Strava Update

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Endurancelife Classic Quarter June 2014

After the dramas of Transvulcania I decided that the only way to put the ghosts of my DNF to rest was to quit ultra-running altogether and take up scuba diving instead. Well that was my initial thought anyway, but then common sense prevailed, I realised I had about 14 pairs of running shoes, multiple rucksacks and buffs to work my way through before I could even consider retiring from running!!

So on to the internet I go.. The criteria – a 40 mile ish ultra in June and hilly. The Endurancelife Classic Quarter seemed to fit the bill and after a little research, soul searching and deliberation I pushed the button and entered the race. I had about 3 weeks at this point until the race but felt happy I was mostly ready to go as if nothing else Transvulcania had been a great training run.

Upon further investigation the race appeared to be very similar to the terrain on the cliff paths here in Jersey, rocky paths, steps here and there, beautiful views, I was very much looking forward to taking part in the race and having taken part in a couple of Endurancelife races I knew that it would be a challenge.

Training for the race consisted mainly of preserving the shape I was in from Transvulcania – which meant a couple of longer weekend runs, hill sessions and some strength session just to keep ticking over. More importantly was my mental approach; after another DNF I have to admit my confidence was low, and I was doubting my ability to stick at it when the going got tough. I saw the CQ as a way to redeem myself in a way and to prove that I can still run ultra-marathons. The flip side of this being if I DNFed at this race then perhaps the truth was that the ultra-distance stuff wasn’t for me after all. So no pressure really, perhaps more of a moment of truth or clarity!

June 6th I set off from Jersey Airport once again in search of adventure and endeavour. Over the last few years I have done this journey on so many occasions – finish work on the Friday, hotfoot it to the airport, fly to in this case Bristol but also many other UK destinations, drive to where you need to be that night, get up at an ungodly hour next day, run an ultra-marathon, spend the Sat night recuperating, drive back to the airport on Sunday fly back to Jersey and back in work for Monday morning as if you were never away! These weekends sound quite intense but I do kind of enjoy them it almost adds to the challenge in a way. This time I was to drive from Bristol airport to Penzance which the Sat Nav informed me would take 3 hours or so. I was due to be on a shuttle bus at 4am from Lands’ End to the race start so I figured sleep might not be in abundance that evening. I accepted this as part of the race and when I arrived at Penzance, checked into a lovely B&B, got my race gear sorted and tried to get some shut eye.

3am – the alarm goes off after 4 hours of sleep. I feel ok though, although it is dark outside and there has been rain overnight. I make my porridge, get my race kit on and stumble out bleary eyed to drive to Lands’ End to make the shuttle bus. I get there about 4am and line up to get my race number and get on the bus. Its dark, it’s windy and its cold and once again I am stood at the wrong end of 40 odd miles thinking “What am I doing here??” We get on the bus a wonky old double decker and I get chatting to a few guys a bit of small talk here and there and we settle in for the journey to Lizard Point – the start line. After a while I am struggling to get warm as all the windows are open on the bus. So I close a couple of the windows and all of a sudden everything goes blurry. “It’s my hay fever playing up” I tell myself but No! The bus is filling up with smoke from the engine and slowly we are being asphyxiated.. So the windows are opened again and the bus sputters on not being able to make the smooth transition from 2nd to 3rd gear and emitting the pungent smell of gasoline. The irony was not lost on me; here we are some extremely fit people about to do an ultra-marathon being transported to the start on a bus that was a mobile gas chamber!!

Anyway we finally make it and by now the sun had come up – Glad to be alive I stepped off the bus and made my way down a pathway to the start. It was a beautiful view there and felt very peaceful. There were about 200 or so runners and everyone seemed friendly, we had the race briefing then at 6:30am we were off. I was towards the front and saw the front pack head off quite quickly, I knew for me the goal was to complete this race and not blow myself up or do anything silly that may jeopardise me finishing. So I settled into a rhythm and adopted a complete rather than compete mind-set and vowed to be in the moment and do the best I can do at each moment.

This was my first experience of Cornish coastline and I really thought it was beautiful. It was indeed very similar in terrain to Jersey which was great, I had been advised to wear my trusty Inov-8’s by a local guy Tom whom I have become acquainted with through the power of running related social media and as the climbs got a bit rockier and slippier I silently thanked him for this advice. I was in fact hoping to see him at some point along the way as he had messaged me to say he was doing the relay race.

