Here's me

My name is Matt I'm a freelance music teacher. I teach whole classes, voice, and guitar both privately and in local schools.

I've been running since February 2010. I originally set this up to promote fund raising for Edale Mountain Rescue Team when I did the Nottingham Ultra in 2011. I raised over £500 but the race was so uneventful (in a good way) that I couldn't be bothered to do a write up.

Now I'm intending to use it to document the running stuff that I want to be able to remember.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Maxpedition Jumbo versipack review

There comes a time in the tide of every man's blog when he must contemplate his first product review.  If this point on the space time continuum coincides, as here, with the revelation of secret preper/survivalist tendencies then a review of the Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack shall be the inevitable outcome.
Reviews of this product are two a penny but I think we can stand another because; most are video reviews, this will be written; most are by fanboys who can't seem to find a single thing that's less than perfect, I hope I can bring some balance.
The handbag in question
General thoughts.
I've carried a hand bag for a while now. I first got into every day carry when I came across a post on ITSTactical about things one might like to carry on one's keys. I started carrying a few bits and bobs all the time and soon needed a bag for my stuff. I have quite a few trousers with no pockets and, when I was wearing pockets, the stuff in the pockets irritated me.
At first I carried a very small and cheap thing I'd bought from trespass as a pouch for a rucksack waist strap but quickly replaced it with a snugpak half - messenger style bag. I would highly recommend that bag.  It was well priced, had great storage and organisation options, and was reasonably well made.
Eventually I needed something which I could fit my lunch in which was just the excuse I needed to splash out on the versipack which I'd been eyeing for a while.


Here's a great time to talk cost. It's ridiculously expensive. Around £90. Is it worth it? No.  Having said that I knew when I bought it that it wasn't worth it and I still went ahead. The thing is that I knew when I bought it that I would be using it everyday. It was always the bag I'd thought of when I decided to carry a handbag but I went with the (much) cheaper option whilst seeing if a handbag was going to work for me.
Another note on price. I did shop around and found them on Amazon for around £20 off rrp. When going through the checkout process there was some confusion about colour options, though, and so I ended up paying full price to go through heinnie haynes in order to get the peace of mind that ordering through them brings.

Weight Comfort and Running

This is quite a heavy bag even with nothing in it, around a kilo (I think). However, even with a much heavier load than I used to have in the snugpak, it is much more forgiving to carry. The shoulder strap is wide, padded, and comfortable. The non - slip padded section is articulated from the main strap so when the pack moves you don't get any rubbing or chaffing from the strap.
There is a waist strap which does spread the weight of the pack very nicely. I use this as my every day carry pack and my load is fairly small but by using the waist strap you could easily carry enough weight to make this a viable hiking day sack. I've also done a couple of small runs with this, just as a proof of concept but also when I go for a parkour session and I want to have my regular carry with me. You couldn't run very fast or very far with this but easy run pace is very achievable for a few miles.


Let's tackle the things I don't like.

Before we start this I want to mention that the bag comes in right and left hand versions so when I talk about the front or rear of the back when carried then that is always correct assuming you've bought the bag meant to be carried on the side on which you are carrying it. [That has to be the worst sentence I've ever written]

1. The pocket on top of the lid. I have no real use for this and tend to use it as a trash pocket. I've seen it recommended as a sunglasses pocket but I don't live in a climate to necessitate carrying sunglasses. That's my problem though, not an issue with the pocket itself. My issues with it are first I think it looks a bit ugly. Second, and this winds me up, the zip runs the wrong way. Every zip on here goes front to back (whilst wearing) and that makes sense. You glance down, see the zip, off you go. This pocket has the zip running back to front. That makes it harder to find when you need to use it but also why make it different from all the rest?
2. The pocket under the lid flap feels like it should have a dual zipper. I really think that dual zippers would make sense and make the pocket more usable. When you use this pocket you have to undo the side release buckle on the lid flap. That means that you would tend to bring the bag round to your front which means that the natural place to reach for the zipper is the top of the pocket. That would be achievable with dual zippers (you'd just leave them how you like it). This is a niggling point but its an expensive bag - you want it right.
The offending pocket - the lid is lifted so you can see the pocket
2a. There's a key clip on a short strap inside the same pocket. It's on the wrong side. As you look at the bag the zip pull (when closed) sits on the right and the key clip is on the left. It was on the right you could have the zip slightly undone and whatever's on the clip could just stick out a little or if you kept the zip closed you would only need to open it a little to access the clip. If it was on the right it would also be nearer the front of the bag as you wear it making for easier access.
3. There's a karabiner type clip on the rear strap [rear side when carried left side on the photo] where the strap meets the pack. The reason its there is because there's a small pocket behind the molle loops under the karabiner. It does make sense because you could clip, say, your keys to the karabiner and then tuck them into the sleeve pocket to stop them rattling but you have to bring the pack unnaturally far round your body to get to whatever you've hung there. I do see why it is where it is but I think it would be better on the other side of the strap so when wearing the bag it would sit on your side.
4. There is a lot of unused space below the front strap. There's a small molle field there but I'd prefer the phone pocket they put on the same place on some of their other packs.
Which leads to
5. Its clearly built with one eye on selling extras. That unused space can be used to easily attach a maxpedition phone pouch (for a princely sum) with the maxpedition tacties (not included). The front pocket under the lid suffers from this too. It would really benefit from some elasticated loops for organisation. It's left blank which has the huge advantage that it's the perfect size to fit the maxpedition pocket organiser (separate purchase).
These are all small niggles and they wouldn't stop me buying or recommending this bag but it is expensive and you want it to be right. 

