Run 109 – SRC Ashton Loops

Date: Thursday 26th June 6:30pm

Distance: 10.13km

Time: 54:09

Pace: 5:21min/km

Description: Got the new bike just before this run. Run was tougher than I expected. Good pace considering the distance and the hills. Just seemed slow at the time. And I survived cycling up Gloucester Road afterwards.  All good.

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http://connect.garmin.com/activity/529137080

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New Wheels – My Bike!

Got a new bike today!

A while ago, I got a cheap folding bike. It was heavy. It still wasn’t small when if folded in half. But it was cheap. And as a result I hardly ever used it. Fast forward to 2014, when experience is showing me that you get what you pay for. Last summer a mate let me use his full suspension bike around the Leigh Woods trails and it totally redefined what biking was to me. Up until that point I’d ridden heavy rigid bikes down some gravel tracks, or on the road. Riding over a curb was as extreme as it had gotten. Now here I am, sitting in the saddle with the back end sinking every time I put force on the pedals. Here I am in 2013, riding over big rocks like they are sponges. And the trails? Weeeee….!!!!

Never had I had so much fun on a bike. And I vowed that day that I’d get a full sus that summer! But in the end, it took a back seat (saddle) to the running and the hiking last year. But I got round to rectifying that this summer. Work has done several bike to work schemes, but since their terms and conditions have changed, it isn’t very appealing to me, especially when I was thinking that a good second hand full suspension would be better than a brand new hardtail.

But the more I looked around for bikes this summer, I changed my philosophy. Yes, I’d want a new bike, with the warranties and assurances that the mechanisms were all in good condition. You can get some cheap pieces of crap of full sus for under £500. The cheapest, non-shit one was around this price. But it weighed a ton, brakes were iffy. Instead, it became apparent that what I was looking for was a top end entry level hard tail, not go for the cheapest option, but the best I was willing to afford. It also became apparent that what you were really paying for was the level of brakes, gears etc, which made shopping around much less complicated. After a while, I really knew that I’d found the bike for me. An ex-display model, but still with warranties, nice feel and it looked amazing.

And so, this ex-display, 2014 Saracen Kili Trail, was my new baby!

Bring on the trails, the cross training and the adventures!

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Run 108 – SRC Towpath Pyramids

Date: Tuesday 24th June 6:30pm

Distance: 11.44km

Time: 1:05:58

Pace: 5:46min/km

Description: So soon after the half, this seems a little too masochistic. A Chris group, so it’s gonna be hard, but I NEED TO BE FASTER DAMMIT!

It’s a good session and a good group. Glad it’s along the Towpath. The intervals are tough, but by the end I’m really pushing. Overtaking people gives me such a psychological boost, especially along the Towpath. I can be dying, but if I can just get that person in front…

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/529137072

Run 107 – Cheddar Gorge Challenge Half Marathon

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Date: Sunday 22nd June 11:15am

Distance: 21.74km

Ascent: 489m

Time: 2:14:56

Pace: 6:12min/km

Description: Another very special day. Another special race. June 22nd. Two years ago today. And I’m looking down on the slope we scrambled up, from the spot on top where you took my picture and brought cold pizza. Glastonbury Tor in the distance, where we made silly faces. The race, where I beat you last year.IMG_20140622_103819

Well, not quite the same race. It’s a shame it’s two laps of the 10k route. I’d much prefer to compare myself running this now with no gels, to that amazing race last year. My first half marathon and my first time ahead.

But it is scorching hot. I have a CamelBak, but I still want to make it around without dying. Again, we’ve got a lift here with SRC, so the support is great. Fantastic team spirit. Once we start, I manage to stay with one guy who I know is a little faster. But I overtake on the technical downhill, that feels great and totally focus. Then I go a bit steadier on the Velvet Bottom section, just trying to keep a reasonable pace but not too fast. The hell steps are tough. It’s knackering. I get to the end of the first lap, and so want to switch to the 10k to finish. But no, down into the woods we go. Quite nostalgic, as this was the place last year where I knew I had a win in the bag, so long as I didn’t go arse over tit. The finish last year is now all over grown and dry looking.