So I was ticking off the miles, I was feeling pretty good and got to half way pretty pain free. I usually have issues with my hip flexor or knee which necessitates an Ibuprofen which I believe is the cause of my GI issues during races’ but I had decided that I wouldn’t use these during the race favouring keeping the hip mobile with various exercises if it played up and K-taping the bejesus out of my knee! About 25 miles or so we hit the town of Penzance and the terrain turned into concrete promenade and quite flat. I was starting to feel fatigued at this point but it was a strange sensation as the body felt great muscularly but I felt weary, a sensation I wasn’t really used to as my body is usually the first to go! After clearing Penzance the climbing started in earnest; I had been warned there were a few nasty little climbs in the last third of the race and it didn’t disappoint! 

This was where it started to get difficult; I was really feeling fatigued and started to alternate walking with running. It was hot and the climbs were hard going, but I kept going. I was kind of glad in a way that the going had got tough as I was so committed to finishing this race that I wanted to suffer for it in a way, just to prove I still had the edge. I was being overtaken by a lot of people and I wasn’t bothered to be honest, there was a relay race also out on the course both 4 men and 2 men and I wasn’t sure who was racing what so I just got on with getting the job done and completing this race. People running in football tops and board shorts came past me and all the while I was getting closer and closer to the finish. I recall getting to about the 39 mile mark and the climb up to the Mynach Theatre from the beach being particularly hard going. There was luckily a checkpoint at the top of this and I am not ashamed to say I collapsed on the nice soft grass and took it easy for at least 20 mins.. I overheard that one of the racers was heading to the shop at the theatre and I asked him if he wouldn’t mind getting me a can of coke as I thought the sugar rush might help, he came back and said that the coke was on him, a real heart-warming moment when I was suffering! J

So it was now time to finish the race off. I set off from the checkpoint knowing I had 4.7 miles to go, but also knowing it would be fairly up and down. I set off and tried to run but the body was having none of it! I power walked and with relentless forward progress being my mantra. I was finding it hard and it was hot but I was committed!

About another mile or so in and in my own little world I was aware that someone was walking behind me. I turned and we exchanged a few words “I hope you don’t mind me following you I just find it easier to follow peoples feet!” said Helen. We got chatting and she had injured her knee which meant that she was struggling to go downhill, we walked and chatted and whiled away the miles – it had got cloudy now and a little cold, typical changeable Cornish weather I am led to believe and it was quite nice to have the cool for a little while. The end was in sight now and I was pleased as well as enjoying having met someone to chat to on the way to take me out of my head and enjoy the last part. I hadn’t really done much socialising in Ultras for quite some time, I was always looking to compete or do my best time so had always been quite serious at races. I recall the first Ultra I did – Round the Rock – and meeting people along the way and chatting to them and finding out where they were from and why they were racing and this struck me as being as great a reason to do races as racing itself! I had lost touch with that somewhere along the way I think, the competitor in me had taken over and whilst I did enjoy competition perhaps the real enjoyment in this type of race was to be found in the connecting with other people who have similar interests and outlooks? I think the truth is somewhere in-between but for this race this was a great experience and really helped me.

The finish line – 44 miles (44.7 to be exact!) and we were there! Helen and I crossed the line and I was broken but really pleased to have finished the race. Getting the T shirt and medal from this race was quite poignant for me as I fought hard that day and came through the other side. There had been times at races when the T Shirt is given out before the race starts where I will never be able to wear that T shirt due to not finishing the race, too many times that had happened so I savoured this one! I said goodbye to Helen and wished her well with her injury and went to the bar and although tempted to get the cold pint of lager I had been fantasising about since seeing someone drinking one in a beer garden in Penzance I thought better of it and got a pint of orange juice and lemonade and sat at the bar texting the people who had wished me well for the race that I had done it.

It was now time to pick my car up from the car park and drive home to the B&B. I got back showered and chilled out for a bit then hit the town on Penzance. I had fish and chips and a large chocolate sundae and then headed back to the B&B for an early night. Rock n Roll!!

