Tag Archives: nutrition

Fuelled by Science in Sport

In 2014 I ran my first marathon, the Manchester Marathon, with next to no nutrition strategy. It’s safe to say I hit the “WALL”. I decided to use the Science in Sport (SIS) Isotonic Gels in training and for the Brighton Marathon in 2015. Thanks to more specific training, a better taper and good nutrition I knocked 25 minutes off my time. I took a gel at kilometres: 10, 20, 30 and 37. As it was a hot day I sipped water at most aid stations, I felt good and avoided going to the pain cave.

A few months ago on the Freestak platform I saw that SIS wanted runners to test and review their new products: the Cookies & Cream Overnight Protein and GO Caffeine Shots. I decided to apply because I had a good experience with their gels and electrolyte tablets. I also thought the protein powder and caffeine shots would help with my racing and training for OCC (55k) at the end of August.

I have used the caffeine shots on numerous occasions over the last few weeks. I take them half an hour before hard track sessions and races. They have definitely helped me to be more alert and focussed. One of the first times I used a shot was before a big 1km rep session. I ran at 3:25min/km pace for 8 reps which I was happy with just two days after another hard track session.

Finishing the Westminster Mile in 4:48 (20th position in Wave 1) after taking a Tropical SIS Caffeine Shot.

I would definitely recommend the GO caffeine shots, I thought they would taste medicinal but actually the Coca Cola and Tropical flavours are great. They have definitely helped my performances; I’m excited to see what I can achieve in the races I’ve got lined up. If you want to find out why you should use caffeine here is a link to the SIS website and a piece on “The Performance Benefits of Caffeine”: http://www.scienceinsport.com/uk/our-expertise/performance-benefits-caffeine/

In training for OCC, the 55k race in the UTMB series, I have been increasing my mileage and taking part in some tough track sessions. At the end of May I ran the Bideford 10k, a 10,000m track race and did three hard track sessions within the space of 10 days. 

I thought it would be a great time to try the Cookies and Cream Overnight Protein to recover quickly and be able to run commute the next morning. I was wondering if the protein shake would actually taste like cookies and cream and was pleasantly surprised. It is hard to quantify how much the drink helped but my legs definitely felt better the next day. If you want to know which protein to take and when, there is another great piece on the SIS website: http://www.scienceinsport.com/uk/our-expertise/which-protein-when/

Overall the new Science in Sport products have been great. They’ve helped me a lot with my training and racing over the last couple of months. Good nutrition is something that I neglected in the past, it is great to have supplements so I can train hard day in day out.


Trailscape Marathon – Newport, North

On Saturday 31st of October I did the Trailscape marathon in Newport. This was the Northern race in the Trailscape rail to trail series that heads North, East, South and West of London so runners can race some great trails. I was asked by James and Claudia to join the AR (Advent Running) Adidas trail team a few weeks ago and instantly accepted the invite to race with them. Since meeting Advent Running we have enjoyed some great events, we smashed the Adidas Thunder Run, ran 50k (58k in the end) along the river crossing a lot of bridges on the way and have run for all kinds of reasons including bagels and beers.  

This  was taken by Ash Tehrani (@ashrunstheworld) on a recent Friday morning beigel run.

I run for a lot of the same reasons these guys do and therefore I’m looking forward to doing many more events and races with the team. The team is being supported by Adidas (as you could probably tell) and Stance socks which is great.

Despite doing the Bristol+Bath Marathon on the 25th of October I couldn’t resist signing up to the first trailscape race and decided the marathon distance would be a good challenge to see if I could recover quickly enough. I have tested myself in quite a few ways this year from numerous half marathons, marathons, Wings for Life (being caught by David Coulthard) to 24 hour team relays, fell races etc. I was nervous but excited to see how I would feel on this second marathon in six days. In the week between Bristol+Bath and the trailscape marathon I didn’t run much. I was back in Holsworthy, Devon for a couple of days after B+B and therefore couldn’t resist about an 11 mile run on Tuesday taking in my old stomping grounds.  Holsworthy Viaduct

I visited all the houses I used to live in whilst running through my hometown taking in the park and some great views.

