Tag Archives: cross country

Running into the New Year

It’s been almost two months since I last wrote a blog post so I thought I’d document what I’ve been up to since the Lisbon Marathon in October. With my championship entry for the London Marathon confirmed I have been focusing on building a good base so that I can train more specifically in the New Year and get a lot of really long runs in.

Looking back at my Strava training log in 2015 and 2016 I realised that despite taking part in Advent Running (the festive running streak) my mileage has been too low in November/December going into marathon training. With this in mind I have made more of an effort to run commute regularly, even if it has been freezing cold and dark. I have realised that generally no matter how tired my legs feel I can complete an easy 8k and they normally loosen up.

Despite December being busy in terms of Christmas shopping and drinks etc I have managed to get into a good routine and regularly attend the Run-Fast track sessions at Mile End Stadium on Tuesday evenings. At the time of writing I have been to track for  8 weeks in a row and after the last 5 sessions I have run an extra 20 minutes at around marathon pace (this is something I found beneficial before the Boston Marathon in April, thank you Simon Freeman for the recommendation).

I definitely don’t want to overcook it and peak too early but I am enjoying my running and my recovery rate is improving which should allow me to do more training of a higher quality in the New Year. On my Strava post “#AllAboutTheBase” Andy Waterman made a good point of dialling the pace back at track sessions slightly so I can run a good weekly mileage and not need too many full rest days.

Another reason I’ve been able to bank a few weeks of consistent mileage is I haven’t taken part in many races. Photo courtesy of Sam Pearce (@thefootpathlesstravelled)

I did the London XC Champs on the 18th of November which was great fun but apart from that I have just done the odd parkrun. Racing the shorter distances has allowed me to recover and still do a good long run the next day.

Over the last few weeks I’ve added a tempo run on Thursday nights. They have been tough as my legs have been tired from track but I think it is good training both mentally and physically to push the pace when fatigued. I am really excited to see what sort of shape I can get into in 2018 and for the first time in a while I have set myself some challenging targets across various distances.

In the New Year I am planning to start a weekly training log on here so you can all follow my journey to the London Marathon start line, I hope some of you will find it entertaining and/or informative. I’d be really interested to hear how everyone else’s training is going and what you’ve got lined up for 2018, drop me a message on Twitter or Instagram @SteveSkinner_

See a lot of you soon

Steve

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The Southern XC Champs

On Saturday the 28th of January I took part in the Southern XC Championships. After watching the race in 2016 I decided I wanted to get involved, mainly because of the challenging course and standard of competition. In recent months I have been taking part in the Surrey XC League with Advent Running, it’s been a lot of fun and I’m glad I’d got a few cross-country races under my belt ahead of the 15k of mud on Parliament Hill. Having only recently started training more seriously for the Boston Marathon I knew I wouldn’t be in great shape to place highly but I wanted to race to gain some strength and enjoy the experience.

I had been looking forward to the race since signing up in December. In the week leading up to the race I was keeping a closer eye on the weather than normal, I was wondering whether the course would be super wet and muddy. On the morning of the race I got a bit of a lie in and relaxed, the few hours flew by and I was soon making the trip up to Parliament Hill.


With a few friends taking part in the women’s race I arrived at around 1:30pm that gave me time to pick up my race number and chat with the rest of Team Run-Fast. I also met up with the Advent Running group and had a quick catch up before watching the start of the women’s race. The men’s race started at 2:50pm so James Poole and I headed to the registration tent to sort our race numbers and put on our spikes. It was a shame we missed the majority of the women’s race but we did catch the sprint finish from the first four runners. Hannah Walker representing Run-Fast ran well and came third, it’s amazing how quick she is and how she can pull a result like that out the bag after not racing cross-country for a while.

James and I ran to the start line. It felt as though I had been looking forward to this race for ages and then all of a sudden it was upon us. I was really excited; it felt as though it was FA Cup final day (I used to get excited about that). I definitely prefer taking part in races with friends and having people around prior to the race to distract me from thinking about every eventuality. We positioned ourselves a couple of rows from the front knowing that there were some seriously quick club runners around us.