So what do I take away from this race? It wasn’t a result in the classic terms in that I placed well or set a PB, but I feel like I learnt how to suffer again and reconnected with the reasons why I run Ultra Marathons again. This really couldn’t have come at a better time for me as I have the biggest challenge of my life coming up in about 6 or so weeks; Round The Rock x 7 (or RTRx7). I will be running 7 times around the island of Jersey in 7 days equating to 336 miles over the course of a week starting on the 2nd of august with the Round The Rock Ultra Marathon and I will then be back next morning at the start line to repeat the run again, and again and again for 7 days straight. The route will be mostly off road along the cliff paths so will be challenging terrain taking in around 3,500 ft elevation each day. I am attempting RtRx7 as it has never been done before. Last year I did the Marathon des Sables which was the equivalent of 6 marathons in 6 days across the Sahara desert and so this year I wanted to do another challenge. I thought something close to home would be good, and as 7 marathons in 7 days has been already done here I decided to up the ante and have a go at this challenge.
I am doing this challenge to raise money for Jersey Hospice Care. As most Jersey folk are aware Hospice is a great local charity that has touched everyone here in some way. I think the work they do is amazing and so valuable and wanted to try and do something to support that. I ran the MdS last year in memory of Natalie Moss, a friend of mine who sadly passed away in 2012. She spent the last 6 weeks of her life at Hospice and the care she received was second to none. Thanks to the support of so many of my friends and local people here in Jersey I raised just under £15,000 last year for Jersey Hospice. I would love to try and exceed this total with this challenge but initially I have set my total to £15,000. Last year I initially set out to raise £5,000 and raised almost triple that, so I really hope that this challenge captures people’s imaginations as much as the MdS and encourages them to dig deep!

To get to my target of £15,000.00 I have set up a just giving page up ready to take donations: and I will also be planning separate fundraising events along the way to both publicise the challenge, to raise funds and to have a bit of fun. I am also looking for people to accompany me on legs of the challenge also so any aspiring runners are more than welcome to join me for short or longer parts of the day.

With 6 weeks to go it has become very very real now and I am nervous but confident that I will give everything I can to complete the challenge. Training for this is a bit of an unknown quantity really, how does one train for 7 lots of 48 miles?? I am trusting in the fact that I am fit and able to do the distance of 48 miles and focussing on boosting confidence and belief by thinking about all the concerns I have about the challenge and trying to address them; Recovery, willingness to suffer, belief, potential injuries and GI problems to name a few. On the recovery front I am fortunate in that I recover well and quickly and by body will put up with a lot of punishment. Training for the MDS taught me the importance of good recovery strategies and I understand what I need to do and when to optimise my recovery to feel good for the following day. The willingness to suffer comes from having a reason to push on when all other markers and signs are saying that it is best to call it a day; I have my reasons why I am doing this and I believe as I train I am solidifying these so that when the chips are down these will keep me going. Injuries are a variable that I just can’t control but hope that the gods of running will smile on me!

The week just gone has seen me run 10 miles a day along the same route for a week, which sounds like a simple undertaking, but in fact has taken it out of me! I went through a bit of a dip on the Weds but then seemed to have had ups and downs as the week has gone on. With working and life going on it has been a great indicator of what to expect (x5!) each day so a very valuable exercise all in all. My speed through the week has declined slightly but I am happy with the recovery element of the week as well as dealing with the monotony of running the same route each day. I plan a rest day for the Saturday then a six hour run on the Sunday then back into normal training for the following week. Another idea I have is to walk the entire hilly north coast of the island just so that should the wheels fall off on any of the days I know how long this section would take me.

All in all with 6 weeks to go I feel as confident as one can about this challenge. There are lots of variables that I can’t account for but I feel that compared to the MDS for example where I did the equivalent of 6 marathons in 6 days and carried all my own food, slept on a bit of foam each night and couldn’t just jump in the sea at the end of each day there are a lot of up sides that make this completely viable. I just hope that someone reminds me of this on day 4 when I am sitting in a pile of my own vomit and tears and my legs have given up working on me!!

So if you feel compelled to donate to this challenge, please visit my justgiving page: and also any words of encouragement/abuse or offers to run with me if you happen to be in Jersey over the week of 2nd Aug can be directed to

More on the training and prep as it happens.

Transvulcania – The Directors Cut

Omens and superstition… I never really used to go in much for these but over the last few years I have really begun to take them seriously. Take for example Magpies; when I see one on its own (which seems to be an alarming amount at the moment as I live next to a field that seems to be the designated Magpie hangout for my town!) I have to salute and say “Good morning Mr Magpie sir” as if the course of my day now depends on it! If I see two I am happy in the knowledge that all will be ok. If I see one then two? This is where it gets tricky… Does one supersede the other or do both apply, or do they get added up?? Who knows..