The Way I Carry It

There's a couple of things I want to mention about what I've done with the bag and contents which help me get the most out of what I carry.
I've got the handle wrapped in my favourite paracord for easy identification of the bag and also so I've got plenty of paracord should I need it.
My torch is attached to the molle at the front (whilst wearing) of the pack. It's very easy to get off but it's also possible to use it whilst still attached.
I very pleased that I live in a country that doesn't allow the owning of guns. Obviously the concealed carry weapons pocket doesn't get used for its intended purpose but it is a great place to keep my tablet and notepad. The tablet is a 7 inch but I believe tablets of up to ipad size will fit. Incidentally my tablet also fits in the zip pocket under the lid although it is quite tight.
Here's my favourite. I have a small velcro-hook tab on my car key so that I can stick it to the loop field on top of the bag. This is so useful. Switch off car, stick key to bag, get boy and stuff from car, key still handy for use. I'm so pleased with this that I've stuck a velcro-loop field onto my dashboard and put some velcro-hook on the gate remote. I'd love to find some other stuff to add this system to.  One thing which I carry which I highly recommend everyone to carry is a plastic bag folded up. You can, from Maxpedition and other tactical type manufacturers, dump bags that roll up so that when you need some extra storage you can unroll a bag.  But they are all very much more bulky and heavy than a plastic carrier bag.

Well I think that's it for now. I hope someone finds this useful


Friday, 3 January 2014

Here comes 2014

I've been thinking a lot about what I'll be doing in 2014 so here it is.

Dry January is extended till march 23rd. Here's the rules. A small slip £5, a big slip £20, total failure £100 to mountain rescue. The reward for completion will be the best and lightest waterproof I can find waiting for me at the start line of...

Edale skyline 23rd March. I want a pb.

Training for this will be mixed up a bit. So kettle bell strength, a tabata followed by balancing, perfect pair (kettle bell swings and press ups), a run per week. Interspersed with one or two weeks of big milage.

Ultra tour peaks in June. Woot. I was hesitant about entering this because I really don't have time to do ultra training and I am still suffering with my foot. But I've been wanting to do it for a while and in a moment of madness I signed up. I will be doing this as a sponsored event raising money for mountain rescue.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Long Eaton 50

Long Eaton 50 Miler 2013

Carry: Salomon agile 17 sack containing


2 x 9bar - ate 1 and a half
2 other cereal bars -  didn't eat
Jelly babies - didn't eat because all check points had lots
Pretzels - didn't eat because the check points had lots but I consider these essential due to my predisposition towards cramp
Elete salt tablets - took one at cp3 and one at cp4


250ml home made gu with 90 grams of sugars. Had most of this before the cp4 drop bag


2x 800ml bottles - only used one.

Drop bag

Extras of all the food I was carrying which I didn’t need and left on the table and another bottle of the home made gu which I took and of which I had about half.

The Event

I had an awful training block for this mainly because my son has been so ill.  Since easter he’s had tonsillitis, scarlet fever, chest infection, and chicken pox so there have been lots of times that I’ve ear-marked for a long run or a back to back which has ended up spent with my young fellow.  I got a 23 mile run in about 7 weeks out and a 20 mile run in about 5 weeks out but apart from that my longest run since february has been 12 miles and my weekly average has probably been around 12 - 15 miles.

As I was setting off I was telling the others that I did have a good January and I was hoping the fitness was still there from that.  It seems like only yesterday but then I realised it was six months ago.  My plan, given my rubbish training, was to have a good 2nd week out in the hope that I could revive any fitness and strength that was residual in my body.  So two weeks out I did two 10 milers - one fast and a 6 miler.  I did the 6 miler at a pace that would probably be suitable for a 8 or 9 mile race so fairly fast for me.  I also did an unexpected 5 miler as part of a late night expedition to buy port and cheese.