The gun went off and the herd of over 1,000 runners stampeded up the first big hill. There was so many people lining the course and the noise got louder as you made the climb. It is rather quiet at the beginning near the athletics track but soon the cowbells are ringing in your ears and you’re trying to listen out for familiar voices. With the first hill conquered at “start strong but pace yourself as you’ve got 15k to go pace” you take a sharp right before winding your way down through a particularly muddy section to then tackle a steady longish climb up through some trees. Due to the tough climb a lot of supporters and coaches positioned themselves there to encourage their runners. Some of the AR lot were there to cheer myself and James on and take photos.

Having not raced the southerns before I decided I was going to take it relatively steady over the first 5k and then up it if I could for the final 10k. I also figured that being three laps of 5k it would give me a chance to work out which lines were best to take and where you could push the pace and where you had to work hard up the hills. The fact that there was such a big field forced me to take it steady over the first lap; it was especially busy around the first few corners. I really enjoyed the first lap, my legs were feeling good and I was enjoying the variety of the course. 

Having raced a couple of club races I recognised quite a few faces. It was good to have some friendly competition, I knew if I could stick with them or go passed them I’d have a good race. Whilst on the first lap I was really focussing on where I was placing my feet, there were a few really muddy sections which were tricky to negotiate. Some runners would take a slightly wider route to go around the wet patches whereas other would fly straight through and trust their balance. I was still finding my feet and working out which was the best approach for each section of the course.

Despite focusing on foot placement I remember thinking “I can’t wait to see Lorna and the Advent Running guys!” They always make so much noise. The group had positioned themselves just before a downhill section to finish the 5k lap.

 Photo courtesy of Claudia (@claudi8s)

This part of the course was a lot of fun because of the support and the adrenaline from running fast downhill through the mud. It was the perfect position for supporters to be in because it acted as motivation to get round the lap quicker. As well as having the AR guys cheering there was a handful of Run-Fast runners/supporters on the first hill. It was great to have them at that point offering advice and cheering me on, they let me know I was “coasting” and that I should pump my arms and get up the hills quicker. I’m not sure I was coasting but maybe I was holding a little back for the final 5k or so.

As everyone had spread out I found the second lap a lot easier than the first. I had locked onto a good pace and could break the lap up into chunks mentally; I worked harder up the hills and let the legs do the work on the nice downhill sections. I was moving up through the field and started to pin point certain runners to catch. This is what cross-country is all about, there is no point wasting energy/time worrying about the pace or distance you need to knuckle down and race the course and try to finish as highly as possible. After completing the second 5k I was still feeling strong and ready to chase people down. I was making small gains on the climbs but slipped back on some of the downhills. One of the runners I was tracking down was Neil from VPH; we have finished close together on a few occasions. He is really strong in cross-country/fell races in particular and has run the Comrades Marathon on numerous occasions. I knew if I could finish near him or pass him I’d had a decent run. There was a bit of toing and froing as I went passed him on a couple of the hills and he flew passed me on one of the downhill boggy sections. With 2k or so to go I started to increase my pace and then passed Neil with about 1k left, knowing the final section was downhill and then on the flat to the finish I opened up my stride and sprinted to the line overtaking a couple of other runners in the process.


I managed to finish in 58:20 in 235th place, which I am happy with. Hopefully over the next few years I can take part in more cross-country races and improve, I think some specific hill training and more trail running is required. After crossing the finish line I caught up with Lorna and the AR crew and put on some warm clothes.

 

Thank you so much for the support everyone, you made my race really enjoyable. Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to be back running on the road the majority of the time in training for Boston; however I do have the last Surrey XC League fixture on the 11th which I’m really looking forward to.

I hope those of you that ran the Southerns enjoyed it as much as I did and I hope everyone’s training is going well for the busy race season ahead.

See a lot of you soon 

Steve

Third Cross-country fixture: flat as a pancake

On Saturday the 14th of January I took part in the third Surrey Cross-country league fixture. It was held at Cranford Park, not too far from Heathrow. As the race start time was 2:30pm I had the morning to relax and I travelled with Lorna to Blackfriars to meet the girls before they headed to Lloyds Park for their race starting at 12 o’clock. I killed some time by grabbing food and reading some of Like the Wind mag issue 11.