The only other running I did in the week was the Victoria Park Harriers 2.9 mile handicap on Thursday night. I was planning to take it easy and use it as a shakeout run but those of you that know me or have read previous posts will know what happened. I said I was going to run 18 minutes for the 3 laps but ended up doing closer to 17 minutes as I felt good, I finished in second. In hindsight I maybe should’ve taken it a bit easier but I’ll learn at some point. I rested on the Friday and got a pretty early night after going to watch Spectre (great film!). I woke up at 5.30 on Saturday to get my kit ready and head to meet James, Claudia and Gabriel for 6.30. My legs felt relatively good but I could definitely feel the effects from the marathon the previous Sunday. We got to the race village in good time and set up the AR tent and collected our race numbers etc.   The marathon started at 8.30, for me this was good as I don’t like to be hanging around long before a race, I prefer to crack on. There were roughly 50 runners taking part in the marathon, it was good to see a lot of familiar faces. In the marathon for the AR Adidas Trail team was me, James, Ben, Spencer, Claudia, Gabriel and Lucy.

Having looked up the winning times from last year we knew we would finish highly. Myself and James headed off at around 7:15 min/mile pace, pretty much the same pace I did the Bristol+Bath Marathon at. A few other runners were with us for a bit but after a couple miles we opened up a gap. We were chatting away about the Beyond 26.2 event in The Running Works on Wednesday etc and unfortunately didn’t look down to see an arrow pointing right. After a half mile or so we realised we hadn’t seen any tape for a while so turned round to see a lot of other runners heading in another direction. We soon got back on the right trail and made up the ground quickly whilst chatting with fellow runners and AR Adidas Trail teammates. We soon got back into the lead holding the pace we thought was maintainable. It was good to share a lot of the miles with James. Being tired from the Bristol+Bath marathon etc it was good to have someone to chat to. James having completed 5 ironman triathlons, Western States 100 (which is on the bucket list), UTMB and Autumn 100 is a great person to listen to and pick up tips from. Over the marathon and ultramarathon distances pacing and nutrition is key and this is something I am going to experiment with more in the coming weeks and months. One thing I will be trialling is a caffeinated gel for the last 5 or 10k. I generally use the SIS gels, one every 7 miles or so which tends to work but every now and then I feel like I need an extra boost especially in the latter stages of races, hopefully a caffeinated gel has the same effect on me as James, he flew.

Another plus of running with James was that I could see where his foot was gripping or slipping. I took the front every now and then but predominantly I was following him. The course was really varied, there were sections where your feet would slide around, other sections where the mud would stick to your trainers (I wore my Inov-8 Race Ultra 270) and there was a knee deep “puddle” to swim through. It was quite good that the course was two laps because once you’d done the first lap you knew which “racing lines” to take. Albeit every now and then you could still be sliding around like Bambi on ice but that’s all part of the fun right. It was quite good fun to just run through the knee deep puddle, there was no tip-toeing around that. Photo courtesy of @trailscape

I may have to invest (I’m justifying buying more running shoes!) in some more trail shoes soon, my inov-8s were good but it probably would’ve helped to have something with a bit more grip/larger lugs. If anyone has any recommendations give me a shout.

We ticked off the miles. As we were getting closer to 20 miles I started to tire, James was looking strong and started to up the pace a little. I had to ease up as I didn’t think I could maintain the pace and I thought I would be risking an injury if I upped it. James carried on at around 7:15 pace; I really struggled over the last 5k or so. Mentally it was quite hard to fall back and have to run the last few miles on my own. However I decided to ease up a lot and just get round. I just visualised the last section of the route and remembered it was downhill to the finish. A couple of runners passed me on the last few miles and I was thinking “Bloody hell, these guys have paced their marathon well!” Then I remembered the half marathon and 10k had been going on and they were racing in those distances. However I picked up the pace a little for the last mile or so and got the job done. I was disappointed I couldn’t hold the pace and give James a race for his money/wooden plaque prize. Overall though I was happy to get round and be able to enjoy 27 miles through the countryside. I can’t complain with second place in 3:30:27 six days after doing my 5th marathon.  That’s six marathons in 18 months now, little bit mental really. It’s good to know I can do marathons back to back weekends, albeit in compromised times, but I’m not planning on doing it often. A huge thanks has to go to the Trailscape organisers, the event was really well organised. The medal, t-shirt and buff are awesome!    Well done to everyone that ran the first trailscape race whether you were doing the marathon, half marathon or 10k. The AR Adidas trail team was represented strongly:

