Sunday, 22 November 2015

Leadership in Running Fitness

So the training continues with some workouts and runs this week. On Thursday at the track I was determined to get a proper training session in and to refrain from walking. The difficulty I am facing is that I have the mindset of an Ultrarunner but not necessarily the physical conditioning and so when I run I think I can go faster than my body lets me. My strategy to prevent myself from losing breath is a pretty obvious one and is simply to come off the pace which is harder than it seems. So with me taking great effort to slow down I did a 1600, 1200,800,400, 400,800,1200,1600 metre pyramid run with a 60 second recovery in between each set, tough as it seems I cam e away from the track in a real high.

Leadership in Running Fitness

I have not mentioned this on my blog as of today as I was unsure whether I was going to be fit to do it but I undermine myself as the fitness is returning. I am normally critical of some courses but this one was brilliant. I turned up at my normal running track and was guided to the club house where I met the other 19 candidates ready to learn for 9.00 am.

The day involved learning: 
  1. The Role of a Leader, 
  2. How to Plan a Session
  3. Practicals
  4. Flexibility and Warm Up Drills
  5. Planning and Delivering a Session as a Team
It did not particularly help with the winds whipping off the park, the flurry of snow and quite cold temperatures but our boundless energy and comradery kept us going whilst jumping in and out to learn new techniques. I think the funniest part of the day was when we took over the men's changing rooms to do drills in the warmth and some lad walked in to see 20 people, 5 of them women, standing in rows smiling at him as he grabbed his dry kit and disappeared as quickly as he appeared.

Next question is to wonder whether to go for the Coaching course as I really enjoyed the day.

Hopefully I can take a group some time from now until Christmas.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Like two peas in a pod

No heel strike picture
As usual the arrangement for a muddy run with Duncan was its usual vagueness:

Me: "Sounds good, should we meet at Hangman's Corner?"

Duncan: "I will see you there...don't leave me hanging."

The last comment was a friendly nudge saying "Don't be late and don't blow out at the last moment" which I know I have been guilty of a few times in the past but these days I feel happier in myself and I am a bit more positive so made it my goal to be there on time.

Let's turn the clock back 4 hours when the following list was  dropped into my lap by the Delightful Mrs S as I took my first sip of morning coffee, it read:
  1. Mow BOTH lawns (I think the capital letters and underlining were a little rude but she knows me too well)
  2. Take rubbish down to the dump
  3. Take tiles back for a refund
Mine personal list was:
  1. Mow lawns
  2. Extend door by 7 cms and prepare it for painting
  3. Go for a run with Duncan
The final list was:
  1. Mow front lawn
  2. Go to dump
  3. Extend door by 7cms
  4. Mow back lawn
  5. Go for a run with Duncan
So this was my excuse when I saw Duncan running down the hill from Hangman's Corner pretending to be an aeroplane as to why I was walking up it feeling knackered already. Duncan and I were both dressed in red shirts and back shorts which was unusual as the steely eyed Zimbabwean is often dressed in leggings, two shirts and a hat if the temperature is below 25 C or it is November and December.

If you asked me what route we took I don't know whether I could actually tell you as we ducked and darted up this path then another path with no perception of direction chatting away or grumbling about dog walkers who could not control their yapping charges and questioned how far a dachshund would fly if we dropped kicked it (I jest).

So with Autumn mud in my Monkey Feet, the obligatory flesh wound from blackthorn and blood pumping I peeled away and took the scenic route home to discover my usual cut through was closed  for road resurfacing making me run that extra kilometre past the usual carload of dope smoking teenagers who smiled and waved as I passed (It must have been good dope!) to get me back to my house feeling pretty good. It appears the training is beginning to kick in.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

A Pilgrimage - The journey starts here.

Today was a special day when the Delightful Mrs S, my eldest daughter and I went to Birmingham to visit my youngest daughter who is studying mathematics in the University of Birmingham. It appears she had organised a "Grand Tour" of the city centre which involved the Christmas Market (a Germanic affair with beer, street food and local sellers), to a viewing tower above the famous library, shops and what I was waiting for, the Grand Union Canal by the Gas Street Basin.