I travelled to Paddington to meet a fair few of the lads, this included Dean and Alan, they were taking part in their first cross-country fixture with the AR team. It just so happened they’d done the Run Through Victoria Park 10k & Half Marathon respectively, so they were well warmed up. Initially when I found out the race was at Cranford Park I thought it would be a mission to get to, but it turned out to be a 15 minute train journey to Hayes & Harlington followed by a mile walk. The walk took us over part of the route; it was good to see what the terrain was like.

I always get excited about cross-country races. I look forward to seeing what the course will be like, will there be really muddy/boggy sections, and large hills etc to contend with. Simon Hazel had done some research for the team; he ran the route a couple of days prior to the race so we knew the route was flat as a pancake. We all sorted our race vests and numbers and then jogged part of the route to loosen our legs. I was feeling in good shape, I had completed a good track session on Tuesday, a quick ten mile tempo on Thursday evening and a good shakeout run commute on Friday morning in the lead up to the race. After the warm up we de-layered and made our way to the start line for the pre-race briefing.

With the knowledge of the course being flat and having finished highly in the previous two fixtures Martin Harris and I positioned ourselves on the start line with the rest of the team just behind us. Despite knowing there was a section that was firm and included stones through some trees I opted to test out my new Brooks Mach spikes as I am planning to wear them for the Southern Cross-country champs at Parliament Hill on the 28th of January.

Luckily the majority of the course was soft so I could test them properly. The route ran around the outside of Cranford Park, there were a couple of long straights before the winding section through the trees near the end of each lap. The 8k course was over three and a bit laps.

We were sent on our way; I started off at around 3:30min/km pace following Martin and Paul Piper (a friend, running for West 4 Harriers in Division 3). Immediately I was finding that my spikes were giving me good traction especially compared to other runners in trail shoes along one of the long straights which was boggy and included a large puddle. It was funny seeing each runner negotiate the puddle; some would skirt around it but most went straight through. Having seen other runners go through it and not sink I ploughed straight through. With soaking feet I pushed on along the west side of the park before heading into the trees. At this point I was still following Martin and Paul, this was the only section where I regretted having spikes on. Every now and then I would land on a stone and could feel a spike pushing up into my foot, not ideal but bearable for about 1km. Once out of the trees I knew I could pick up the pace on the grass along the straights and so passed Martin and Paul heading into the second lap.

Once I’d run one lap I knew which sections to push on and where I’d have to take it steady. I went through the puddle for the second time with no issues and held a good pace through the trees, trying to surge around the corners so if anyone was behind me I would be further away when they turned the corner. It’s all about the racing tactics ha. I finished my second lap and got cheers from Tony To (unfortunately had to drop out due to cramp) and Emily (Deans girlfriend). I was feeling really good at this point and knew I could maintain my pace for another 2.5k or so, I was really enjoying the run. With some energy left in the tank I picked up the pace on the home straight, I managed to finish 2nd in Division 4 in 27:45.

Shortly after I crossed the line Paul and Martin came through the line, they both ran good times and scored well.

I caught up with Tony and Emily; we cheered the rest of the lads through the finish and watched some great sprint finishes. We were keeping an eye on how many of our runners crossed the line as opposed to Woking (our nearest rivals in the league). There were a lot more black and green vests finishing before orange and green so we knew we’d extended our lead at the top of the league. Job done.

Here’s the team results:

Our top 10 scorers

2nd: me

3rd: Martin Harris

5th: Mark Parry

8th: Ben Rajan

12th: Adam Lennox

15th: Nic Wuthrich

25th Alan Gardiner

28th Simon Phillips

31st: Matt Hanson

33rd: Rory Campbell

A massive well done to the girls team over at Lloyds Park in the snow. They smashed it! Lorna had a great run and really enjoyed it, she finished as the second AR runner behind Claudi.



Note: Emma Wallace = Lorna
It was a great day for Team AR XC on the whole! I can’t wait for the final fixture now.

See a lot of you soon

Steve

Second Cross-country fixture: Much more mud

On Saturday the 12th of November I took part in my second cross country race. It was held at Epsom Downs racecourse. With there being heavy rain the few days prior to the fixture I knew that conditions would be muddy underfoot, especially compared to the first race around Wimbledon Common. I was excited to be racing on softer terrain and experience more normal cross country conditions.

