Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Peak Skyline

Peak Skyline 6th August 2017. 1st lady, 5hrs 11 mins

I've been on the start line three times for Peak Sky Race, now called Peak Skyline. The first two times, I DNF'd. Those occasions, I was over trained, under recovered and struggling to get the training and recovery in the right enough balance to perform. I have learnt that recovery is imperative to quality training and now place more importance on recovery than I have ever contemplated in the past. The sense of it means that I can tap into my potential in terms of performance That said, I'm still learning and still not getting it completely right all of the time.

In terms of the Peak Skyline race, wow, what a beautiful course. The Peak District is my local training ground and so I was happy to be running on familiar ground. It's knarly, it's challenging and it's beautiful. The course is 29.7 miles, (48km) is based around and takes in The Five Trigs of Axe Edge, The Roaches, Shutlingsloe, Shining Tor and Burbage Edge and is approximately 2000m of elevation. The route is fully marked and has regular CP's which are stocked with fluid and fuel so you can travel light.

Some of the factors that helped me to have a good race:

1. Knowing the route: 
Knowing the route makes it stress free, and you can run with confidence, pace yourself wisely and rely on yourself and not others to get you round. There is no dithering on cross roads, taking wrong turns and losing valuable mins through going left when you should have taken a right. 

2 Pacing:
 How many times have you said 'i'll start slowly/ conservatively........ ' however not managed to employ that control? Speeding up, slowing down, efforts in, racing hard, speeding ahead, bounding up the climbs, then slowing down all within the first 5 minutes. Seriously, if you use this strategy for a couple of hours, you are going to burn out.

3 Fuelling: 
From the off. Really? Yes really! Start getting the fuel in within the first half an hour and drip feed yourself throughout the race. Understand and know what works for you so that you can optimise your performance. It's too late two hours into the race to start putting the fuel in. Importantly, neither is it of any use grabbing anything sweet you could find in the treat cupboard or the Co-Op on the way to the race and thinking 'that'll work'. Ultra running is not just about doing the running on race day, nutrition is as if not more important than how fast you can bang the miles out.

4. Getting the Kit right:
Familiarise yourself with your kit. Knowing where everything is and making it easily accessible when running will half the faffing time. Find a backpack that works (for you) and place the same kit into the same pockets of the pack every time you run/use it. It's like driving a car, you will eventually reach into pockets and zips automatically, because it's become a well oiled routine, and find the right bit of kit you need.

5. Focus
Not getting caught up in what others are doing. It's a difficult one at times, not getting drawn in to other peoples race. Having the confidence to stick to your own race/plan/pace etc and not get distracted. 

Kit list
Raidlight Marathon top
Raidlight Trail shorts
Shoes: Xtalons, Inov8
Racevest Backpack
Raidlight soft flask

Main Fuel: Mountain fuel:Tropical fruit

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Vegan Welsh 3000's

It's the first in the UK's Skyrunning series and it's a brutally tough race. The Vegan Welsh 3000's is a route of approximately 33 miles with 3660m (12008ft) of total ascent.

This was the second of the three races that I've entered in order to improve race fitness in readiness for the wider goal later in the season. The first race was the Salomon 50km Trail Race on 11th June (website Here). I'd no expectations from the V3K with racing two weeks earlier at the Keswick Mountain Festival.

It's 3.55 am, Saturday 24th June and I've had little sleep because four hours earlier I was desperately still trying to download the GPX files for the V3K race which started at 5am. After lots of head scratching and the help of Team Raidlight's Ant Bethell, it was successfully loaded and it was head down for the few hours sleep!

The course is well marked however, the weather was forecast for drizzle and clag. We were lucky to escape the rain all day, yet not so fortunate with the clag resulting in poor visibility throughout the day.  There was no way runners could rely on the course markings. Certainly for the first 6 hours I relied on a combination of the GPS and red flags. However, after the battery went on my GPS device I became reliant on the flags alone. I had a map (it's compulsory) and yet figured it would take me longer to navigate in clag than to search for flags. So the last four hours of the race were spent running to a marker and either hunting around for the next one or waiting until another runner appeared. This was time consuming and frustrating and the moments when the clag lifted were very much welcomed. I managed to navigate myself off the course only once before realising. That, coupled with a slightly wide descent off Tryfan were the only nav issues really, it could have been so much worse. 

