything this side of 5:30 would be a good steeping stone to my first marathon of the year which is towards the end of February.

I just ran it by feel, without looking at my watch until 18 miles when I realised I was way inside last years time. For the record, I finished around 25 minutes quicker, which pleased,if amazed, me.

The course itself is quite something. In no particular order, you have to run across boggy moorland, open fields, pass through or over what seems like about a million stiles or kissing gates, descend steep woodland paths, climb killer steps. You get the idea !

Fancy it next year? Get in quick when the entries open as I know lots missed out this year as it filled up so quickly.

Not much in the way of photography I'm sorry!

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

2014 for Dunsrunner

Wow ! What a year that was. My only running goal at the outset was to try to continue my runstreak, started in late September, and complete 365 days of consecutive running. Many disagree with this sort of behaviour, saying rest days are essential, you must cross train etc etc. Well I'm hardly an Olympic athlete and I like running, so bollocks to that !

Like most runners, I have had injuries in my running life which extends to nearly 7 years now as I write (I was a very late starter). However, its no coincidence that my runstreak (day 466 today) began at the same time that I started seeing a fantastic chiropractor. What she does is so simple looking (of course its not and her diagnostic skills are immense), keeping me aligned so the stresses I put on my body are dealt with properly. This entirely appeals to my sense of understanding. The whole world seems intent on treating the symptoms and not the cause (and I'm not talking about running here). It appeals to my inner Dirtbag (see later !)

That runstreak goal was achieved, but the year was to provide me with many fantastic runs. My post work runs through the trails in Duns Castle estate were, and continue to be, so much fun. An ideal way to clear the head after work. Woods, hills, deer tracks, mud, very few people. Ideal to me.

Having run my first marathon in 2012, 2014 was the year I really took to the distance. I'd be lying if I said that I never hurt or had doubts in the six I ran. My thinking is if this doesnt hurt, I'm not doing it right !

The Osmotherley marathon ( in the North Yorks moors was special in that it was the first one I had run and felt happy with the way I executed it. It was topped off a few days later when I realised that I was first MV50. I was genuinely shocked and delighted in equal measure.

The Scafell Pike marathon is the highest marathon in England. This sticks in my mind for three reasons. Driving there in the morning I started thinking about it a bit, got a little nervous like I do on race day, but I was nearly there before I actually thought about it being marathon distance. I must have come some way if that wasnt worrying me. I liked that. It was beyond brutal in places and around 20 miles I started hoping for an injury so I had an excuse to stop. Never thought like that before or since. Thirdly, as I drove home battered and sore, I found myself smiling. The sense of achievement was more than I'd ever experienced. I found out a bit about myself that day.

And now for something completely different. The Thunder Run 24 or TR24 to its friends. I was supposed to be involved in this in 2013 but got injured (pre chiro days !). Its a simple event. Start midday Saturday, finish midday Sunday. In that period, run as many laps as you can of a 6 mile trail. There are solo nutters and there are pairs nutters who do this. I am not there yet and was part of a team of six ! It was a strange experience to run hard, have a few hours off and do it again. When do you eat? Try to catch a quick sleep? Must be ready for your lap. It throws the clock out of the window a bit. For example, I thought I was finished at 7 am and downed the sweetest bottle of beer in my life.
I've never had beer at that hour before (or since !), but it didnt feel like that hour at all. It turned out I wasnt finished and did run another, albeit gentle, lap.
Two memories from this fantastic event : 1) the feeling amongst the team was strong and at the end emotional. We had shared something great
and 2) the vibe about the whole event. Everyone was there for the same reason. I could add that my kilt went down well too !

Another first was running a marathon as a pair.
I guess we didnt have to actually run the whole event together but we had to check in to the finish together. Needless to say we did run together in the beautiful West Yorks moors. Chatting (or in my case listening !) during a marathon altered my perception of the time elapsed. How had we run 16 miles already, for example. This event stands out for me in that it is the strongest I've felt in a marathon. I would have quite happily run further.

My marathon PB was 4 hours 3 minutes, achieved in the 2nd one I ran in 2012. It was the Kielder marathon in the north of England. Its an undulating trail run on a good surface, but still manages to have 1700 or so feet of climb. I have only ever run one road marathon (Edinburgh 2013, dressed as a clown so dont ask !) and hated it, so if I was to have a pop at that PB it would have to be a trailie. Back to Kielder I went in October. I ran it fairly much to plan, although I did make a huge schoolboy error in that I chose shoes a tiny bit too small ! By half way, my feet were screaming. Almost exactly 3 months later, as I write this, both big toe nails are just hanging on. I have to wear socks in bed so that I dont rip them off ! Anyway I ground out a PB of 4:00:41. Whilst initially disappointed at being 42 seconds short of going sub 4, I am now quite pleased about that. Somehow it just sits well with me that I "nearly" did it but didnt. Keep your feet on the ground, son !

Late in the year I came across Dirtbagrunners. I'm not going to attempt to explain this because part of the beauty of this in my opinion is that its open to your own interpretation. Search it out yourself if you want to know more. I'm confident true dirtbags will find it. Anyway I'm delighted that they accepted me as an ambassador.

One last highlight of 2014 is that on Christmas Eve I ran my 2014th mile at an average climb of over 100 foot per mile.

I'm not sure what 2015 will deliver but I have plans. It'll do well to match 2014

PS I also grew a beard !