Archive for the ‘Sports and Training’ Category

Maldon Mud Race 2017

Sunday, June 11th, 2017
The man in the wedding dress!

The man in the wedding dress!

After the race!

After the race!

Having had to pull out due to a broken arm in 2015 the Maldon Mud Race has been on my list of things to do for a while. This year we entered it with some trepidation. The race originally started in the seventies when a local pub placed a barrel of beer on the far bank of the very muddy river and dared its clientele to go for it. That was in the depth of winter and it must have been quite a challenge. Now it is held in the same mud but in May when the water has warmed up a bit. To my surprise the mud was lovely and warm! The only rule seems to be that your shoes are gaffer taped onto your ankles and I can see why, there is quite some suction! Most people dress up to some degree. A chap in a wedding dress comes most years! We went for stripy tops which never fully recovered. It was great fun, even the cold drizzle of a shower was a laugh. Might well go for it again!

Steyning Stinger 2017

Sunday, March 5th, 2017
The Steyning Stinger Route and Elevation

The Steyning Stinger Route and Elevation

The FREE slap up breakfast served up after the race is the icing on the cake!

The FREE slap up breakfast served up after the race is the icing on the cake!

I think it is my forth attempt at this amazing hilly trail half marathon (ascent 1,700 feet). I suppose that says it all. Each time is different according to the weather and the general aches and pains of life. This year Pen, Liam, Grit, Alex, Kerry and I took part. John was overwhelmed at work and couldn’t make it. It had been wet during the week and a front was due to pass over the Downs during the race. There was a lot of deliberation as to what to wear. In a strong wind it can be pretty cold on the ridge if you are soaking wet. I went for a Devold Expedition long sleeved merino top and a cheap as chips waterproof smock. I wore long Nike running trousers because I needed to dose my right leg with ibuprofen to dull off some long standing pain – in shorts it would have just washed off. I took off the waterproof top at the top of the first Sting and rolled it up and tied it around my waist. I was pretty hot until a blast of rain and hail hit us then I got pretty cold but never bothered trying to put the smock on again.
The Salomon Speedcross shoes were superb and I overtook loads of runners on the slippery rutted chalk downhill stretches just because I had fantastic grip. They probably knocked five minutes off my time.
OK so the time wasn’t great but it was better than I thought at 2 hours 15 minutes (TBC). Pen pulled in first at 2 hours 3 minutes and Alex and Kerry came in at 2 hours 12 minutes. Liam was hampered by slippery footwear and came in just after me. Interestingly everyone who ran last year came in 5 minutes later this year due to the conditions. It really is a struggle to get in before 2 hours!
To stay locally or to drive down in the morning?
Well we stayed locally but I think I’ll drive down next year. The problems with staying in a B and B are threefold. One, it is very hard to get a big pasta blowout meal the night before. We ended up eating a very nice burger in the White Horse but it wasn’t ideal. Secondly, it is always hard to sleep in a new place. I hardly slept at all. Thirdly breakfast on a Sunday starts at 08:00, just too late for the start.
I think my new policy will be, if the run is within about 100 miles, just drive down on the day.
I’ll be back next year. It is the best organised race I have ever attended. One day I’ll get over the line in 1 hour 59 minutes and 59 seconds!

Deal Half Marathon 2017

Sunday, February 26th, 2017
Waiting for the start

Waiting for the start

Phew, the finish at last!

Phew, the finish at last!

This early February Half Marathon is becoming a bit of a fixture for me. Partly because my friend Philip lives in Deal and its a great chance to catch up in the winter -in the summer our Vertue Yachts often sail together on the East Coat. It is also well placed as a training run for the dreaded Steyning Stinger which takes place in early March. The Deal run isn’t as hilly as the Stinger and it is on roads but it still acts as a useful gauge of fitness. However its a grand run in its own right. Its non-commercial, dare I say cheap to enter (I hope they don’t think of hiking it up because of my poorly guarded comment). It is very well organised with loads of marshals and very friendly all round. There are even loos en route which is a first for me.