I knew that Sarah (Ridgeway) would be confident on this course, she's no stranger to the race, it's her home turf and she is back running so strong. She bounded through at the race start, confidently placing herself at the front. That energy stayed with her throughout the race to give her a remarkable performance with a solid and impressive 1st place finish. Race round up by the Skyrunning team Here.
My race goals were not to position so much. I knew I was not race fit and wanted to work on building the hill strength and fitness, that I  have been so obviously missing. I am using these three races to help focus my training. Importantly, I was concentrating on my mental state during this race and my focus was to learn to employ some alternative strategies to help my performances. My race goals were to: 

1. Complete the race unless I don't achieve number 5
2. Perform to the best of my capacity incorporating my goals, unless I don't achieve number 5
3. Employ strategies that I am working on in order to achieve number 2
4. Run my own race until Crib Goch and then latch on to.... no, cling onto the person in front for dear life and keep my eyes open.
5. Move swiftly and smoothly over Crib Goch without falling off...pah hahaha

So, to focus on my goals and not be distracted by what others were doing or what position I was in was a challenge. By the foot of Tryfan 2nd placed lady, Janne Geurts had appeared, and steadily pulled away for the remainder of the race. It was hard going to keep focused and work on the performance strategies that I had planned. It was a case of replacing the negative self talk that naturally wanted to creep in when losing places and having little inclination, strength or fitness to fight it out over the next few hours, demoralising in fact. Janne was moving smoothly, had a well executed regime at the 2nd checkpoint and was encouraged on her way by her support without stopping, before I had even rummaged through for my drop bag and clumsily shuffled indoors to replenish. The subsequent slog up Pen Yr Ol Wen's East ridge took whatever freshness I had left and the remainder of the race was a case of attrition. Janne finished with a consistently paced race in 2nd place, 43 mins behind Sarah.

 It shouldn't be overlooked just how beautiful this route is. These are some of the UK's finest mountains. This is not a trail race, this sits very comfortably in a mountain race category and it is not for the faint hearted. The V3K is quirky in that it is a race that is staged by vegans and the expectation is that all racers are vegan for the day. I've been a vegetarian for years and mostly vegan for a considerable time now. However, the concept is remarkable in that it introduces those who may not have considered what it is to be vegan and shows just how exciting the food (these are the best stocked checkpoints with natural foods that will blow your mind) is. Couple that with the creativity and flare of the race Organiser Kirsch Bowker makes this a race to return to time and again. 

Race registration and pre race briefing.
I guess the most mindful and insightful moment for me during this race, came with the final descent and run to the finish. Alex Hinchcliffe was a chap who had been in front, behind and with me for moments during the day. I'd not seen him for a while, other than in passing during the out and back on Foel Fras. He came flying past with remarkable speed shouting 'we have 3 miles and I want a sub 10hr'. Then he was gone. The ground he covered and the speed he was running was a revelation. I had slipped back into a defeatist, almost default state for probably, about two hours and had let it run away amok without realising. Alex was the wake up call, (thank you Alex). 'It's in your head Deano' I voiced aloud. Instantly I stepped it up a gear, I fired up the glutes albeit anticipating the tiredness, within minutes, to slow me down again. It didn't, that moment never came, I was using strategies to keep me going, the ones I had been using throughout the day and had set out to strengthen during this race, and they were working, they had worked all race. Yes I was tired, my legs were sore and my mood was sombre, and yet, I replaced thoughts about all of this, with the reality that in spite of it, I can still run, and I can run at a swift pace and I can draw on my strengths to eliminate the negative talk about my weakness's and it was working, you can only have one thought at  a time and I was choosing ones that worked well for me. For 30 mins my tired body forgot about how tired I had been telling it it was, and it performed like I knew it could I enjoyed every minute of that descent and I finished strong. This was one of my best performances mentally as a runner on a personal level. I am learning so much still about long distance running and performance and I look forward to my next experience in a few weeks time at the Peak Skyline race ( website here).

The mens and womens results are available on Open tracking Here however he's an overview of the first three men and women:

1.    Oli Johnson 7:45:45
2.    Tim Campion-Smith 8:00:07
3.    Joe Mann 8:02:12

1.    Sarah Ridgway 9:00:52
2.    Janne Geurts 9:43:05
3.    Tracy Dean 10:03:22

The Vegan3K post race event was remarkable, The chefs were amazing and the venue sets it apart.
Thanks  for complimentary beers for 1st, 2nd and 3rd Men and Ladies

A huge thank you to the race and my sponsors @RaidlightUK and the great prizes for the winners and my fuel sponsors @RealMountain_Fuel_UK for your continued support.