With the race starting at 3pm a group of us got the 12:30ish train from Victoria. There were mini groups of Team AR (AR collective/advent running) XC heading to the racecourse from different stations. We arrived in plenty of time and all convened at Beefeater just opposite the start area. Some of our runners got their pre-race coffee fix and we kept warm for as long as possible. Once James arrived with the team vests etc we headed to the car to pin on our race numbers and drop our bags.

I opted to test out my Salomon Speedcross 4s. I think you can guess if this is pre or post race.

We then headed around the first part of the route, as we did at the first fixture. This was a) to warm up (definitely needed in the cold weather due to the wind) and b) to do some course research. Having learnt from the first race most of our team positioned themselves near the front of the pack. As JP mentioned it’s probably best to be overtaken by a few people than have to go around a load of other runners if you start too far back. Before the start everyone observed a minutes silence for the two girls who tragically lost their lives earlier in the week whilst out running. I think the whole running community has been shocked and deeply saddened by the event, my thoughts go out to all their friends and family.

3..2..1..GO! We were off, hundreds of runners stampeding down the racecourse like horses. Mud and sand flicking up our legs, that initial heavy breathing to get into a good position and on a good pace. The first kilometre or so was fun, jostling for a good line around the first few corners and down a couple of sharp slopes. Once we hit the first couple of inclines everyone had spread out and there was more room to breath. Initially there were four or five Team AR runners within a couple hundred metres. The course was nice and varied and there was only really one long steady incline. At this point I was chasing JP and Martin and wanted to close up with them in the next few kilometres.

Once back on a flatter section after approximately 3k I passed James. I then set my sights on reeling in Martin and overtaking as many other runners as possible. As I found with the first fixture I find it really motivating to be chasing people down as opposed to running for a time which is normally the case with road races.

Photo courtesy of Emily @em_runs_

I completed the first lap and was feeling good, my legs felt light but strong. I enjoyed the first section of the lap again, with more space to choose the racing line. I passed a few runners on the long incline and was gradually closing the gap to Martin. I knew if I could get close to him I would place pretty highly. With a couple of kilometres to go I upped my pace and continued to close the gap. The last kilometre being slightly downhill I pushed and overtook a few rivals. I just about managed to out kick a few runners and finished two seconds behind Martin.

Photo courtesy of Sarah @stella_runs

We congratulated each other on another great run and cheered the rest of the lads through the finish line. It wasn’t long before JP and Brewster were flying passed us. The team was super consistent again and I knew we’d be in with a chance of winning the fixture. It wasn’t as emphatic as our 90 point gap last time out but we still won by 7 or so points to increase our lead at the top. Great running lads! To be fair we were aided by having an awesome cheer crew with all sorts of musical instruments.

Once we’d all finished we tucked into some awesome AR XC branded cupcakes made by Roland and family, they were delicious. That is what cross country is all about, racing hard and enjoying the carmarederie. Overall it was a great outing and I can’t wait for the next fixture already, here’s hoping for even more mud!

See a lot of you soon

Steve

First Cross-country fixture: Not much mud

On Saturday the 15th of October I took part in my first cross-country race. A couple of months ago James & Claudia (Advent Running/AR Collective) announced they would be putting men’s and women’s teams into the Surrey League. I was interested straight away as it made me think back to when I ran a couple of cross-country races at school. I just remember it being freezing cold, tipping it down and struggling to stay on my feet due to ALL the mud. It was so much fun! If you’ve read my blog before you probably know how much I enjoy racing, I couldn’t wait for the first xc fixture to come around.

Being the “new kids on the block” we have joined the Surrey Cross Country League in Division 4. Going into the first race I was a little apprehensive, as I didn’t quite know what to expect. I was wondering how quick our competition would be and how tough the course would be. Things not worth thinking about really as I couldn’t control them. I was also apprehensive because I didn’t know how my legs would feel being just two weeks after Cologne Marathon and six days after the Royal Parks Half Marathon. Wanting to do well I decided to rest a lot in the week, the only real hard session I did was at Track on Tuesday night. The rest of the week I kept my legs ticking over by doing the Running Works Run Club on Wednesday and Thursday lunch times.

As the race started at 2pm I got a nice lie in and chilled for a couple of hours before heading to Wimbledon Common. Luckily as I now live near Oval it didn’t take long to get to the Common, once I arrived I met up with the lads. As James (Poole) was pacing Nic at Autumn 100 and Claudia was racing in Nonsuch Park, James Brewster & Tony To got us organised handing out our cool AR XC race vests and race numbers.