I had a couple of days off after that but when I went for an easy 5 miles on the Tuesday before the race my legs felt very heavy and I was really worried in case those extra 5 miles would mean I got to the day tired.

In the end it worked out really well. I did a mega relaxed 2 miles on Thursday and my legs still felt tired but I was fairly sure I'd be ok on the day.

I should probably pay more attention to nutrition the day before an event, but I don't, so chicken kebab and chips for me.

Saturday morning I was up nice and early so I could hit the toilet.

I am a convert of the high fat low carb diet - I’m not motivated enough to be strict about it but I do make sure I have a zero carb very high fat breakfast every morning so two large eggs scrambled with a dash of milk and lots of butter.  I’d been debating whether to add toast given that I was doing an event but on reflection I thought that I probably wouldn’t really need carbs given the snail like pace I’d be running.

My dad gave me a lift to the start early enough that I could see the 6am wave go off.  I’d originally planned to be there early to see my mate Mark go off but he couldn’t make it.  I’d got two fellows to sign up this year and they both had to pull out.  Anyway I met up with Darren who I’d met on facebook via Mark.

I’d organised to meet up with Sal at the start and go off together because our times last year, and our goal this year, were similar but she shot off like something not right and I didn’t see her again.  She did 9:59 for first lady.  It was a shorter course this year 50.3 miles instead of 51.8 (or something like that) but even allowing for the difference that represents a pb of around 50 minutes for her.

I was running with Bernard, Rachel, and Damien and we chatted the usual chat.  I got a sense right from the start that Damien would have liked to be going slower.  I would have been slower out of choice but I knew there would be enforced rest later (due to terrain and navigation) so I was happy to go with it.  It was Bernard and Rachel setting the pace in the early miles although when we got down to the canal section Damien must have slowed and Rachel stuck with him because all of a sudden me and Bernard were on our own.

Last year I had an OS custom map made and traced the route on but unfortunately I forgot it this year so I was relying on the route description.  I hate route descriptions.  There’s been some post race grumbling from the competitors about the route description: I think that, as route descriptions go, it is fine and I don’t think you could really improve it although, as a navigational solution, they’re always going to be fairly poor.

The lack of map meant that Bernard and I had to walk every now and then to read the description.  I like to get walk breaks in early, not loads of walking but I think psychologically its good to remind yourself that the effort hasn’t really started yet.  

I was hoping to be much swifter through checkpoints this year but having forgot the map I had to wait to be given the next stage’s route description so that goal went right out of the window but we got through cp1 fairly quick.  Just as we left the cp Pete, last years winner, came in.  He’d started at seven.  I’ve looked at the splits and he did those first 10 miles in 1:20 - wow - although I think he suffered for it a bit later on.

At fifteen miles this happened:

Me: Shall we walk abit
Bernard: I think that’s a good tactic
Me: you’re going that bit faster than I would be
B: I don’t mean to its just that I get a bit carried away
Me: tuck behind me I have no problem going slow
B: well if we’re walking I’m going to shock you now
Me: Go on then
B:I’m going to do a roll up

Now I really was puzzled about this - he’d mentioned that he might need a comfort stop (gingerbreadman) at some point and I really wondered if he meant he was going to roll his short leg up and get on with some buisness.  But no, he gets out his tobacco and papers and has a smoke - brilliant.

Shortly after this we left the canal and were met by Bill, a club member that spends the day waiting at navigationally problematical points to guide participants, thanks Bill.

When we got into the fields we quickly made a navigational error (went wrong).  With the fag break and the back tracking I was a minute slower on this leg than last year.  By the time we got into cp2 we’d been passed by a couple more of the 7 o’clock wave been caught back up by Rachel and Damien and been joined by Phil who had also started at 7.  

I don’t really like stopping during these things so I left the checkpoint quite a while before the others and walked while I ate and drank and to let them catch up.  The next leg is the worst navigationally and the group which now formed (Bernard, me, Phil, Damien, and Rachel) owe Rachel massive thanks.  She has great knowledge of the route and she did all the work over the next ten miles.  We hardly looked at the route description and, although my moving pace was slower than last year, my time for the stage was 5 mins faster.

I was getting very grumpy though.  

The group wasn’t really doing what I wanted.  Damien was starting to find the going a bit tough so we were walking more than I would have wanted.  On the other hand Phil was finding the pace very slow so he was wanting to run faster than I wanted and Rachel was fresh off a fast marathon so she was going with the faster pace.  Also the walking pace was slower than I would have wanted.  The grass was long and it was getting stuck between my toes - pretty much the only thing that makes me wish I ran in trainers - and the rape seed was over head height.