Neil Renault came first with a very impressive 1 hour 11 minutes which was so fast the lead bikes struggled to keep up on the hills! Sadly I struggled in after 1 hour 50 minutes 46 seconds which was well below my PB of 1 hour 43 for the route. I looked pretty knackered too! Two things contributed to my poor time, one was insufficient long training runs. I hadn’t run the full distance for many months although I had done quite a few 10 milers. Interestingly it was at ten or eleven miles that I run out of puff. The second excuse, and its a good one, is my continuing problem with my right leg caused by a dodgy piriformus which I tore in September and is still playing up. It makes me run with a very slight limp and seems to reduce my power. I’ve been having a bit of physio and even acupuncture but it is taking a while to heel. I believe it could have been aggravated by a broken bike saddle. As I cycle for about 1 hour 30 minutes every day my old lopsided saddle was probably of no help. Strangely it hurts most when I try to drive which I have now had to restrict to 10 minute journeys.

After the race Philip and I headed of for a slap up meal in the only pub which wasn’t fully booked. So the lesson for next time is to book the pub lunch several weeks in advance! Oh well, Steyning Stinger next – gulp, I’m going to be thrashed.

Marlow Half Marathon 2016

Saturday, November 12th, 2016
Myself, John and Liam before the start of the Marlow Half

Myself, John and Liam before the start of the Marlow Half

It was touch and go whether my right leg would be up for this year’s half marathon, having pulled out of the Oxford Half a month earlier. I decided to rub some Ibuprofen gel onto the muscles and take a couple of pain killers before the start and see what happens. There was a 7 mile race being held at the same time so I could peel off at two miles and follow the shorter route.
For the first time in three years the weather was perfect, cold but clear and dry. I was surprised to see the Costa Coffee nearby was open at 0830 so next year I’ll take advantage of a booster there. The race is always well organised. I mentioned to my sister how impressed I was with Dave the Disco who gave the impression of knowing all the runners personally. My sister said he probably does! This was backed up by Liam who lives locally so it appears that Dave is a bit of a local hero.
As our little running group had decided this was not going to be a fast run we decided to position ourselves at the back of the start queue, being chip timed it doesn’t matter too much and at least it is better to overtake runners than be overtaken. The firework started the race as usual.
We set off at a steady pace but slowly overhauled some of the slower runners. With only moderate pain I decided to carry on past the two mile turn for the shorter route. The route through rolling countryside and little villages is entirely on tarmac so not too taxing on the muscles.
I eventually finished at 1 hour 58 minutes which although my slowest time for the course was much better than I had hoped, in fact just finishing would have been enough. For some reason there was a big hold up at the baggage reclaim. I can’t remember any queues before so there must have been a new system. It didn’t really matter as we were given our free tee shirts which we all donned to keep warm and it wasn’t raining. However there were some grumblings going on which was a shame.
I’ll be back, it is a bit of an institution now.

Scottish Islands Peaks Race

Friday, May 27th, 2016
Sailing from Oban to Mull

Sailing from Oban to Mull

This is no normal race and it is well to remember that!

For sailors it is a demanding race which takes in some tricky tidal areas. Unusually for a race picking up the crew or dropping the anchor has to take place under sail.

Equally it is a demanding race for runners. Running up mountains over loose boulders and then across hummocked bog land back to the boats is not easy going.

However it is the combination of the two that turns this into a very challenging race.

Normally before I go for a sail, I take a look at the weather and work out the tides. I then decide the best time to go to catch the all important tidal gateway. I also prefer to sail during the day. Equally, before I enter a half marathon or suchlike I’ll make sure I get a good nights sleep and a decent breakfast with a large dollop of coffee inside me about an hour before the start. The start is generally at a civilised time, about 9 or 10 in the morning.

Well forget all that!

To be fair, the first race around the hills near Oban does start at a predictable noon but after that anything can happen.

Simon and I had a reasonable first run near Oban finishing in about 38 minutes. We then jumped in the little inflatable to row out to Brimble. Our prediction of a slackish tide was not to be correct and I had to row like stink to counter the current. Once clear of the moored boats we were picked up by Brimble and a few seconds later we were in a near collision with a navigational buoy and a catamaran bearing down on us while another yacht tried to squeeze between.