Kit list
Raidlight Responsiv Vest Here
Performer XP ladies top Here
Cuissard Trail Raider short Here
LCF running socks Here
Inov8 Mudclaw's

Extreme Energy Fuel, Blackcurrent Here
x3 Gels
x2 hand fulls of real homemade vegan food from the checkpoints includingl;
x2 vegan balls (oats, cinnamon, dried fruit), x2 vegan pastry/filling rolls, x2 potatoes, vegan fruit cake.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Post K42 Mallorca

It's over as quick as it starts in the running world, and having returned home I've had time to reflect on my K42 Mallorca adventure in the mountains of the Sierra de Tramuntana on the Island of Mallorca. Not least that there are huge thanks due to so many great people, including, Mountain Fuel, who started the ball rolling and keep me well fueled with a system that works well for me. In addition, The race organisers who had a very well oiled machine looking after a party of seven of us. The Agency for Tourism of the Balearic Islands (ATB) who are working hard to provide cultural and quality tourism experiences in the area and without their support to the race we would not have the opportunity to experience Mallorca in it's natural beauty, opening my eyes to aspects of the Island that I had not previously considered, I have not been disappointed. Huge thanks to Mayayo Oxigeno who knows, understands and is a remarkable figure in the Spanish Trail running world.  My kit sponsors Raidlight who continue with their support and encourage me to in what ever my next adventure would be. Finally, Vo2Max coaching's Martin Cox, who's remarkable style gets the best out of me.

When considering my experience in Mallorca, I've put a report together that can be read HERE. It is a challenging race, with terrain that is not for the faint hearted and it's probably best to not make this the first trail/mountain race that you embark upon. However, it was well suited to Brits and those who are familiar with the rugged English, Welsh or Scottish mountains. The national parc is in a beautiful part of the Island and the race comes at the right time of the year for those who want a sunny day, without too much heat that it impacts significantly on your capacity to run well. It's a great starter for the year, and is on our doorstep.

Anyone who is interested in the race I have  GPS for your perusal so get in touch. Happy reading.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Pre K42 Mallorca

18th March 2017

Made it to Mallorca via Barcelona for the K42 Mallorca race in Paguera on Sunday 19th March. First mountain race of the year and I'm happy to be back out there on the trail. It's been a tough winter nursing problems in my wonky left leg which meant that plans had to change and change again. It meant listening to sense and reason (thanks Vo2max coaching) and being patient. I'm confident that that reasoning will give me another wonderful year out here in Europe and beyond in the world of trail running.

First time racing in Mallorca... in the Spanish mountains generally to be honest, although I've had the opportunity to run with some remarkable Spanish trail runners in the past.

The event Organisers have us looked after well and have put us in the safe and capable hands of Sergio who has taken us out on the finish of the usual course this morning. The route is changing this year as the usually dry river bed run for the latter part of the race is currently full of water. So we won'tactually be running that section but it was nice to get a feel for the terrain ahead.

Here's what a few of us had to say last night:

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Courmayer- Champex Lac- Chamonix CCC

Winding down the summer with the CCC seemed the right thing to do this year.

26th August 2016
6100m of vert.  
I had very little agenda for this race as I'm inexperienced at running this kind of distance/vert in Europe and it was hot hot hot.
I didn't use any gadgets, preferring to simply run by feel and listen and respond to my body. I didn't even wear a watch. There was no pressure, no expectations but an aim to just get out there and run. To run free in this manner allowed me to tune in better to how I was physically responding during the race. I felt in control.

It had been hot hot hot in the Alps for the previous four days, On race day temperatures were in the high 20's and touching 30 in the valley's. I have no experience of hot weather running for a lengthy period. I've not had the opportunities in training, to emulate those conditions. I was going out there blind with some good advice to help me cope. This was going to be a great learning opportunity. And it proved to be just that.

Pre race fueling

Temperature control/hydration and management
I started out with 500ml of Mountain Fuel and 350ml of water. In terms of hydration the plan was to alternate between the two in order to keep a steady flow of fuel, isotonic and water. It was important to get the balance right with the fluids. Physically, I cope with approximately 400ml of fluid an hour (maximum) any more than that and the liquid sloshes around and puts my body under too much stress causing me uncomfortableness, bloating and nausea. Quite simply I can’t utilise the volume of liquid quickly enough. I was functioning on the edge of keeping on top of hydration and knowing that if there was "one sip to many" then I'd be thrown into the uncomfortable nausea and bloating feelings mentioned. I recognised that it's not all about having to keep drinking in order to manage oneself efficiently in order to keep cool. Rather, it's key take the holistic approach when getting the heat management right. 

Temperature control was therefore a combination of strategies. From the off, the simple things such as hydrating well in the days pre race (whilst not overloading with fluid), and during the race: through wearing the  Raidlight Ultralight Trail Tank, (a technical vest) and the Saharienne cap, (often used in desert races) were all essential to keep me going under the conditions. Furthermore, on race morning I slathered myself in factor 50 sun cream and during the race I didn't pass a stream, Potage or watering hole without a dip. I soaked sweat bands to keep my wrists areas cool in order to reduce the temperature of the blood and subsequently, rest of my body. I kept my feet cool and walked through the streams, the LCF socks that I wore were technical enough to easily cope with being wet and not causing me any blisters or issues. 