So on to the beginning of my tale: We arrive at the airport my friend Simon, his wife Sam and I to begin our journey to La Isla Bonita (La Palma) to be told straight away by the kindly EasyJet staff that the check in had closed for our flight and that if we wanted to fly we would have to send the bags by mail. Awesome start to our journey, taking in Jersey to Gatwick, Gatwick to Gran Canaria and Gran Canaria the following day to La Palma. I thought at this point we might have fallen at the first hurdle, but we were able to negotiate a deal with British Airways (gawd bless them!) whereby one of us flew with them to Gatwick and checked all our bags in paid the excess, so off Sam went whilst Simon and I dashed to make the Easyjet flight and joined the commoners..
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La Palma: Called La Isla Bonita due to its amazing scenery and stunning views. We circled the island on the approach to the runway and I got a glimpse for the first time of those massive climbs that we would be encountering a few days later when we lined up at the start of Transvulcania Ultra Marathon – 73kms up pure up and then pure down – no inbetween! I was nervous and kind of looking forward to lining up to take on the race, the fact that Kilian Jornet, Sage Canaday, Timothy Olson, Anna Frost, Emelie Forsberg to name but a few would also be taking part meant that this was going to be a special race. It has been commented before but there really are few other sports where you can line up along side the best in the world in the same race and same course and I love ultra running because of this!

We arrived in La Palma early Thursday morning and found our apartments in Tazacorte which conveniently enough was where the vertical kilometer course was that afternoon. For the uninitiated the vertical KM is a race where people try and run up a hill a kilometer in height as quick as they can. After unpacking and getting sorted we scoped out the start line where the Salomon banner was, the red carpet was out and the vertical KM course looked very steep indeed!
The main draw of the vertical KM for me (and many other judging by the cheers for them) was Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg and predictably they ran later in their respective classes. It was a great afternoon watching all the runners though, some quick, some struggled a little and I recall Simon and I saying at one point “We should have entered this!” conveniently forgetting that we had to do a 73km lap of the highest points of the island in a couple of days!! The vertical KM kicked off Transvulcania for me, a real celebration of running, brave heroic people running up the mountain, running celebrities milling around, I was like an excitable school girl! I managed to get a photo with Timmy Olson and had a little chat with him, and then a bit later at the awards ceremony for the vertical KM I saw my chance and got my picture taken with the one and only Kilian Jornet! Standing next to him I saw how he was as good as he is and how I am as average as I am.. He is quite a small chap and carries virtually nothing up the mountain, whereas I stagger up carrying my lanky limbs and inferior VO2 Max.. Kilian finished 3rd in the vertical KM by the way, with what appeared to be 2 local guys taking first and second place. Emelie did not podium but looked like she was enjoying the run as she came past.

The following day was race registration, hop in a car, pick up another of our party – Bruno – from the airport and then make our way to the registration point in Los Cancajos on the other side of the island. I had arranged to meet a couple of my friends from MDS –Gordon and Guy – that morning who had arrived the previous night and were doing the Ultra so was a great vibe altogether. We made our way over to registration picked up timing chips and race numbers then made our way back to Tazacorte. I decided to then grab a few hours siesta as sleep would be short in demand that night. Our nearest shuttle bus to the start was leaving at 3am on Sat morning which meant getting up at 1:30am to get sorted and drive to that town. An ungodly hour to be awake! I awoke in the evening had a big pasta meal, hung around a bit and not really knowing what to do with myself and nerves starting to kick in went back to bed to try and get somewhere near an accumulative night’s sleep in there somewhere.