We then had a lovely sail to Salen. It is important to get to the first anchorage quickly because Scottish Power turn off the wind at about 6pm to save energy. Our runners, Grit, Simon and Rob, were landed and running by 5pm on Mull. This allowed them to reach the summit of Ben Mor before dark. The really fast fell runners can get there and back while it is light but that is crazy fast. Sadly the weather was awful and it poured with chilly rain. The summit was apparently freezing cold. Our poor runners managed to get back onboard by 0245 having made the wet descent in the dark. It was a tough 22 miles and they were glad to be back on Brimble for some nosh and a rest.

John and I sailed the good ship towards the Sound of Luing before waking the Mull Runners to take over the watch. Craftily we handed over our watch just as the tide was about to turn foul in the narrow straits. Feeling slightly smug we crawled into our bunks. Sadly our cunning plan backfired as the constant tacking meant I couldn’t get to sleep. We got up as the tide turned again and Jura gradually approached. As Craighouse neared the wind began to drop and we decided to enter the northern approach to the harbour. At this point the wind died completely and Simon, John and I got into the little Seago dinghy to row ashore. The problem was it was about a mile and a half to row. By the time we reached the check point at about midnight I was virtually asleep. We were greeted by “You know you are last – you had better take your Yellow Brick tracker on the Paps” which was a bit unnerving!

However, I would hate this to sound like a moan about the marshals who are basically the most generous kind helpful and wonderful people you can imagine. There is no way an event like this could exist without their dedicated help. As we were the last to start the run, they basically had to wait overnight in the Community Hall until we arrived back safely. And they had to wait over 8 hours!

It was my fault. I was basically too tired to even start the run yet alone complete it. Along the roads and tracks I could slowly jog along but I couldn’t conjure the energy to cope with the foot placement needed for the scree slopes. I was falling asleep as I ran and fell over at least twenty times.  I was wearing a heart monitor and ironically it only registered an average of 131 and a max of 157. My normal running heart rates average about 167 and peak around 190. I never really got going. It was such a shame as I had been looking forward to the Paps for a long time but I can’t say this was an enjoyable experience at all.

The one thing that kept me going was Rob had promised to make a big dahl curry for our breakfast and indeed he kept his word. We arrived back on the boat and tucked into a most wonderful creation. There were seconds too! Then I fell into deep sleep as the crew sailed Brimble towards the Mull of Kintyre.

Refreshed after a good snooze on a calm sea I got up just as the tide had turned ready to sweep us around the Mull at 9 kn. John managed to arrange for Wings to be playing at the moment of the rounding! In perfect conditions we sailed towards Arran only to be caught out in the traditional manner by Scottish Power once again turning off the wind in the evening. The good news was that the run would now take place in daylight!

Grit, John, Simon and Rob ran the route to Goat Fell in fine weather and they made it back in good time ready for the final sail. After a slow start the wind gradually built up and we were sailing at 4-5 kn towards the finish. Grit and Simon rowed ashore and ran to the finish. We all retired to Scotts for a few too many beers and a lovely meal.

It was a great pleasure to be part of the race and to sail on a fine ship with such lovely crew. Thanks everyone!

Check Point on Mull

Check Point on Mull

John doesn't like to get cold!

John doesn’t like to get cold!

The secret weapon - Beetroot Juice. Sadly it didn't work!

The secret weapon – Beetroot Juice. Sadly it didn’t work!

View from a Pap in the morning

View from a Pap in the morning

Rough under foot

Rough under foot

Passing the Mull of Kintyre

Passing the Mull of Kintyre

Rowing the boat when the wind dropped

Rowing the boat when the wind dropped

The Goat Fell Runners return

The Goat Fell Runners return

Simon collects the finishing certificates

Simon collects the finishing certificates

 

 

 

Scottish Islands Peaks Race

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016
This should do the trick but those Jelly Babies are not for sharing!

This should do the trick but those Jelly Babies are not for sharing!

Oh dear, here we go again. This time I am joining the crew of the Good Ship Brimble, a 27ft Twister. There will be more space onboard than Sumara but still pretty cosy with five runners and all the kit. I’ve been a bit disorganised this year struggling to find the time to sort out my kit. When I went down to my yacht to collect my boots, hat, running compass and other gear I found she had been locked in a shed so I’ve had to buy a load of new stuff. There is a strict kit check before each run so there’s no busking it. Every runner also has to take 250g of chocolate on each run. Something to look forward to!