I used H2Opro salt tablets in an attempt to keep on top of sodium loss. Sodium helps you maintain blood volume which in turn helps with management of your core temperature, delivering blood to working muscles and the skin. As sodium loss is different for every one, I don’t know how much I lose however, one sodium tablet every two hours kept me moving, and further addressed cramps in my hands and feet that sporadically appeared.

Champex Lac
My main fuel source was Extreme Energy Fuel by Mountain Fuel.It contains essential electrolytes for optimum bio-functions which helped me avoid fatigue during the race. I mixed 500ml and constantly sipped throughout the race. At Check points I craved oranges which is the only additional food I felt I wanted until the half way point at Champex Lac CP. My support crew had brought along my pre prepared potatoes, tomatoes and rice, I tried to keep topped up with these foods however I simply wanted tomatoes and oranges. That coupled with the MF was enough to keep me well stocked up.

The race
First trail 
Courmayer Start
Courmayer start around town
The race itself went ok. It took me 8 hours to unravel myself off the start line as I was conservative until the sun went down, concentrating on attrition rather than speed. It is likely to have cost me in terms of times (and places). I had a lot to make up once the heat was no longer an issue, yet, I needed another 8 hours to get that time back. A disappointing result, yet, the knowledge and experienced gained far outweighs the result.

Raidlight UK for your support and provision: 
Carbon Ultra compact Pole
Ultralight Trail Tank
Active Lady tight short
Responsive race vest
Saharienne cap
Soft flasks
Mountain Fuel for provision:
Xtreme Engery Fuel - tropical and Blackcurrent
Morning Fuel
Recovery Fuel
VO2maxcoaching - MC for professional guidance

The End

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Last of the back to back days in the mountains before the feet come off the pedal (or rock). The CCC is fast approaching and training has been consistent and productive. Here are some of the comments made by Joe Public as a trail runner passes on a busy Snowdon's Llanberris path:

"she's stupid or mad"
"they should carry bells"
"I keep getting paranoid that a runner is coming up behind me"
"where are your ski's"

Here's what you hear on the way up to Yr Aron:

Press here

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Scafell Pike Trail Marathon

It's the height of British summer time, so the weekend weather of constant rain, blustery winds and grim grey weather was of no surprise. I'd entered the Scarfell Pike Trail Marathon ad hoc and consequently had no expectations. Over the previous couple of weeks, I was still feeling Zugspitz in my legs and so treating the Trail Marathon as a training run seem pretty sensible. 

It's a 27 mile race with approximately 1700m of ascent in the Lake District. In fact, Scafell Pike is England's highest mountain and I was excited to be racing to the summit and back down.

 There was plenty of chance to warm up as the first few miles are flat following the trails along Derwent water and a chance to find and settle into you pace, just before a change in tempo as the climbing starts through Borrowdale. A short taster to get the calves working and ready for Scafell. The weather proved testing, causing the rocks to be greasy and every opportunity to slip and slide your way to the summit. Anyone who is familiar with Scarfell Pike, will know of the corridor route with the boulders and the technical terrain nearer the top which is pretty incessant. I took a total of four falls during the course of the race, the most epic being on the drop off the summit in the boulder field. It shook my confidence on the rock and in the shoes that I was wearing, so I gingerly limped my way off the mountain for 15 mins before the pain and fear subsided. I managed, eventually, to get into my groove again, yet I had lost a lot of time. It is a difficult descent passing broad crag and heading for Esk Hause and Sty head. The difficulty is with the changing terrain and simply not being able to get complacent or take your eye off the ground. It's the English mountains at their best, there is nothing manicured about the tracks and limited obvious path at times. The race requires some navigation on the way up, over and off the summit, however the marshals had helpfully put a few flags en route as the clag was down which meant some of the mental work alleviated and folk could concentrate on staying upright in the wind, up on feet on the boulders and move quick enough so as not to develop hypothermia. Ok Ok, I may be being dramatic here! 

I believed I'd lost so much time that I was soon to be caught by the ladies behind, so I resigned myself to my fate and was happy to have not sustained any serious injuries, reminded myself it was a training run and enjoyed the rest of my time on the course. Beautiful forest, running alongside waters edges, paths, roads, tracks and grateful that I was feeling fresh enough to keep plodding on wards. 

There is a sting in the tail in this race up to Watendlath so if you've left it all on Scafell then you'll struggle over the last hour or so on the approach to the finish. I think my time lost earlier through superficial injuries had in fact, ensured that I didn't push it too hard too early and found that I had plenty left to push on over the latter stages. 

I was shocked to have finished first lady given my attitude to it being a training race and certainly had not expected to win. I'm not going to complain, the trophy is amazing, it's a firm reminder of the rocks that I had been breaking my neck on all day long. 

Super race High Terrain events
Thanks Raidlight UK for supplying my trusty kit
And a special thanks to My coach Martin for your wise and trusted knowledge