I had genuine thoughts of dropping; I hadn’t decided to drop but I was seriously weighing it up.

It was thoughts of young-feller-me-lad that kept me going.  When we told him the night before that he wasn’t coming to the start he was really upset.  He said he wanted to cheer daddy but we told him he could cheer daddy at the end.  I thought ‘well if I don’t finish he won’t get to cheer daddy and so I’ve got to finish’.  Brilliant. Decision made.  I’m finishing.

A couple of miles before cp3 Phil had started to tell us about Ian, a friend of his who was really fast and was going to pick him up at cp5 to run him into the end.  Phil received a phone call from Ian to say he’d started earlier and was at cp4 waiting, the news had to be broken that we were still not at cp3 yet.  Our pace was clearly way slower than Phil’s but I don’t think he’d have done the stage any faster if he’d gone ahead.  The two guys who’d left him when they got to us were a bit faster than Phil (so Phil said) and despite their extra speed we’d kept them in sight for a good few miles at the start of the stage because they were taking so much longer to navigate (thanks again Rachel).

Anyway when we got to the checkpoint Ian was waiting for Phil.  By this point Damien was breathing very heavily.  I had been right way back at mile 2 when I thought the pace was too strong for him.  He talked about not wanting to hold the group up but we all said we would go at whatever pace he wanted but I was sure he wouldn’t be finishing.  

To be honest I thought he’d done really well getting to 28 miles over what was clearly tough going for him.  Another thing.  He was wearing this bum bag that looked like the most uncomfortable thing in the world - it would have driven me mad.  While we’re on gear. Rachel had one of those weird handhelds with a hole in the middle that you wear on your wrist.  I couldn’t begin to think of carrying one of those for 50 miles I’d go berserk.

I did my usual thing of grabbing stuff and walking out of the checkpoint and before long Phil and Ian caught me, I’d finished eating so I started running but Ian was clearly not going to let Phil hang with the group and they rocketed off.  The rest of the group hadn’t caught me yet but my running pace was way slower than that which the group had been setting so I knew they’d catch me.  After a mile or so I began to wonder if they would catch me and sure enough the next time I saw them was when the route doubles back across a valley and they were 600 - 800 meters behind.

This was when we had the big rain storm of the day.  I’d spoken to Bob shortly after the checkpoint while I was walking and he’d asked about the weather and I said it was good, cool with the odd bit of rain.  He took the piss “only a Britisher would tell you that the weather is good then that its raining”.  Well here was where the rain turned bad.  All the other showers were quite mild and I’d kept my route description dry by shielding it in my cupped hand. Now I had to get out my map case (yes I’d remembered the map case even though I’d forgotten the map - what a twat).  While I did that I got cold and clouds were thick and black leading to more questions over finishing.  If we had a couple of hours of this I’d be walking into the checkpoint wrapped in my space blanket.

There was another chap ahead who must have been a 6am starter - the last, we’d passed the others at about mile 20.  He was stopping to mess with his rucksack too and sometimes I got closer to him and sometimes he pulled away.  By the time I got to him the rain had eased and by the time we’d done introductions (he was Nick signed up for his first 100 - the winter 100 later this year) it had more or less stopped (thank God)

I thought his running pace was a bit quicker than mine although it was me dragging him along because for some reason I could remember the route on this section really clearly.  I’m not sure he really trusted my confidence in the route but I got us to the next road and Bill without any problems.  He told me I’d have to leave him which surprised me because he was moving really well and looked very strong.  He was right, though, and I didn’t see him again.

Now one of the reasons I’d thought about dropping before was simply that I couldn’t be bothered.  I’m not competitive at all and I’m not really motivated by time.  I’d done this before and I’d done my best last year, I wasn’t sufficiently trained to do any better so what was the point.  

Well now, for the first time ever, I got a little competitive edge in me.  Last year a chap called Paul, who’d set off half an hour later, caught me at about mile 27 and he just held me off to cross the line a few seconds before me.

That would be my goal - cross the line before Nick and therefore beat to the line all of the 6am wave.

I was held up in cp4 because the route descriptions for the next stage had been misplaced which meant that Nick was just coming into the cp as I was leaving.  He could gain two minutes on me there because they now knew where the route descriptions were.  I set off up the horrible climb and gave one of the relay runners some shit for walking it even though his legs were fresh.  This climb is the only time that your heart really gets going in this race and I called Bob and Katja for a chat at the top so I could get my heart rate down again.