Once we’d all got our race kit on, including race spikes or trail shoes, we got in a couple kilometre jog to warm up. We ran the first few kilometres of the route; it was good to see how muddy and narrow/wide it was going to be.

Photo courtesy of Tony To

Once we got back to near the start line we were greeted by some of the girls, they had travelled over after their race to support and cheer us on. They let us know their race had gone well.

As the start time neared we positioned ourselves behind the line, knowing there were a couple of narrow sections we got pretty close to the front of the pack. It’s only when everyone makes their to the start that you realise how many runners are competing. For some reason I imagined that there would only be 50/60 runners racing, turns out there were hundreds. This was because we were racing with Divison 3. We were due to be given division numbers to have on our backs so we knew who we were racing but unfortunately none of the teams were given them. Before we knew it we were off. Thinking the route was 5.6 miles (as described on the surrey league website) I set off at what I thought was a maintainable pace, somewhere around 3:45min/km pace. The first few kilometres were spent trying to work my way past runners, in hindsight I should’ve positioned myself a little further up on the start.

I settled into my pace/rhythm and was feeling good; the course was pretty firm which helped. There wasn’t much mud at all. After 2km or so there was a section through a field where the grass was pretty long and soft and this meant more effort was required to maintain a good pace. The first 5/6 kilometres went by really quickly, mainly because the route was varied, there were a few ups and downs and I was focussing on the runner in front trying to chase them down. Knowing the route was two loops was a little surprised that I hadn’t passed through the start area until I got to around 6k. I was thinking, “this course is a hell of a lot longer than 8k, maybe we are doing 11k?” or “ok, the second loop isn’t the same as the first and will be 2/3k long”. I carried on running between 3:45 and 4min/km pace and just thought I’d have to hold on for as long as possible.

It was great to have a cheer crew, complete with cowbells, around the route. Having started pretty quickly the last few kilometres were always going to be about holding on. My legs were tiring quickly; they felt heavier and heavier having to lift them out of the long grass through the open field for the second time. I passed Spencer and Cassie (the dog) on this section and it definitely helped seeing a friendly face there. I really enjoyed the section after that as there is a slight downhill and you’re weaving your way through some trees. I soon got to 8k and knew that I was still a fair way from the finish line. I had to ease up a little as my legs were tightening up, especially on the one long hill. I got up the hill eventually, I felt as though I was crawling with concrete blocks tied to my feet. Once over the hill I knew there was only a kilometre or so to go on the flat.

I passed the Advent Running crew again and collected a power boosting high five from Claudi. I was working hard and couldn’t wait to see the finish funnel and clock. My watch had just ticked past 10k and then I was on the home straight. I would’ve like to have been capable of a sprint finish and to catch the runner a hundred metres or so in front of me but all I could muster was a slight increase of pace trying to avoid pulling a hamstring. I crossed the line in 38:56 but more importantly in 23rd position overall and 5th in Division 4, helping the team.

Once through the finish I spoke with Martin who had a great run, he was the first of the AR team to finish in 3rd place. We cheered our teammates in, and they were crossing the line thick and fast. Not knowing which runners were in Division 3 or 4 we had to wait until Saturday night for the results but we knew we’d done well as everyone was placing so highly. Post race we refuelled, Nikki had baked some delicious cakes for us, and Claudia had brought along some bananas etc.

On the Saturday evening my phone was going crazy with notifications from Facebook due to photos being uploaded. Then the results were posted and Claudia announced the girl’s claimed sixth place in the league, well done!! She then let us know that we are at the top of the men’s league by a considerable margin. Great work lads!

Overall it was a great day, I can’t wait for the next fixture in November and I’m hoping for more mud. To keep up to date with how the AR teams are doing follow @ar_collective @adventrunning on Instagram & Twitter.

Next up for me is Tough 10 in Epping Forest on Sunday, should be a fun event!

See a lot of you soon

Steve

Spitfire Scrambled Legs

I wasn’t planning on doing the Spitfire Scramble this year but a friend of mine, Helena, signed up forgetting she was busy. Luckily I’m always keen to race and therefore jumped at the chance to join the UKRunChat Team Blue! I ran in the Advent Running team for the Adidas Thunder Run 24 hour team relay so kind of knew what to expect to a certain degree. However this time I was in a team of 8, most of them being strangers apart from knowing some of their Twitter handles.