t61:30am – the alarm goes off, I stumble around trying not to wake my roommate for the night Bruno who was doing the marathon and so didn’t have to be up til 6am! Silently cursing him and wishing I had entered the marathon instead, I took all my stuff in to the bathroom, got dressed for action and made some porridge. Simon and I sat there in silence, perhaps a mix of tiredness, trauma at being awake that early and trepidation at what lay ahead. We got in the car, drove to Los Lianos (or so we thought..) and then realized after 30 minutes of driving that we were on the wrong road. So a near 2:30am sleep deprived exchange of short words, a quick U turn all the way back to where we had started and finally we hit Los Lianos a full 30 minutes after the shuttle bus was due to leave. There were people stumbling around town so it was obviously kicking out time in the clubs and we managed to get directions in my limited knowledge of Spanish to the bus station. We got there and thankfully there was still a coach there! We ditched the car, thanked our lucky stars and proceeded the journey to the start line at Fuencaliente.
I must say at this point when I stepped out of the front door of our wonderful apartment in Tazacorte the weather was most agreeable; probably about 10 degrees Celcius and a perfect balmy summers evening. Upon stepping off the coach at the start line we were met with the whirling cauldrons of hell!! It was windy, and I was dressed inappropriately to say the least. No jacket, my X-Bionic Fennec top that had served me so well in the MDS some arm warmers a buff and a hat were the extent of the clothing I had on my upper body. I was cold, tired and a bit stressed after the getting lost experience earlier but walking down to the start line was pretty amazing, it is definitely everything you see in the photos and more. A great atmosphere and luckily as we dropped down to by the lighthouse the wind subsided somewhat and I warmed up.
Burrows irun blogAt 6am we were off, the start of Transvulcania 2014! 45 miles, 14000ft of elevation to come, & I was a little underwhelmed if I am honest.. We started to climb from the start, & joined a long line of 1,500 or so runners & walkers making their way up the mountain. I clocked my first mile at 23 minutes & really hope this wasn’t going to be the shape of things to come! It was chaotic at the start but as the first few miles played out there seemed to be some equilibrium & I was feeling ok with the climbing. I had trained hard on the hills in Jersey & whilst I could never replicate the elevation of La Palma I felt that I had done enough to feel reasonably confident. I had a strategy in mind for the race; as much as one can for a race that one hasn’t done before! It was to climb for the first 13m, the middle bit looked “easy” on the profile so this was where I would make my time up then I would glide home downhill on the third part. So part one was going ok, it was dark and windy and the black dust was clinging to me as I had worked up a bit of a sweat, but I was in a rhythm, running where I could and keeping it real. About 2 or so hours into the race the sun started to come up & I remember coming into the first major checkpoint of the race. Surprisingly there were loads of people there & it gave me shivers down my spine as people were cheering & really making us feel like heroes.
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On and on the climbing went.. I was feeling ok though, I was pushing hard but I felt within my limits. By around 11am it had started to get warm but I was enjoying the scenery and playing the little mental games I do when running ultras, ticking off the miles, ¼ of the way through, 1/3 of the way through etc etc.. I recall getting to the El Pilar refuge which to me signified the end of the first third of the race and there was a few miles here of nice up and down running and I felt so good. I was on top of my nutrition, my hydration was good and I was even I daresay enjoying the race.. Coming out of El Pilar and this was the second major checkpoint and again lots of people were around and this lifted me. I was running a lot around this time, even the inclines and making good time. I had had a few bits of food from the checkpoint; some water melon which was amazing and a power bar type thing which I tried a bit of, it wasn’t great and I left the rest of it in my rucksack. I was running along ticking the miles off, and looking forward to a bit more running rather than climbing..
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So the climb to the highest point – Le Rocque De Los Muchachos; This is where the race began to get interesting. I think about 21 miles into the race I started to get a few little aches and pains and the various underlying issues I had been managing for the last few months – my hip flexor and my knee – started to play up a little. I decided to take an Ibuprofen just to try and delay the breakdown I could feel was on the horizon. The Ibuprofen kicked in and everything was ok for a bit. Then the heat started to bother me, I was really starting to feel the sun, I was also hungry, so at the 27 mile or so mark I decided to sample one of the cheese and salami rolls that had been laid on at the checkpoint there. I ate it and pressed on, the push for the highest point was on, up to 2,400metres and then it was all downhill – literally as it appeared on the course elevation! By now I was having to stop every now and then just to have a little stretch and I could feel that the climbing had taken it out of me, I was truly at my limits and I just wanted the relentless climbing to be over. This is where things went wrong for me; the cheese and salami roll wasn’t welcome in my stomach but rather than doing the decent thing and just getting rid of it, my body started to complain.. I felt weak, my stomach started flipping over, I felt nauseous and a little bit sorry for myself and I knew which was this was going to go.. I started to slow down dramatically, I could see the top of the climb but it seemed every corner I turned it didn’t seem to get nearer, the sun was really bothering me by now, I had to seek out shade and rest every 100 meters or so as my body was in full rebellion. I was that guy that everyone was going past with his head in his hands and every one of them asking “Are you OK?” or words to that effect in Spanish or French.. I knew the game was up in my heart of hearts, but I also knew that I had to get to the highest point to be able to drop out – purgatory!! I carried on with my rest every 100 meters tactic savoring every bit of shade I could find. Eventually my body had had enough of the cheese roll and told it “Your names not down so you’re not coming in!” I was sick and so now I was completely devoid of energy.. The further I got to the top the more people were sitting by the side, one guy looked in worse bother than me and some medic from the top had come down as it looked like he had injured himself. I continue the odyssey to the top.. I got there eventually and after nearly 12 hours I decided to quit. It was a tough decision as I had been building towards this all year, but I knew I had nothing left to carry on. So for the second time in a race I posted a DNF