10km – 1st Alex Van Oostrum @alexvanoostrum

Half Marathon – 3rd mens Fabio Rizzo, 2nd female Frida Sofia @missfridasofia

Marathon – 1st mens James Poole @jamesdpoole, 2nd mens Me @stephenskinner6, 1st female Claudia Schroegel @claudi8sA lot of the team also placed in the top 10 across all three distances and some great times were achieved on a tough course. If you want to follow more of the teams racing and adventures I recommend you follow Advent Running on Facebook, Twitter (@adventrunning) & Instagram (@ar-collective). There is a lot coming up! I personally can’t wait for the next trailscape marathon on the 5th of December in Cuxton, Kent for the East race. I also need to look into the logistics of doing some of the Maverick races next year.

Well done to everyone that ran in the New York marathon at the weekend by the way. Looking forward to hearing about it, see a lot of you soon.



Race to the Stones 2015: The start of my ultrarunning 

I’m sure most of you that are reading this are aware that I managed to complete Race to the Stones on Saturday 11th of July. It wasn’t easy or pretty but it has to be up there with one of the biggest and best things I’ve achieved. This is going to be quite a long post and I’m going to try and describe how I felt along the way, aiming to give some tips to those of you thinking about doing ultras.

I’m going to start by explaining why I signed up to this 100k in the first place. There are quite a few reasons, one of them being that a few friends ran RTTS in 2014. After hearing about other runners experiences of the race I did some research and found out about the great organisation of the race, large number of aid stations (mini heavens) and lovely route along the ridgeway. After looking on the website, almost every time I was online the ad for the event popped up. It was as if something was telling me to sign up and of course I couldn’t resist. Another reason I chose to sign up was that it was relatively easy to get to from London. I wanted to do an ultra almost instantly after finishing the Manchester Marathon in 2014. That’s quite strange given the fact that I didn’t look into nutrition, had a rubbish taper and paced myself terribly for that run. However once I knew I could run 26.2 miles I started to wonder how far I could run. I enjoyed the long runs in training for Manchester, using them as a way to explore London and therefore I wanted a greater reason to go out and do larger mileage weeks.

Although I didn’t have a specific training plan for RTTS I began running more seriously again on the 1st of January. This was after not really running for the second half of 2014. The main reason for this was work. I was working long days including weekends and wasn’t making running a strong enough priority. My fitness deteriorated drastically after doing so many races in the first half of last year. I flicked a switch moving into 2015 and decided to start running more seriously again no matter how tired I was feeling before or after work. I found almost instantly I started to feel better and that combined with eating more healthily and sleeping more I started making swift progress. It has been a long journey to what is now the best shape I’ve been in. I still had a certain level of fitness but it was a struggle to do a 5 miler at 8-9min/mile pace.

Soon after gaining a bit of fitness I signed up to a few races including various 10ks and half marathons. I found this a good way to gauge my fitness and see the gap between where I was and PB shape. I gradually upped my distance with a few key races like Reading Half and Brighton Marathon in the not to distant future. Luckily I had enough time to get in PB condition, managing 1:17:01 for the Reading Half and the GFA qualifying time for London at Brighton doing 3:02:48. These races acted as stepping stones towards Race to the Stones. Having rekindled my love of running again I raced a lot in May equalling and bettering a few PBs over some shorter distances. If you want to hear about them I have written about most of them earlier on in my blog. In hindsight I maybe should’ve prioritised RTTS more and done bigger mileage weeks in May but I’ve had such fun racing various distances and on various surfaces.

June was a big month for me. I decided to only do a few races and up the mileage. Some weeks I got in 90 miles. Luckily the running community in London is huge and amazing so I have run with so many awesome groups and people so not to get bored with my own thoughts. The longest run I did was with advent running. It was 58k along the river and you can read about it in my “Stepping into the unknown” post. This was a great run and gave me a lot of confidence having already done around 50 miles in the week before that. However in hindsight running 58k on road doesn’t really prepare you for 100k on trail which has a lot more elevation gain. Had I started training for RTTS earlier I would have gone further than 58k because jumping from that to 100k is a fair way. When I say jumping it’s more like shuffling thousands and thousands of small steps. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, it can’t improve my time of 13:28 but it will help me achieve greater things in the future. In training I regret not hitting the trails more often as I underestimated the mental and physical strength required to negotiate even the not so technical trail.