That was really the last eventful thing that happened to me.  I kept thinking about Nick and thinking “if he’s running this section and I’m not then he’s making up time on me” I was in much better condition than I was last year during the final 13 miles and I ran much more.  I called my wife to let her know an ETA and told her that I was running well - and I was. Last year I told the guys at cp5 that I was struggling - non of that this year.  I was quick in and out, ran down the road where last year I found it tough to get my legs moving again after the stop.  

Timing wise after adjusting for the shorter course based on my average pace I did a PB of around 15 minutes and I got most of that in the last 13 miles.  The last stage was 6 minutes faster than last year - that’s over a minute per mile - and I put in the fastest stage outside the top 4.  In front of me the next man was 9:45 so I consider myself to really have been the quickest of the slow guys.  And, as always, I was the fastest (read only) in barefoot-style footware.

It was another great day; I punched the air as I went through the finish tape; I picked up my boy (and reason for finishing) who cheered me over the line; shook hands and thanked all the fantastic volunteers.  I was very proud.

As always the toe shoes sparked a lot of interest and I answered lots of questions about them as I sat, and stood, waiting for Rachel and Bernard to come in.  They came in just over half an hour later and to my surprise Damien was with them.  The winning time was 7:29, remarkable, but no more so than Damien’s finish.  I told him I thought he would be dropping and he agreed he said he thought he was done at cp3 he showed massive strength in finishing.  We had to go before Nick came in. He did 11:48 so he must have arrived only just after we left - the fact that I’d passed him while he was looking so strong is what got me the time on those last two stages.  Darren got a 13 hour finish.  He told me the wheels had come off and it sounds like he had big problems with navigation on stage three (not surprising) and I gather he did an extra 3 miles or so, finishing after that is properly characterful.

After the race there’s been discussion (moaning) about the race description.  In my opinion the route description itself couldn’t really be improved but I do agree that, even so, its pretty crap having to run with it.  Do what I did last year; get an os custom 1:25000.  Have it centered on grid ref 365363 and you’ll get all but the last 3 miles of the route on the map.  Trace the route on - then don’t forget the map.  It makes the nav loads easier.

There’s also been talk about the low turnout (17 starters).  That doesn’t bother me personally but it does seem a shame for the race organisers.

If you’re reading this, and you want a 50 miler, do this one.  The organisation is fantastic, you can choose your own start time, the checkpoints are good enough to turn it into a 50 mile all you can eat buffet (there were jam sandwiches, cheese and ham sandwiches, sausage rolls, energy drink, flap jacks, pretzels, jelly babies, chocolate bars, etc), its incredibly good value, despite being low key the finish line is excellent and they hold the tape up for every finisher, its a caring event (last year there was one guy who dropped at cp3 and they transported him to cp5 so he could ru the last stage).

It would be a brilliant first 50 for anyone looking to increase their distance.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Every Run Carry

What to carry on the run.

Its very rare for me to head out for a run without carrying something. Even in the best weather I take my grab bag with some basic emergency stuff. I've been laughed at for this but wanted to put something together to encourage people to think about what they ought to be carrying when out running.

It could be that, after thought, the conclusion is that you don't need to carry anything but making an informed decision not to carry anything is very different from setting out without anything due to thoughtlessness.

One must consider route, weather and potential emergency situations.

For example take a broken leg. If I think I might break my leg and need to be able to deal with it them I need to think about taking trekking poles, pain killers, possibly bandages and more. Personally I don't carry stuff I'd need to deal with a broken leg because I believe its unlikely enough to not worry about. But I have thought about it.

The situation I do want to be prepared for is my pace dropping. There are lots of reasons this might happen and it's potentially dangerous because if you're wearing enough for a given pace and you end up moving slower then you'll get cold. So I want to carry things to make myself safe should that happen.

One way to make this situation safe is to get my pace back up so I'm thinking about why I might slow down and what I can do about it.  One cause would be bonking, so I always take glucose tablets in the hope that I could get some quick calories and get my pace back up. Another cause might be cramp so I always take salt in the hope that some quick salt would sort the cramp and get me running again. Another cause would be shoe failure. This has happened to me and although it didn't slow me down next time it might so now I take a small roll of duct tape.

Next I want to think about what would happen if I couldn't get my speed back up for example if I'd rolled an ankle. If that were to happen then I'd be walking and it's cold that is the danger. Depending on conditions it doesn't take long to get cold in lightweight, and potentially wet, running gear. I think how far I'd need to walk and plan my carry accordingly. So if I go for a run in the woods I could be up to two miles from my house or the nearest pick up point so I need to have enough stuff to keep me warm for the time it would take to walk that distance. What to take depends on weather. In summer just a space blanket might be the best option (I tend to carry one all the time anyway) but if it was dawn or dusk maybe a long sleeve base layer might be needed. As it gets colder a mid layer, extra windproof or waterproof might be necessary.