Upon getting to the top and before definitively deciding to quit I sat down for a good 15 or so minutes and had a good think about it. I spoke to a friend on the phone who tried to talk me round and I really soul searched. I know it was the right decision at the time as I was spent. I had nothing left, had gone so close to my limits before being sick and then that left me no reserves to finish the job really. I was informed by Simon and Bruno (who both did really well in their respective races; the ultra and the marathon) that the rest of the course had been completely downhill and I wonder if had I know that whether I would have pushed on and seen how I felt. Second guessing, however, is no good and is a recipe for sending one mad I believe. I do think about Transvulcania and I have a tinge of something, not sure what it is at the moment, but it has made me think hard about what I want from running. Over the last couple of years I have improved so much as a runner and I think I have changed in my approach to running from enjoying it primarily to competing and getting results and being concerned with times and paces and all the other units of measurement us OCD runners like to concern ourselves with. I love to train, and I love to race but lately I suspect I might have been racing for the wrong reasons. I recall doing Transvulcania and being so focused on finishing the race, ticking off the miles, playing the little distance games I play in my mind and getting the medal that I forgot to be in the actual moment and enjoy the race for what it is – one with breathtaking scenery and amazing challenges. I would be pushed to say that I enjoyed much of the race, purely for my own reasons and this worries me significantly.

The rest of the week I had in La Palma was spent relaxing in the sun and recovering from the race. I was so tired after the event and slept a lot. I did however want to have a crack at the vertical kilometer course and so on the Tuesday Simon and I set off and had a go at it. It was steep but really enjoyable with some amazing views of Tazacorte Bay. I also had the bonus of getting on the same Strava segment leaderboard page as Anna Frost the female winner of Transvulcania for 2014 – she was well quicker than me I hasten to add but I will take these small victories!

So back to life and back to reality – In August I am due to run Round the Rock 7 times in 7 days in aid of Jersey Hospice Care. I was worried after Transvulcania – “Have I gone soft?” “Have I lost my edge?” “Have I lost the ability to endure suffering to complete a race?” These were all questions that I faced as I recovered from Transvulcania.

My response? Get on the internet and book another race! Get back on the horse! The criteria? A 40 mile or so Ultra, In the UK, around early June – The Endurancelife Classic Quarter fitted the bill perfectly! Race report for that to follow!

Back to the initial subject of Omens and my logical mind knows that the whole Magpie thing is rubbish really, and I am trying to train myself to not buy into the whole superstition thing as life is complicated enough right? The omens weren’t so good for Transvulcania however, but even so I have taken away a lot of valuable lessons from that race as I have from every race I have done. Running has been such a journey for me; I remember setting out to start training for my first marathon on 1st January 2011 and the journey since then has been amazing; my life has changed beyond recognition and I have found a niche where before I felt I did not really fit. I guess I went through a period of steep improvement for a few years, thinking at one point I was invincible and could do anything! My times got quicker, my distances got longer and my limits expanded. I’m now I am on the other side of that with the gains being seconds and the concern being more about how well I am placing rather than how much I give and actually maybe enjoying it. Transvulcania was a big awakening for me and since then I have done a lot of thinking about my motives for running, about what I enjoy, what I will go through to finish a race, what motivates me to finish a race and to do well. So onwards and upwards – Classic Quarter race report to follow soon.