In the build up to the race I lowered my mileage quite drastically doing 60 miles two weeks out and about 20 miles the week before. For once I enjoyed the taper, probably because I hadn’t really rested since Brighton Marathon. I also booked the day off before the race so I could relax and pack thoroughly (and watch the tennis). Here’s a quick lowdown of my race kit:

Bag/vest – Salomon S-Lab Adv Skin 3 12L. I decided on this race vest because it has room to store a waterproof jacket aswell as all the necessities. The pockets are well positioned and the soft flasks are comfortable and easy to refill. The soft flasks carry 500ml each so I took SIS lemon electrolyte in one and water in the other and drank 1L per 10k+ section of the course.

Waterproof jacket – I bought an OMM Kameleika jacket (which I’m sure I’ll test out soon) however due to the weather I left it behind.

Headtorch – again luckily not quite needed but I went for a Petzl Tikka XP which has four settings and is extremely bright. Looking forward to using it soon but worried now I have the possibility to run 24 hours a day haha

Vest – Salomon S-lab sense tank. Really lightweight and super comfortable. Have to confess it was my first time wearing it but luckily no issues.

Shorts – Adidas split shorts. Due to the weather opted for my lightest and shortest shorts, all common sense.

Socks – I opted for my Hilly Supreme socklet mainly due to good padding and breathable on top. Also good fit with my trainers.

Trainers – Decided to wear my Salomon S-Lab x-series which are a light citytrail shoe. Proved to be a good choice, really comfortable and no blisters or any issues. Saw lots of runners wearing Hokas and maybe a bit more cushioning would’ve been good, I will be trying out the Cliftons soon.

Nutrition – Took Clif Bars and SIS lemon and lime isotonic gels as back up if I didn’t get on well with food at aid stations but it was fine.

On the Friday evening we got into High Wycombe and went for Pizzas and Pasta to fuel up. The next morning I woke up at about 5 o’clock, this gave me plenty of time to get organised and have some porridge. Surprisingly those Quakers oats pots are quite good. Helena (@the_fitadvisor) was crewing Matt and I for the day, she was a great help. Before we got picked up by Matt (@thebaldrunner) to head to the start we watched a couple of Salomon Running (your probably recognising I like what Salomon do) inspirational videos. In a positive state of mind ready to take what RTTS had to throw at me Matt drove us to the race village. Being our first 100ks we didn’t really know what times we would be capable of. We got our race numbers etc and headed to the start line.

In the crowds me and Matt ended up going separate ways. Matt had a phenomenal run and finished in 11:58, massive well done!! I on the other hand had a tough and much longer day running. I started in the middle of the pack and stuck to a plan of going off really steadily trying to conserve energy for the second 50k.

To think I could conserve energy and push on in the second half of the race was an incredibly naive thought to pass through my mind. Especially considering I only knew what it was like to run 58k on flat road. Things went to plan through the first 3 or so aid stations. I was a bit slow out of aid station one but once I learnt to put my electrolyte tabs in the soft flask first instead of fiddling etc I learnt to be more efficient as the day grew older. I picked up bananas, ready salted crisps and granola bars and ate whilst running and walking some of the hills. I was fine with eating on the go but after aid station four I didn’t really want to eat crisps or bananas anymore and my stomach was a little dodgy (kind of as expected). Next time I will probably vary the food a bit more and have a clif bar or two. I’m not sure if the exact mileage but it was good to see Helena relatively early on. It was nice to see a friendly smiley face on the course.

 I was really enjoying the run. The first few miles were kind of mesmerising following so many legs it was as if looking through a strange kaleidoscope and this meant having to focus on your every step especially through the trees. Things were going well but then around the 18 mile mark my right hamstring became quite tight. I think this was due to running on a softer surface than what I’ve trained on and because of the ups and downs of the route. The overall elevation gain for the whole course wasn’t huge but running on flat road in London probably wasn’t amazing prep. This means in the future I will head out of London more frequently when training for trail races. When approaching inclines it’s funny to see what everyone else does whether they think “this is runnable this!” or “this is definitely a walking section”. What I found is that your emotional ups and downs very rarely match the course profile and therefore if you feel good run some ups and maybe even walk some flats if you have to.