I packed up basically the same kit I took to TR24 (including tent, Thanks Dave!) and headed for Hornchurch Country Park on Friday evening. I didn’t time it well; I turned up at the campsite/race village around 7ish just as it started to tip it down. The first people I saw were Natasha, Helen, Emma, Laurence (Team Red boo!) and Paul. We had a good chat about our running and how we thought the weekend would go. Once the rain had eased we headed to the UKRunChat area to set up our tents, at this point pretty much everyone had arrived. We all helped each other to get the gazebo (luckily it actually was a gazebo, those of you that read my TR24 post will understand) and tents up, complete with UKRunChat #TeamBlue sign and bunting which me and Ben (@RunnARGHHH) put up with precision. Just a tip for any of you camping and doing a 24 hour team relay in the future, don’t trip up your own team mate with your tents guide ropes! Sarah (@SezSaysStuff) had a stylish fall that Ben (cause of the trip) rated 8.8, it was impressive. We decided to head to Tesco (other supermarkets are available) to get some energy boosting treats before ordering and collecting Domino’s (other pizza manufacturers are available) pizza. We enjoyed the food and had a good chat about running and various other things, some things you don’t want to know about (mainly runners/Jeffs @UKRunCat crusty & moist feet). I would attach a picture but I don’t want to lose readers!


We decided to hit the hay relatively early given the fact we would only sleep for a couple of hours between 12pm Saturday and 12pm Sunday. On Saturday morning we all chilled out and got food and before you knew it, it was 12pm and Natasha (@NElsdon) was off on the first #TeamBlue lap alongside Laurence for #TeamRed. Having discussed the running order (literally) the previous night Jeff our leader decided on: Natasha, Steve (that’s me), Helen, Paul, Ben, Emma, Sarah, Jeff 

Running order (literally) 

Natasha sped round the first lap; it was 12:49 and time for my first lap. I was glad to get going, its weird waiting around for half a day before a race. It was good to get round a lap and learn the ups and downs of the course. Feeling pretty fresh I managed a time of 34:53 even though it was pretty hot. I was happy with the time considering my 10k PB is 35:31 albeit the Spitfire Scramble route was 5.8 miles. A massive motivation to run faster was the fact the sooner you get your lap done the quicker you get to eat and rest up. Also knowing I would only have to do 4 or 5 laps as opposed to the 6 at TR24 I knew I could push the pace and the route had already been described to me as relatively flat.  

 Setting off on my first lap

The route was a nice cross country route. The first mile was flat so I could get up to speed; the second mile there was a hill to zig-zag up so my pace dropped between miles 2 and 4. The last 1.8 miles were pretty flat and there was a nice section through the trees with a mile to go. The last few hundred metres you got to run around the outside of the campsite which is cool as you get lots of support from various runners and then I was onto the home straight to spot my teammate (Helen @Helen_Ridgway) to hand over the snap band for her to speed off into the distance. I learnt from TR24 that it’s good to keep moving after each lap to loosen up. Between laps one and two Emma’s (@emmah1506) family were on site with a football so we had a kickabout. This was a good way to keep moving and it was fun to mess about with a football for a change. I also prioritised getting in food as soon as possible after each lap, making sure to choose a “meal” high in protein. The catering was good, I opted for a bacon, sausage & egg sarnie for breakfast, pasta and chicken for dinner, tuna jacket potato after my second lap. I felt really well fuelled throughout the whole 24 hours.