I've put together a grab bag with glucose tabs, salt tabs, duct tape, space blanket, cash, and vaseline which I always take with me. I also always carry my phone. Then I carry extra clothing to fit the conditions.

Here's an example of when I got it wrong. Last year I ran to work one Friday morning as I often do. It was -6c I was wearing two base layers and a windproof and had with me a fleece vest as my emergency layer. I set off and put on the fleece thinking I'd take it off when I got up to temperature. I never got warm enough to  take it off.  I considered that a fail and whilst running was genuinely worring about the fact that I had no extra warmth with me.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Long Eaton 50 - June 16

Finish photo
The view that brought me round after my temper tantrum
The footbridge over dole brook
Well I was in a strange mood to start the Long Eaton 50.  The day before my dad had seen a weather warning that we were in for the worst storms in 50 years and three months of rain over the weekend.  Consequently as I was tracing my route on to the map I was just thinking that it was just too far.  Dad had been questioning my training and the safety and I was really considering not even going.  On Friday night I had pretty much decided that I was going to go and do a long training run and drop at checkpoint three.

On Friday evening I had a curry and a couple of beers and a late night.doc

Katja and James dropped me off on Saturday morning at about 5:35.  I wasn't well prepared; due to the uncertainty with the weather I'd packed way too much stuff and two different sized bags so I could decide what to take on the day.  

Due to the curry I missed my 6am start (gingerbread man in process) so I set of at 6:07 all on my own. Obviously that meant I had no one to talk to but it also meant I had no external influence on my pace.

It wasn't ling before I realized I'd forgotten to take my tracky bottoms off so I had to stop and stash them in a hedge.  It wasn't long after that when I realized I'd forgotten to hand in my drop bag - going well then.  If I hadn't arrived in such a negative mindset I don't think I'd have made these mistakes.

I had nothing to tell me what kind of pace I was running but I think I was about 9:45 or 10 minutes which was right where I wanted to be considering my heavy pack.  I got to the first checkpoint ahead of the time I expected but that was mainly because I'd not walked yet.  I had intended to walk early but the terrain was very easy.

I'd already started eating, mainly because I was starving for some reason, but I was glad to see some food at the checkpoint.  I'd taken an extra mid-layer for if it dropped cold but I left this at the checkpoint which turned out to be a good call.  Setting off  I quickly made a small navigation error which I had to stop and check but I was soon cracking on again.  The route turned off the canal to go to the first checkpoint and as I turned to head back to the canal I gave Katja a call.  It was nice to talk and it put her mind at rest given my negative attitude at the start.

As I was talking I saw to runners in the distance and I was sure they were in the race.  As I caught them it was obvious they were.  Two women running 50 mipes for the first time. They'd made contact with each other before the race because they were both looking at 12 hours.  They were walking quite a lot and I had a couple of walk breaks while I chatted with them.  One woman had the strip maps but really they were relying on the course knowledge of Rachel: a long Eaton club member who'd reccied the course and sent some beta round to all runners.

After a few walks with the girls I said cheerio and went on.  I gave my dad a call just let him know that he hadn't managed to put me off.  He was just off to the gym and I was reminded of a comment that Mark Thatcher once made whilst on a running break in the Lakes "think of all those people sat in traffic driving to the gym to sit on a stationary bike"

Once the route left the canal path for the second time the navigation started properly.  Having tried to do the Doevdale dipper off a route description I'd ordered one of the OS custom maps and marked on the route. It was a good call and navigation wasn’t really a problem: I made one or two school boy errors but nothing major.

Just before leaving the canal path I made a school boy nav error; I missed the point to cross the canal but luckily a walker had seen some guys on the opposite side and told me.  As I came out onto an estate there was a guy there to guide me through the estate and point me in the right direction.  I was very glad of this because I had expected to struggle with navigation on the estates.

Back on to trails and I had to cross Dole Brook.  The footbridge was a very wobbly railway sleeper thrown i the brook, I got across no problem but a spot of balance training after 16 miles is not ideal.  

I knew I wasn’t far behind some other runners because of what the walkers said as was leaving the canal and it wasn't long before I saw three ahead.  Having studied the stage times I think I can work out that they were Jeremy Nottingham, Justin Eveleigh, and Mick Walker.  I must have passed Takaaki Yamamiya at some point round here but I didn't see him (he'd run the first stage very quick and must have detonated big time eventually dropping at cp4)

On seeing the three fellows I quickly caught them mainly because they were navigating and I just followed them.  Once we were together I was navigating qiickest so I pulled ahead to get a bit of extra time in the checkpoint.