What made these constant decisions harder was the tight right hammy. I had to keep the finish line in mind for more than 44 miles and coax it home. It was frustrating for this to be the case but I felt lucky that it was great weather and I had some awesome views to take in along the way. Having been running in London for the last year and half plus, it was nice to run a route that reminded me of home. I also kept reminding myself of how lucky I am that I can cover that distance.

Luckily fellow ultra runners (I’m an ultra runner now!!) are like minded and are the friendliest bunch of people you will meet. I ran alongside more than 10 people throughout the whole race. The guy, in the photo above, behind me and the other runner passed me about 20 times and we finished roughly together. We discussed trainers, past and future races and he was also struggling with the fact he wouldn’t make his goal time of around 11 hours (that wasn’t my goal time btw). We could both still appreciate the fact we could make progress and get to the end.

I saw a groups of friends at aid station 8 and they went on to finish in a great time. It’s great to share running experiences with inspiring people and runners that are pushing their limits. Aid station 8 was probably my favourite, I now know why lots of ultrarunners love flat coke and bread. It tastes so good! Putting yourself through 100k makes you appreciate the little things. I slowly shuffled my way to within about 4 miles of the finish. Helena having seen Matt into the finish ran out to join me for a few miles before the loop around Avebury Stones and the straight to the finish. It was great to have company and once I started running my legs actually loosened up and I managed the last few miles at the quickest pace I’d run all day. I could hear the crowds at the finish line from a few miles away, including Sorrel Walsh (judging by the awesome reception I got from her, WMN Run 100 founder and 2nd female finisher in 10:20!). Also thanks for the support and photos Stephen (London Brunch Club). The run through the stones was cool and then a couple of turns to the home straight, I felt energised hearing the support from afar and I stepped on the gas (probably 9min miling really) to see the finish line.

I took a couple quick looks behind me thinking of how far I had run and what an enjoyable day it had been.

I couldn’t help but put my arms out and smile my way across the line, it was done. The journey from a slow 5 miles to 100k complete.

I recommend those of you thinking about stepping up to ultras to think carefully about why you want to do it. If the reasons are strong enough your body will be strong enough. As Scott Jurek (just broke the record for the Appalachian Trail running 50+ miles for 46 days) said “Every single one of us possesses the strength to attempt something he isn’t sure he can accomplish”

On that note, what’s next!? I’ll keep you posted!


P.s. Thanks for all the good luck and well done messages. Also thank you to those of you that have put up with me running alongside you talking rubbish and making terrible jokes/puns all the time.

Brilliant Brighton Marathon Weekend

As I’m sure most of you are aware, the 11th/12th of April was a pretty big weekend in the marathon running calendar. The main events included Paris, Rotterdam and Brighton. After running Manchester last year I decided to sign up for Brighton, mainly because quite a few friends had run it and they really enjoyed it. After London, Brighton is one of the biggest Marathons in the UK and is well known for its great crowds by the sea. 

This year my taper went relatively smoothly. Leading up to Manchester last year was a bit of a disaster, running 26.3 miles two weeks before and being ill leading up to the race. I still managed to do well and was happy with my time of 3:28 but I knew this time round as long as I tapered well and changed a few more things I could knock off a fair amount of time. In hindsight I probably should have taken #TrackTuesday a little bit easier and I shouldn’t have walked around and stood up so much on Saturday but overall the taper was good. 