I completed my second lap by 8 o’clock. Having warmed up I managed to get round the course in 34:46 knocking a whole 7 seconds off my first lap. I knew I would feel good on the second lap as the same thing happened at TR24, and recently I have done some double and triple run days and always felt better on the last run. I got food, loosened up by walking around a bit and then relaxed in my tent and got an hour or so sleep. This sleep was broken up a bit due to other runners out on the course shouting for their teammates to get ready to be tagged in. It was a bit over the top in some cases as I could hear a runner that had just entered the camp site and shouted at the top of his lungs “Graham!!!!!” I think all the Grahams in Hornchurch would have pricked their ears up. The time between laps went really quickly because by the time you’ve eaten, caught up with team mates and other teams you’re back out tackling the course. My third lap was at 01:40 and for me the laps in darkness are what the 24 hour events are all about. It makes you feel somewhat hardcore to be shuffling out of your sleeping bag in the early hours of Sunday with your head torch on to get your miles in. My legs were starting to feel heavier but I wanted to get as close to my two previous times. I clocked 36:36, which I thought was pretty good pacing but there were certain sections of the route I had to take steady, for example over small stiles. It also took me a mile or so to loosen up, that much so that when Natasha was handing over to me I took a little longer putting the snap band on as if to say “Do I really have to do this, can’t someone else do this lap!”

After my third lap I wrapped up warm including hat, gloves and compression socks. By this point I was also wearing 2xu calf sleeves on my laps which I find good to aid recovery and stop my muscles from oscillating when on the uneven trails. I got another hour or so of sleep and before I knew it it was 7:15am and time for what I thought was my fourth and final lap. My legs were still feeling really heavy but I managed to beat my lap 3 time. This lap was really nice as it was still cool and the sun was beaming. I pushed the pace and gave it everything presuming I didn’t have another lap to do. 

 

4 laps done, thought that was it!


I handed over to Helen again and she went out and smashed her 4th lap, some seriously good pacing was carried out by Team Blue. Consistency is key in the game of 24 hour relays and because we were all clocking consistent laps we were around 7th/8th in the table out of 42 teams. This featured some really strong teams, lots of them consisting of serious club runners. Natasha, Helen, Paul, Ben, Emma and Jeff all clocked great times on their fourth laps. Emma did her lap in a speedy 48 minutes leaving Jeff with a window of an hour to get round to get me out on the course again. He smashed it getting in around 11:55ish so I headed out again. It was great to know this was definitely the last lap so I pushed the pace again to try and finish in style. I managed my 3rd fastest lap time, 36:15. It was a great lap to do because the organisers had sorted for a spitfire to fly over at 12, I only caught a glimpse of it over the hedges but still got goose-bumps, it was cool. I enjoyed the lap for the last time; I sped down through the trees at around 5 miles appreciating how much fun the whole weekend had been. We all ran into the finish line together mimicking a spitfire. That was the only way to finish the event. 

  

  

Jeff, Natasha, Helen, Sarah, Emma, Paul, Ben and me aka the awesome Team Blue!


To the teams surprise we finished in 6th place completing 31 laps. It was a great performance by the whole team. It was such an awesome weekend with part of the UKRunChat family and hopefully there will be many more in the not too distant future. Well done to Team red also who finished in a great 17th place. Also happy birthday Jenni (@_jen_mo) what a way to spend your birthday.


I hope those of you that were at the Spitfire Scramble enjoyed it and those of you training or racing elsewhere had a great weekend.


Steve


P.s. The photos are courtesy of Jenni and Jeff mostly! However here’s one of mine: 

 

The Adidas Thunder Run Weekend

This time last week I was resting up preparing for my first ever head torch lit run as part of the epic weekend that was the Adidas Thunder Run with Advent Running. It’s going to be hard to put in to words how much fun that weekend was but I’ll give it a try and the photos will tell a lot of the story. 

James and Claudia, the brains behind Advent Running, let me know about a possible place on their Thunder Run team when I joined them for one of their Bagel runs on a Friday morning a fair few weeks back. I was apprehensive to begin with, knowing it was only two weekends after Race to the Stones 100k, and as I explained in my last post I thought my legs would still hate me at that point. However on their return from the amazing Western States 100 I saw them at the Like the Wind mag Trails in Motion screening and they were already scheming the next challenge. A place on the team was still being spoken about and the offer of a different kind of challenge proved too irresistible. 

Luckily I recovered from RTTS quickly and with a parkrun and the Harry Hawkes 10 miler sandwiched in between I felt strong and ready for multiple 10ks over 24 hours. We headed up to Burton upon Trent late on the Friday evening. We arrived around 10:30ish and began setting up our camp. James logically unpacked the “gazebo” first. The only problem was that it came in a small bag and instead of being a gazebo it was a swinging baby cot contraption. Laughter ensued with the weekend getting off to a great start but luckily that was our only hiccup the whole weekend. It was also lucky we turned up with the rain easing to drizzle, result! We set to work putting up the tents, luckily these were actually tents. I was sharing with David, he had brought along a massive 4 (could’ve been a 10 man tent) which I would give a rating of 5/5 if I were to rate the stay on tripadvisor. It took a while to put up, looking at YouTube videos for instructions, but it was well worth it. We had that much room we could all lay out our clothes for the task ahead. 