We are getting the sleeper to Glasgow tonight so we will arrive in Oban on Thursday lunchtime. That should give us enough time to get ready before the noon start on Friday. The weather isn’t looking too bright but at least we won’t be rowing again.

Three Forts Challenge Half Marathon

Sunday, May 1st, 2016
This thirsty dog had a medal too!

This thirsty dog had a medal too!

1st May 2016
This was the opportunity for all of the Scottish Islands Three Peak Race running team to partake in a hilly run together and have a chat about the final arrangements. After a week of winter weather with frost and hail we found ourselves in idyllic sunshine at Worthing’s Hill Barn Recreation Ground ready for the start. There were about 800 competitors for both the races (there was a tough marathon option). We got there in plenty of time to park up and prepare.
It was one of those well organised non-commercial events that I really like with plenty of smiling volunteers and a great atmosphere. There were some runners with harnessed dogs who set off before us. We started at 1030 (chip timing) and for the first two miles climbed gently to about 600 ft along rough paths before a pleasant decent to about 250 ft before a long slog to just over 800 ft. On top of the Downs the running couldn’t have been better, with sea views and soft short grass underfoot. This part of the course is shared with the Steyning Stinger – another great event. There is then a drop to about 300 ft before climbing again to about 600 ft with a small descent and a final little hill before a two mile fast run back to the finish line. This last descent had a somewhat tricky narrow chalky path which was vee shaped and could have caused a few slips if the ground was wet. Luckily in the dry conditions the entire course was easily runnable. Although it can’t be described as flat there were no really taxing hills, more a matter of endurance rather than strength. It could be interesting in really wet weather!

A big thank you to all the organisers and volunteers (and cake makers) for making it such a great day out.

Any bad points? Only my usual gripe about runners tossing gel wrappers on the ground in the lovely countryside. Maybe a volunteer will pick them up but surely its not too hard to find a way not to litter in the first place.
Results? I finished just under two hours (about 1 hr 58 m) which I was pleased enough with for a hilly run.
Afterwards we all met at the Old House at Home and discussed tactics for the big race over a pint of Harveys and roast lunch. A very pleasant day.

Getting Sumara ready for the sailing season

Saturday, April 30th, 2016
Pulling the bearings off my Aerogen 4

Pulling the bearings off my Aerogen 4

The Arthur Beale project has been zapping up all my spare time so some things are being neglected. Most of all I’m not getting to see all my buddies so that certainly needs to be rectified soon! But I realised the Good Ship wasn’t going to get all the love that she would normally get so I decided to ask Harry Kings Boatyard to help out. I’ve had some pretty mixed quality work done in the past when I have called in the professionals so I was a bit nervous about getting work that I’d normally do done by a boatyard. However I went to the boat last weekend and was very pleased with the quality of the work that Lee had done. So now I can relax knowing everything is in safe hands.
I am partaking in the Scottish Islands Three Peaks race on Brimble at the end of May so I won’t be sailing until June but I like to get her afloat before things heat up on land. Hopefully she will be bobbing up and down on her buoy in the River Orwell in the next few weeks. I still need to varnish the mast. She is all sanded and ready but I need that rare thing a dry still day before I start to varnish. I’m replacing the runners this year too due to finding a loose strand during the annual inspection.
One little job I have proudly finished is the renovation of my 20 year old Aerogen 4 wind generator. The bearings had gone and I managed to snap the hub when attempting to get it off the shaft so I relegated it to the boat jumble. When I was offered £20.00 for it I refused and decided to mend her myself. Now she has new bearings, newly tapped fin holes, a new hub, and a repaint job. I feel very proud, as she looks like new and I reckon fit for another 20 years. The great thing about the Aerogen generators is that they are virtually silent.
Tomorrow we are running the Three Forts Race with the Brimble Team. It will be a team bonding session and a chance to see how fit we are so we can pair up for the Scottish Islands Race. Better get some pasta on the boil!