On the Saturday I headed to Brighton reasonably early (probably too early) to pick up my race pack and have a look around the expo. Due to Manchester posting race numbers this was the first expo I’ve been to. Due to being early I got my race pack without having to queue and then went and got my name printed on my t-shirt. I also spent some time catching up with Paul from Run247 and Michelle who works at Asics (that I use to work with at Sweatshop). Michelle is never far from a marathon and she was pacing 4:30 on Sunday, which she nailed. I’m thinking about getting involved in pacing at some point, It must be so rewarding.   I then grabbed some food and went for a stroll along the seafront and along the pier. It was a bit windy and I was slightly worried that on Sunday this could cause some issues. I ran Bristol Half Marathon a couple of years ago and it was really windy, not fun. I then headed back to the expo as they had lined up speakers to talk about race prep and nutrition etc. Nick Anderson said the race doesn’t start until mile 20. I found this out last year at Manchester! Another of the speakers, and race starter, was Jo Pavey. It was great to hear from Jo. She reiterated how important pacing is and said how she struggled in her first marathon. She went through halfway in 71 minutes and did the second half in 77. Still not bad! After her talk she signed race no.s etc and had a chat with each of us. I get pretty starstruck so just asked where she ran when she lived in London. I need to get to Richmond and Bushy park more often it seems. After the expo I went and got some pasta and then I had a relaxing evening reading Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn (great book!) before getting an early night. I slept reasonably well but woke up at about 2am, I then fell asleep again intermittently before waking up at 7ish. I grabbed some food and walked to the race village. I bumped into Sarah @littlerunnergal and Scott @ScottBrealey and had a quick catch up. She absolutely smashed the marathon and PBd by a massive 30 odd minutes! Sarahs been on fire recently and it’s so inspiring to see the amazing progress she’s been making. After getting rid of my bag etc I got to the start line. As in Manchester last year it suddenly dawned on me I had 26.2 miles to run, it came around so quickly. Thankfully this time I had the aid of my TomTom runner to keep me on a steady pace. I wasn’t really sure what time to aim for so set off at around 7min/mile pace. I started reasonably far up but still had some weaving to do hence the 7:43 for the first mile but I then found my pace and went through half way in 1:32. I felt comfortable at this point and started to up the pace to 6:40ish per mile to try and get close to sub 3. I was doing well with nutrition and hydration using the SIS isotonic gels every 7 miles and taking on sips of water at every station. I kept a solid pace until about mile 20 when I started to slow slightly. I was still feeling pretty strong until mile 24 but then near the beach huts my right hamstring started to twinge slightly. At roughly mile 22 in Manchester last year I had the same thing only more severe. It was weird because there were paramedics in that exact spot then and right next to me at mile 24 in Brighton. This time instead of needing to stop to stretch I carried on and it soon loosened up. My hamstring basically told me to ease up and make sure I made sub 3:05 and that Good for Age time for London an Boston Marathons. I’m glad I listened to it otherwise I could have pushed it and ended up finishing nearer 3:28 if not worse. I coaxed my hamstring home to finish in 3:02:49. A PB of just over 25 minutes and that GFA time achieved.  The event was awesome! I’m so glad I got my name printed on my shirt. A lot of runners that were near me didn’t so it was just loads of “GO STEVES!” There are always certain moments you’ll remember from marathons. My favourite from Brighton was an elderly man at mile 25 shouting “Just over a mile, you got this Steve!” I also really appreciated the shouts from Jon @LordJon, Scott, Sophie, Frankie @FrankieSaysRun and the @UKRunChat crew. 

Overall I’m really pleased with the run and my pacing. In hindsight I should have done my half marathons earlier on and got in more and longer runs closer to the day. Those runs should have been closer to marathon pace aswell but I will take all this into training for my next races. In May I have a pretty busy schedule race wise. I have Run Hackney Half May 10th, Richmond Park Marathon 17th, Westminster Mile 24th & BUPA 10k 25th. I think when I come to train for and do the Great North Run, Bristol+Bath Marathon and possibly Valencia or Nice marathon later in the year I can focus on them more and aim for certain times.

Well done to everyone that ran Brighton! From what I’ve seen everyone smashed it and really enjoyed it. It was a good day for the Run Fast athletes aswell, Dominic Kangor finished 2nd and Tom Payn finishing 10th paced Pennina Wanjiru to 1st woman. A big shoutout to those that ran Paris and Rotterdam Marathons. Kevin absolutely destroyed Rotterdam finishing in 3:10 including an epic sprint finish and Charlotte smashed Paris in 3:37! Amazing stuff guys!

I hope everyone’s recovery is going well and good luck to those of you doing Boston, Manchester and London Marathons in the next couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to supporting at London.