Transvulcania 2014 Build Up

So I am here finally! It is the first major race of the year for me, and after a bit of a mission of a journey to get here, spanning 24 hours, 3 flights and quite a bit of waiting around I am here on the La Isla Bonita to be part of the toughest Sky Running race, Transvulcania.
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I am staying in Tazacorte which is a lovely little town on the coast and hosted the vertical mile race yesterday. An amazing event where runners run up the hill pictured above and is actually a Kilometre up in the sky. I and my friend Simon sat about a ¼ of the way up the mountain and saw people running up with ungodly speed, and was lucky enough to see Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg doing the business. Kilian came third in the event but I suspect he is saving himself for the main event on Saturday!!
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There are a lot of runners based here in Tazacorte; lots of tell tale Salomon trail shoes and backpacks around yesterday! We saw Timothy Olson and Kilian around the town which was pretty amazing, almost a little star struck!!
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As I write this I have less than 24 hours til the start of Transvulcania, when we arrive on the plane I got to see the mountains I would be climbing first hand and close up and they are big!! For those of you who aren’t aware the race is around 15,000 feet of climbing covering 73 kms along the volcanic rim of the island. Its an epic race and this year sees a really strong lineup taking part in both the male and female race; Kilian Jornet (winner 2013) Timothy Olson, Sage Canaday, Emelie Forsberg (2013 winner of ladies race) Anna Frost (Winner 2012) are all here so it promises to be a spectacle to watch as well as to be part of !
Today sees us going to the expo to pick up race numbers and soak up the vibe. I hope to meet up with a few friends I know today also who are over for the race, although with 1,500+ people taking part in the race, meeting up by chance might be a bit of a tall order!! Once done with the expo, relaxation this afternoon, eating plenty of food and then some shut eye as we have to be at the shuttle bus pick up at 3am in the morning for a 6am start at the light house!! Not sure sleep will matter once I am at the start line however, heres hoping!!

A full race report will follow!!

Running In The Now

Over the last few months I have been getting back into Bikram Yoga. I originally started doing this at the start of 2013 to help me to acclimatise to the heat for the Marathon Des Sables but quickly discovered the multitude of other benefits it gave me. I think the biggest thing was how after a big weekends mileage I could go to Bikram on a Monday and effectively wipe the slate clean with regards to the niggles and aches I would experience after some weekends where I would run 20+ miles on each day. It quickly became a big part of my pre MDS build up and as it was winter I looked forward to being in the warm as well as “getting my benefits” as my teacher Trisha says. Another aspect of the yoga practice that I enjoyed was the mental side; it enabled/enables me to take time out and focus on the here and now and push all other concerns to the side for the 90 mins I am in the room. Getting to grips with the nuances of the poses engages both mind and body and even once au fait with them there is the challenge of pushing yourself to your furthest stretches and poses. I remember doing 4 days in a row over the long weekend last Easter and feeling like I had had a mental holiday by the end of it.

So over the last few months I have been enjoying getting the benefits of yoga; looking back over last year I was in better shape injury wise when I was doing yoga and I sincerely feel that it has played a part recently in keeping me stretched, supple (er) and hopefully injury free. Since starting back to it in January I have made a mental shift as last year I was using it specifically to get ready for the desert and I now see it as a complementary session to my week of training. I think in the lead up to MDS I was almost “hard-core” in my approach to it; trying to get near the hottest part of the room, trying to push myself as hard as possible and almost being as competitive as I can be with my running sometimes. This year I have taken a step back and I now enjoy it so much more, I feel I have adopted the attitude to try and do as well as I can in each moment and to accept each session for what it is rather than thinking about the last session and how well I did a particular pose or even how badly I did one. This now means that sometimes I might be tired and not really up for the session but I suspend preconceptions and up til now I have always had good sessions..

So what has this to do with running?? Well over the last year or so I have been thinking a lot about living in the now a concept that was explored in “The Power of Now” a great book that I heartily recommend to people who worry about the future J. I read this book and it changed my perception of life and really encouraged me to start living in the now, not to dwell on the past and not to worry too much about the future. I won’t go into the full idea here suffice to say it’s an interesting read if nothing else. So lately I have been thinking a lot about my running and training, competitiveness and state of mind whilst running. In previous posts I have explored various concepts taking in competitiveness, injury, confidence, race strategy, motivation and I feel that having gone through a bit of a dare I say it “a downer” over the winter I have completed quite a rollercoaster journey over the last year. The result of this being that over the last few months I have done a lot of thinking and really re-connected with the reasons why I love to run, and subsequently have begun to enjoy training even more. In turn I have adopted good mental strategies to ensure I remain in the now when running and not distracted by how much it hurts, what the other runners are doing, my pace or where I am in position to other runners in a race for example and so I still feel competitive but it is a more healthy form in my opinion where I am trying to the best that I can do in every moment rather than comparing myself to external markers that I have no real control over. It is very liberating and for me now feels like the way I will get the most out of myself whilst still actually enjoying the sport. This draws a lot of parallels with the practice of yoga and I feel the running and yoga complement each other.