I'd already had my first twinge of cramp so I got out the salt tablets.  A couple of days before I'd posted on their facebook page asking how to take it but, unhelpfully, had no reply.  I asked at the checkpoint if I should just swallow it or crunch it but no one knew.  The other runners were saying that if I hadn't used them before then I didn't ought to make this the first time - good advice but cramp seemed worse than a dodgy stomach and anyway my stomach is usually fairly bomb-proof.  I swallowed it with water took some pretzels, flap jack and took a banana to have as I went.

Me Jeremy and Justin left the checkpoint together before Mick and I ran with them for most of the next stage.  We set off on a road section, I was worried that this would aggravated my cramp feeling but the salt must have done the trick.  The road section was 2-3 miles and we were passed by a guy looking super fresh.  I asked if he'd set off at 6:30 but actually he'd left at seven.  That meant he'd put 53 minutes on me in about 23 miles and he was running really easy.  It was Pete Stockdale the eventual winner in 8:43.  We got on a long boring cycle path still chatting and we were passed by another runner who'd set off at 7.  I think it was Tim Earl who eventually took 4th in 9:43 his splits show he'd run with Pete Stockdale until slowing when the navigation got tricky.

Turning off the cycle path navigation got really tricky and it was good that we had the combination of my map with the route description.  We still managed to go wrong at one point and probably lost 5 minutes in a wondering round a field.  We got there though and once right I started to move ahead of the others.  Just after this I was passed first by Tom Adams who took 2nd in 8:46 - unlike Stockdale he was navigating (Stockdale knew the course) which makes his time super impressive and on the stages with easier navigation he took the fastest times.

I was then caught by Paul who'd set off at 6:30. He'd done the race last year and had the route on his garmin.  I ran with him till cp 4 and we left Jeremy and Justin.  I thought they'd catch me but O didn’t see them again.  I don't think me and Paul were running any faster but we were navigating faster although the two of them must have slowed a bit to come in in 12:30.

I was moving better than Paul and entered the checkpoint earlier but stayed about a minute longer.  My hydration pouch was harder to fill than his bottle and I also took a bit of time to neck another salt tablet.  Paul stayed ahead pf me and I think I was catching him but staying in the aid stations longer - I crossed the line about v5 seconds after him so his time was about 24 minutes better than mine.

It was good to talk with Paul and we talked about shoes and gear and also the many races he'd done including 100 milers plus some that we'd both done.  We're both doing the Dovedale dipper this year so I may see him there.

From here the order of things get a bit hazy although there are some experiences I had which really stand out and will stay with me forever.  I made a few audio diaries as I went so from those I'll be able to piece together what happened.

I was still really happy with my pace.  I don't think my running pace slowed at all during any of it.  My average pace was slower during this middle 20 miles or so but mainly because of navigation and also because of the bushwhacking; many fields had no path and in those that did it was obscured because the crops had been blown over it.  In those fields I struggled because I kept getting things stuck between my toes which tripped me up a bit.  There were also quite a few gates and stiles which were swamped too.

At around 35 miles I had my first emotional moment.  I wasn’t feeling good and this greyhound came taring passed me and I just lost it it ran back and I was shouting and screaming at the top of my voice and really aggressive.  I was swearing and cursing the owner and then the dog came and did it again and shout at it “come here I’ll rip your ####### jaw off”.  Its really unlike me to lose my temper or do anything aggressive but I just lost it.  Only minuets later I came out on one of the best views of the route and I took some photos and it really lifted my spirits.

I had another dog related emotional turn experience later although I can’t remember when.  I went through a really tearful patch I think it was between about mile 38 - 44 so it lasted quite a while.  There was a woman walking a dog and it was really well behaved and nothing happened but I just thought to myself if that dog does anything out of the ordinary I’ll probably just cry and demand to know why me?

I’m not sure if that was before or after checkpoint four.  I made a silly navigational error before checkpoint four which anoyed me.  The checkpoint was great; another slat tablet, more food and water, good encouragement.  Straight after this there was this big uphill section.  A bit of uphill on the road before turning up a track which had these big steps built into it - I bet they were nearly a foot high and they were a beast to climb.  I think this marked the start of my tearful phase.  I think it was shortly after this that there were some fields mith no paths which put more of a downer on me.  At one point there was a gateway which was swamped and I just looked at it as if it was an impassable obstacle.  There was probably only a second or two before I just got on with it but these thoughts have a big impact.

At around 45 miles I was running up a track towards a farm and two women were just setting off for a walk.  I was starting to really struggle.  Even my running pace had slowed and I took a few walking steps up a hill that was in reality so pathetic that it was really more of a gentle slope.  They shouted some typical banter “knees up don’t slow down”.  I thought they must have known what I was doing and I told them (in a friendly way) to shut up.  I told them I’d only got six and a half miles to go and they were clearly impressed by that distance.  I twigged that they didn’t know what I was doing so I said “I’ve done 45” and they were just staggered.  