We all headed to sleep pretty swiftly. Surprisingly I slept really well. I can imagine I had a much more comfortable night than one of our neighbours, David from the Like the Wind team apparently forgot his sleeping bag so was camping a bit Bear Grylls styley. I guess it’s all character building. Most of the AR team awoke around 8/9ish so we toured around the race village catching up with familiar faces and grabbing some food. We relaxed for a couple hours and then James, our captain, began the 24 hours by speeding off the start line at 12 o’clock. 

He got us off to a flying start clocking a 41ish minute 10k, despite the wet and muddy conditions. The order of play was James, David, Me, Claudia, Ben then Spencer. David kept the momentum going with a quick 10k and then I was up for my first lap. 

 With the course drying up I managed a 40:23 which I was happy with considering the winding course and close to 500ft of elevation gain. I handed over to Claudia and began my rest period of about 3 and a half hours. I grabbed food and then we scuttled around the race village to cheer on our teammate and other runners on the course. It was amazing to see so many solo runners on the course resulting in a shout of “Well done solo!” Claudia, Ben and Spencer posted great times and with the first round done we’d set the bar high. With the ground becoming firmer James sped around the course on his second lap and beat my time, a mini comp between me and him had begun. It was great to have this competition as it motivated the both of us to get round the course as quickly as possible each time for pride and to drive the team forward. I responded with 39:41 which ended up being mine and the teams quickest lap of the weekend. The whole team kept incredibly consistent times throughout the whole 24 hours but obviously the most testing laps were the headtorch laps. 

Having only ran with a headtorch twice, on Advent Running’s Friday night trip runs, it was new for me to be racing at speed through trees and up hills with a small circular beacon of light. It took a while to get used to but it was great fun and the weather was nice and cool. Over the two night laps I posted 41:40 and 44:18. The second lap was seriously hard as we decided to pair up. This meant I did one lap then chilled for 45+ mins with Claudia out on the course and then did another lap. It was a relief to get the double run done in the dark and get through unscathed. I then had a good few hours to sleep. I grabbed food and headed straight to sleep as I was knackered. In hindsight this was a bad move as I should’ve walked around to warm down and loosen up. I ended up waking up at 3am cramping up with a dodgy left calf. At that point I was like “how the hell am I going to get up around 6am and run another 10k”.

6am came round and my legs still felt stiff but with a lot of stretching and a bit of walking I loosened up. Within 200m of my 5th lap my legs had loosened up and I was back running 7:30min/miles. I posted a 43:25 and calculated the order of play meant that would probably be my last lap. We were in about 6th/7th place in the teams of 8 category and the handovers etc were like clockwork. We were nearing the end of the challenge. James did his 6th lap and we then decided he would hand over to me to try and squeeze in another lap. Unfortunately it ended up being the case that I would’ve had to post a sub 40 minute 10k to get another lap in and with the weather deteriorating I only managed a 43:52. Once I knew the extra lap was gone I was just aiming for another sub 45.  

 

The last lap was probably the most fun because I knew we were nearing the finish line and I could empty the tank as it were. The team were there to cheer me whole heartedly around the course and then some of the guys joined me to kick to the finish. 

crossed the line about 5 minutes past 12 which was a bit annoying but we finished in 6th place in our category, with only 6 runners, out of about 220 odd teams. Job done! 

I really enjoyed the challenge and being part of a team for a change was great fun and added extra motivation and responsibility. Overall a great weekend and I’m looking forward to my next 24 hour team relay. It just so happens to be 2 weeks away! 

  

  

I hope everyone else that did the Adidas Thunder Run had an equally good experience. Check out Advent Running on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram, they have a lot of cool events and things planned. The photos are courtesy of Claudia @claudi8s & Lucy @ljhoare.

See a lot of you soon.

Steve

P.s. #nevernotracing