Then came the worse bit. The near vertical slog back up to the start. This was no longer a race, but a slow snail’s paced climb up. Passing on to the second lap, I was not looking forward to it. I got a bottle of water, to help cool me down a bit. I feel so much slower going over the field for the second time. I’m not as fast going down the hill as I was. And Velvet Bottom seems even longer. But I’m surprised that as I get to the turning point, it seems close. Only a few more k to go. I perk up a little bit, and enjoy it again up until the hell steps. But I manage to keep up with a woman there, and I desperately don’t want to be over taken by the people behind me. Only 1 or 2 k to go and it’s 2 hours. Not bad. If only I can beat 2:13 I’d be happy. But the last bit takes even longer and slower than hoped. Great support from SRC as I come in to the final loop round. I overtake the woman, and feel a bit guilty about finishing a head, but I’ve got the pace and want the time.IMG_20140622_232000

It’s a whisker under 2:15, which I’m fairly happy about. I’m even happier its finally over. It was much hotter than last year, and a different circuit, so not really comparable. Could I do my time last year without gels? Possibly. But I’ll never know for sure this year, as it’s the marathon in two months, and that’s a whole different ball game which I’m not looking forward to!

The car journey back is quite emotional, as I remember these hills are hollow.IMG_20140622_171819

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/526439994

Run 106 – SRC Chocolate, Nightingale x2, Leigh Woods

Date: Thursday 19th June 6:30am

Distance: 12km

Time: 1:06:49

Pace: 16:13min/km

Description: I felt fine on the Monday after the Scafell Marathon. Good to know for next time. But I was up in Worcester on Tuesday so the next SRC I could make was Thursday. And I wanted to do a mixture of Towpath, with technical Nightingale Valley stuff, combined with a few intervals. So I plucked up the courage at the SRC meeting to say what I wanted to do. A couple of guys joined me who were after a faster paced run. Well these guys gave me a run for my money. The interval stuff on the way out was new to everyone, and bloody tough. Made going up nightingale, not once but twice extremely hard going. I want to throw up. Just as I’m ready to head back to the club for the England game, one of the guys says he knows Leigh woods very well, so we have a cruise around there for a while as I recount my learning experience of the past weekend. Turns out they guys a fell runner. As we run back, we join another group along the Chocolate Path. The game was tense, but a fantastic evening.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/524255445

Run 105 – Scafell Pike Marathon

Date: Sunday 15th June 9:00am

Distance: 30.32km

Ascent: 1,224m

Time: 8:11:51

Pace: 16:13min/km

Description: So, here we are. The Biggie. England’s Highest. Breakfast. Registration. We get a cool t-shirt and socks. OMG socks! We then walk back to the start with a few minutes to spare. We’re off. A steady pace at the back, no use burning out too fast. The sun is shining and running along the shore of the lake, it all looks stunning. Across a wooden track above a field of ferns leading towards the first hill. 8k in and we get to the first ascent. There’s a guy who’s completed it before who says he’s ahead of schedule, and a couple, one who’s run this before and her partners who’s only done a couple of 5ks. Jees, we’ve probably got a better chance.

We walk up the steps and the view behind is amazing. Then we get over the ridge and can see in to the next set of valleys, in front and to the left. I run again through the ferns listening to the LotR soundtrack, watching the ragged cloud base obscuring the mountain tops. Senses are synchronized, what I’m listening to, what I’m seeing all around me, what I feel inside as I run. This moment is EPIC beyond description! Arguably one of the best moments of my life. I am so fortunate to have found this and to be doing this with my life now. Like it all makes sense.

Then it’s back down, which unfortunately means losing altitude. Along the river to the first feed station at Seathwaite. My running buddy is struggling a bit now with injury, but she wants to push on and see how far she can get.