The Steyning Stinger Half Marathon 2016

Sunday, March 6th, 2016
The Steyning Stinger Team - Grit, Alasdair, Alex, Kerry and John

The Steyning Stinger Team – Grit, Alasdair, Alex, Kerry and John

6th March 2016

It is cold and grey with hail pounding heavily against the window as I write this on the afternoon of the Steyning Stinger but this morning conditions couldn’t have been more perfect for the event. It was cold but the sun was out and there was just a gentle breeze. Underfoot it was muddy in parts but hey who would want to do the Stinger without a bit of mud? On the Downs the views were breath taking!
I think I am willing to stick my neck out and say this is the perfect ever race.
There is a community feel about it and it is very inclusive. If you are not a runner, you can start at about 7am and walk the half marathon course. If you are a runner but a little bit slow then you can start early and still get a time. If you are mega fit then you can even enter the full marathon course – which must be really gruelling. You can even change your mind half way through, but I wonder if any “Halfers” decide to upgrade! You can join the mass starts, or run the race peacefully by yourself.

There is no commercial feeling about this event, it cost less than £30.00 to enter and you get an organisation which is simply the best I have ever encountered. At the end you get a decent looking medal, free photos by Sussex Photography and to cap it all a free full English breakfast served to your table by the local cheery schoolchildren.

As for the run itself it is wonderful especially if you like hills! It is 90% a trail run with just the odd quiet stretch along tarmac road. It is a run you need to train for as the ascents are quite taxing although they are all runnable. That said many runners take the sensible decision to fast walk the steeper parts without really losing any time. I know they didn’t lose any time because I decided to run the whole thing and couldn’t gain on the walkers on the steep inclines. The route takes you on a long uphill path onto the South Downs where it joins the South Downs Way in parts. There are some fast stretches along the top (not for me though) with long views to the sea on one side and inland to the north. The descents are interesting and require some technique. One downhill through the woods follows a chalky hollowed out path which is rutted and covered occasionally in slippy chalk slime, occasionally in leaf mould and sometime loose flint boulders. I would be interested to know how many get injured on these paths. Maybe St Johns Ambulance have some figures. I suspect the tired marathon runners must find these descents even trickier.
I ran the race with my nephew Alex and his partner Kerry who confidently overhauled me after a few miles and finished in about 2 hours 7 minutes. Grit, John and myself all fell in behind. It is not a race for PB’s and you would need to be pretty fit to get in under 2 hours.

During breakfast we clocked a large contingent of German runners and wondered if they had come especially for the run. They certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves washing down their breakfast with Strongbow Cider!

We were doing it as part of our training for the Scottish Islands Three Peaks Race at the end of May. Next up is the Three Forts Race.
Will we do the Stinger again? Of course we will!

 

Salomon Speedcross 3 Trail Shoes

Saturday, February 27th, 2016
My new Salomon Speedcross 3 brand spanking new. Don't they look lovely!

My new Salomon Speedcross 3 brand spanking new. Don’t they look lovely!

I’ve signed up for the Scottish Islands Three Peaks Race on the good ship Brimble so some panic training is needed. Next week we are running the dreaded Steyning Stinger, one of my favourite races. My old Salomon Speedcross 2 shoes are unbelievably still quite serviceable although I fear they will clap out just before the race so I decided to buy some more. This time I decided to buy Speedcross 3. I hate buying online but none of the London shops had size 12.5. I don’t normally take size 12.5 but my old ones were this size and I tried size 11.5 and they were too tight. After a three week wait it transpires the shoes were left in a local sweet shop but no one bothered to tell me. I never have a smooth ride with online purchases. I picked them up this morning and decided to give them a go in Oxleas Woods. The new shoes have the treads moulded to fit the shoes whereas the old ones the tread was cut from a regular pattern sheet resulting in nobbles very close to the edge. They both have a great lace system. It looks fragile but it is really tough. You just pull on the clip to tighten then tuck the excess into a little pouch. The shoes are really well padded, I reckon you could run a half marathon in them from new without any trouble. They are really light and grippy. During the last Scottish Islands Three Peaks Race my running partner was wearing Inov8 shoes which lost all their nobbles on one scree slope! These Salomons will be good for several years. Highly recommended but take care on the sizing.

My old Speedcross 2 still going strong after four or five years! They just need a good wash.

My old Speedcross 2 still going strong after four or five years! They just need a good wash.

After my first run, seemed a shame to get them muddy.

After my first run, seemed a shame to get them muddy.