Next up for me is Transvulcania and training has been slowly ramping up for this. The race itself takes in over 14000 feet of elevation so the big thing for me on the training agenda has been hill work. A week or so ago I went out in Jersey with fellow Trans V entrant Simon and another running friend Lee to try and recreate at least 7000 feet of elevation here in Jersey. Jersey has got some great hills but 7000ft of elevation would call for some ingenuity! We mulled over a route which was roughly 6 to 7 miles over the tougher sections of the northern cliffpaths here and meant doing the steeper hills a few times and doing loops of the route. In the end the elevation came up to about 4,800 feet over 4 hours and 16 miles which was quite pleasing. It was a tough outing but it was good to have the company of others who were suffering and enjoying it in equal measure.

Transvulcania is looking like an amazing race. I have read up on it extensively, been watching YouTube videos of the previous races and now it’s just over a month away am looking forward to getting on the start line. Word is that the line-up of world class athletes taking part is most competitive field yet with the names of Sage Canaday, Killian Jornet, Emelie Forsberg, Timmy Olson and some great UK runners including Ricky Lightfoot and Robbie Britton taking part so should be a great event to do some star spotting. I am considering going to the front of the start line and eyeballing everyone mouthing “you’re going down” to everyone who looks at me. I will then proceed to 5:30 min mile off the start line for 100metres just to say I led the race for 10 secs before crashing in a blaze of glory, pulling a hamstring and spending the rest of the day in abject misery. J

And back to reality. Transvulcania is my first major race of the year, in fact so far my only scheduled ultra “race“ of the year. In August I plan to run Round the Rock x 7 which is 7 times around the island of Jersey in 7 days totalling around 330 miles of running for the week. Day one will see me taking part in Round the Rock the race, then when everyone else is able to head to the bar after their race is done I will be getting ready for day 2 which will see me heading around Jersey in the opposite direction to day one just to keep it interesting. I have decided to do this to raise funds for Jersey Hospice Care a local charity here that has touched or will touch the lives of nearly everyone who lives here with the fantastic work they do in the community for people suffering from cancer and motor neurone disease. I had a friend Natalie who was diagnosed with a brain tumour who spent the last 6 weeks of her life there in 2012 and they were amazing. I did the Marathon des Sables last year for Jersey Hospice and raised just under £15,000.00 I would love to try and beat this target but any amount raised would be awesome.

The big factor with the challenge is the sheer mileage that I will cover; anyone who has read my blogs know I have a bit of a dodgy knee and this is my biggest worry. I have been training well however, and the knee has become less and less of an issue as I have got stronger and I have iced it at every opportunity which has seemed to assist with the recovery. Another big factor is the mental aspect of getting up every day to run 48 miles. I am hoping that my new mind-set of living in the now will help with this, break it down into small steps, take it day by day and do my best in each moment being the order of the week!

I have now got the basis of a plan coming together re logistics; I have a few faithful friends who are willing to follow me around the island each day catering to my every whim like a pampered diva (only blue M&M’s, Crystal champagne, sandwiches with the crusts cut off – you get the idea!!) which is a big part of whether I will complete this challenge. Being able to eat and fuel during the day and not having to carry masses of food, moral support as I go round and having access to medical supplies and other things will be vital to set myself up for each following day and stay on the road. I am now in the process of organising events locally to both raise the profile of the challenge and also to raise funds, at the moment I have a few runs in the local M&S on a treadmill scheduled, a film quiz night and some work based events such as cake sales etc.

With the onset of British Summer time (!) and the clocks going forward I intend to be spending as much of my week on the trails as possible, I really love this time of year; the winter is nearly done, the weather starts to improve, the nights get longer and hopefully 6 months of summer to look forward to. Good times and hopefully lots to come!

The Marathon des Sables is just about to kick off and I remember myself this time last year just how nervous I was, but up for it at the same time. I am so jealous of the guys heading out there and particularly to the guys heading out there from Jersey: Cameron Purcell, James Manners, Neil Battrick, Jon Boleat, Simon Todd and James Carnegie I hope you have a good race and most of all enjoy the unique experience the race has to offer!

Happy running all!

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