Now it gets tough. We run further along the elevated river bank and cross over a stone bridge with a photographer ready to take our picture. I’m glad I brought the walking poles. It’s slow going. Even the “5k” couple over take us. We are officially last. I’m frustrated as hell because I want to be running these relatively flat parts again. The view coming up to Styhead is unreal, there are clouds lifting up out of the valley behind. After 3 hours, half an hour before the cutoff, we dib our tags. The marshal shows me the Corridor Route up the side and suggests that we don’t hang around for long. The “run” is now a hike up 500m. We can still do this if we make it in an hour. We crawl up. I’m loving sections where I get a chance to run close to the edge again and scramble up and down sections. I discover that I LOVE the exposure, while my running buddy slowly learns to cope with it. The last 100m up to the summit I find the hardest, it’s steep, it’s just mist all around and the rocks are an awkward size, larger than gravel, but still small enough to move and lose energy when you step on them. I take my buddies bag to try to make it easier for her.

But we finally make it to the summit. 5 hours down, 4 to go. We may still be able to do this so long as we are faster going down.

We’re slower. Much slower. Unfortunately, her muscle injury gets much worse as soon as we start coming down from the summit. I realise it’s pretty hopeless at that point, and the key is just to get back. The scenery is still amazing, despite the heavy cloud. This place contains some strange echoes. And even I’m surprised about how technical this bit is, you have to walk across these large stones like stepping stones. I’m extremely glad of the cairns and the other hikers to help find our way. Back on to a normal track we can get back to some very slow jogging. We find, what we think, is the turning back to Sty Head. The next junction is a little less sharp than I was expecting, but we’re going in the right direction, map and GPS says we’re good.

We emerge from under the cloud base as we get close to Styhead, a marshal is coming to meet us. I know it’s all over only 25k in. The marshal says that we missed the last checkpoint and must have slightly cut the corner. Maybe those were the voices I heard through the mist. But we’re safe. They bring up our rear and we chat as we slowly make it back to Seathwait. 7 hours now. 15k to go. I start to think that if my buddy gets a taxi or a lift back from there, I may still be able to complete this, even though my feet are killing me. Maybe not within the time limits, but fuck that now. I can feel the fire in my blood, burning to be let loose on these mountains like they have been calling me to do all weekend. A proper race to finish. Man versus mountain! I’m frustrated but driven as hell.

I wanted to prove to myself and the world that I could do this. But it’s not to be. I have a quiet word with one of the marshals, who’s a great guy. He says he’s seen this situation before with teams. He acknowledges that I probably could do it, but suggests that I go back with my buddy and carry on supporting her. I know he’s right. I feel very emotional, a real mix. I’m disappointed by my selfishness at the end, but I’ve done well to stick by her throughout. I’m encouraged by my desire to finish. I never thought that I had that raw, almost overwhelming drive to complete something within me. I’m furious and vow that I’m going to return here as soon as I can and run, yes RUN it again, to show myself and the world that I can run a marathon up the highest mountain in England in under 9 hours. Just gutted that it won’t be an official time.

Doing Mount Olympus next year seems a little less likely after today. 1,000m in 9 hours is currently borderline for me, so 3,000m in a years’ time doesn’t seem realistic. And with this DNF on our record, I doubt we’d get in anyways.

Perhaps selfishly, I promise myself that is the last time I race with someone for a long while. It’s not fair on myself and almost a complete waste if I can’t push myself to my limits. I’ve got to run this now on my own and find my own way. I feel very close to the mountains now. Just me and the universe, as I guess it always is meant to be.

I leave the Lake District with unfinished business. I watch the mountains grow smaller in the distance, as my heart breaks that I’m leaving. The mountains really do feel like home. I’ll be back.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/524255414

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/637461857

Run 104 – Keswick Stone Circles

Date: Saturday 14th June 7:30pm

Distance: 12.90km

Time: 2:32:01

Pace: 11:47min/km

Description: Given the amazing scenery of the Lake District, and finding there was a Stone Circle not so far away from where we were staying in Keswick, it was hard to resist going for a gentle run this evening.

Not quite as mystical as we’d hoped, given the sheep, photographers and tourist, but still very cool. We make it back and grab a Chinese and eat it on a bench overlooking Derwent Water as the sky is still light at 11pm.

I ask what do you see when you see those hills and mountains in front? A 50:50 mixture of apprehension and excitement. For me, those thin track lines meandering up the side to the top are just calling to me. The cloud veiled summits are the goal. I want to be in the sky.

Can’t wait to get to work on them in ten hours!

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/524255428

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