I called Katja again, I don’t know when, and I pressed the speed dial on my home screen which goes to her mobile.  She had bad signal and couldn’t hear what I was saying.  Then she started saying “this is my husband’s phone”; I realised she thought it wasn’t me so called her on the landline and she was really upset.

At checkpoint five I told them I was really struggling and it took me a while to get moving again.  But my one real goal coming into this race was to run the last stage strong.  And I did.  I still walked some uphill sections but I walked probably less than 800 meters.  It was a really nice run across a picturesque golf course.  Over the last 10 miles I’d caught the odd glimpse of Paul up ahead but turning onto the last bike-path section I saw him and gave chase.  I closed quite a distance on him.  If the race had been 400 meters longer I’d have caught him - not that it would have mattered because I started 24 minutes in front of him and so, although I nearly caught him, his time spanked mine.

The finish line was great.  Approaching it I thought about Katja and James waiting for me there and nearly cried but then as I saw then line (and heard the cheers which of course were for Paul) I just felt so euphoric: I punched the air (probably feebly) and shouted a bit, and (I think) smiled for the finish line photo.

So I had a great day and learned things about myself.  The race was a great event with excellent organisation and pre-race communication.  The aid stations were really well stocked, plentiful and well timed.  I’m glad I chose this as my first 50 miler and would recommend it to anyone.

If you read this and spot mistakes in the information then please let me know.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Edale Skyline 2012

In short: Very painful - collapsed over the line with cramp. Really enjoyed this great event though. In full: I only found out I was in this two and a half weeks before the event so I had to do a slight Martin Yelling's Patented Inverse Taper (MYPIT) so I was never going to do well. I also went abit too hard on an eight mile run on the Friday before the event on Sunday. During the race the mistakes were that I took the first descent too fast and I should have taken it easier on the power hiking ascents. With all of this put together I had a bad cramp at around 12 miles which one of the marshals saw. He tried to talk me into dropping which I told him was just the encouragement I needed. I ate some food plus some gel and took some water which made me feel quite sick and it didn't immediately help. At the top of Jacob's Ladder someone had lugged 10 litres of water up which I was very grateful for but shortly after, at around 13 -14 miles on the ascent upto Pym's chair, I had to stop and wait for more cramp to pass. At this point I decided to drop but after thinking I realised that it would be easier and quicker to carry on the race course and drop down Grindslow Knoll rather then exiting down Jacob'd Ladder. I started to feel a bit better although I walked quite a lot of what should have been runable paths. At Grindslow Knoll I was very close to escaping down the Knoll straight to Edale but it was only three miles left and I felt quite a lot better so I decided to continue. I'm glad I did because I was able to start running more and the cramps had pretty much passed. I caught up with a lady who was in a bad way with cramp and we shared the rest of my gels before absolutely caning the last descent. On finishing I downed some water, tried to sit down, and collapsed in agony with cramp in my quads, ham, and calfs. Oh well, 4:4:59 and the fasted finisher wearing vibram five fingers.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Energy potion

I've finally perfected me recipe for energy drink/gel.

The need for a homemade product comes about due to a severe alergy to some food colourings that I have.  I think everyone has a reaction to food colourings - you can see at school (I'm a teacher) when pupils have had a lot of sweets.  With me its really bad though; if I accidentally ate a glacé cherry packed with E111 I wouldn't be able to go to work.  Anyway I started looking for something more natural than fluorescent blue powerade. Tom Williams of Marathon Talk directed me to Torq who make natuural drinks, gels, and bars. 

From information on Torq's website and trial and error I put this together.  These quantities give the best taste and consistency but I have used much more carbs in the same liquid which cuts down on weight but is not as palatable.

80g maltodextrin
40g fructose
60g lime juice
Boiling water to make upto 350ml
2.5ml elete electrolytes

I make it in the shaker you get free when you buy protein powder which has ml markings on the side. I put the cup on a scales weigh the dry ingredients in weigh the lime juice in add boiling water until you've got 350mls then shake it until its clear then add the electrolyte.

Maltodextrin is a starch powder derived (I believe) from potatoes starch you can get it from body building shops like GNC but its about 4 times more than at Although you'll need to buy 1kg or more.

For the fructose I buy Tate and Lyle fruit sugar which is really cheap.  For the lime juice I use tesco lime juice which is about 70p for 250ml in the ingredients isle. The Elete electrolytes are by far true most expensive thing.

If you use it please let me know how you get on. I'd really like to know how it compares with commercial products.