"It main take the pain away but it won't take the killer"

The weather in Birmingham was grey cloud, wind and rain, so nothing new there then! By the time we had got to the canal my family were looking for lunch but I was not going to be swayed away from stepping on the start line of the infamous GUCR so my daughter and I were seen to shuffle off to get some photographs. I was also quite pleased to hear that she was also interested to see this hallowed ground and to see what all the fuss was about.

In the picture on the left I am looking a little wet but strangely excited to be there, as I looked down towards the bridge under Broad Street I could almost see Dick Kearne, the ex-Race Director and "God" of trail runs in my opinion, standing to one side welcoming us to the start with his lecture on the dangers of pain killers still ringing in my ears, "It main take the pain away but it won't take the killer", Dick is a wise man.

So for the first time in 6 years the Delightful Mrs S now knows with 6 months warning that it is my intention to run the race again which is going to be a tough job now that I am 50 but maybe I should put this challenge to rest in 2016.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

GUCR 2016

So after a year in the wilderness I have returned to the bosom of that lovely band of eccentrics that compete in the Grand Union Canal Race.

Yes, Dear Reader, you have heard me right, after proclaiming to the few people who listen to me that I was never going to attempt it again I entered the entry ballot at 22:37 hours on Wednesday 4th November 2015 by sending an entry form to the new Race Director, Keith Godden. 

The ballot was held at 19:00 hrs in:

The Woolpack, 
Well Street,

MK18 1EP

Which is a beautiful pub and sells Tribute brewed by the St Austell Brewery whom my Grandfather was the Master Brewer in the first part of the 20th Century....I digress.

In a moment of excitement when I discovered I was in I punched the air followed by the next hour scurrying through my old training plans.

Time to focus my training methinks

Friday, 6 November 2015

Even the worms mocked me.

As we approached the track it became obvious that we were going be very wet by the end of our run that evening as drizzle floated pass the floodlights. 

The track sparkled as through its beautiful new surface and it was good to see a good crowd of my fellow runners met at the 3,000 metre line to chat about upcoming races and the latest sporting "must have."

I bid my farewells to start a few gentle warm up laps and noticed the number of worms that had crawled off the infield and for some reason had joined me on my laps. As I went on I began to realise that this was not going to be a good session for me as I was pretty well whacked from a very busy week at work and not enough hours sleep. 

As I trudged I began to realise that the reason I was feeling out of breath was because I was just running too fast. In my head I have the mentality of an ultrarunner but my body has one of a slightly overweight middle-aged man who hasn't trained for a few months. Even the worms mocked me as they lapped me on a number of occasions but I had decided to run 300 metres and walk 100 metres to keep my breathing settled and my run consistent, during the running sections I calculated that I was running 8:30 minute/miles and was probably the reason I was breathing hard but by the end I was running evenly and unlaboured.  

These are the first two weeks of my training and I am going to keep going as I know it will become easier as time goes on.

Next time I will ignore the mocking worms and concentrate on lapping them.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

A flurry of activity

My newly found zest has seen me feeling pretty good at the moment, my legs felt pretty well after my 21 km run through Saffron Walden at the weekend but work life got in the way a little on Tuesday so I was unable to get to the club on time but that is not a bad thing. I realise I have a long way to go before I can comfortably run at pace whilst my body adapts to my running again.

This hasn't stopped me entering a few Long Distance Walking Association challenges so to have something to aim for and to toughen me up again. I always mention "toughen up" but that is the best way I can describe it when preparing for longer races, you have to feel the tiredness in your legs, you have to feel out of your comfort zone in training sometimes because that is what it will be like in the main event. I have entered two winter events and will leave it until the day of the runs to decide if I should drop down a distance, after all it is for fun and not about damaging myself.

I have entered a third event which I will talk about at a later date.....I shall leave you hanging and come back soon on it

Monday, 2 November 2015

The Monkey is Back

Imagine the scene, since the death of my Father at the end of November 2014 my life turned on its head abruptly and found that at that time I had other priorities and turned to my family for mutual guidance and support. My thirst for running dwindled and I soon fell out of the habit running but still yearned for the chance but never quite made it to the door.

Now some of the pain has gone away and the fifth rude bastard told me that I was getting fat to my face I used it as a spur to my bloating flanks that the time was the time to start but knowing the first run was not going to be great. So two weeks ago I went to my usual track run and amazingly pulled off a 5 mile (8 km) run sounding like  wheezing old dog during it was happy that I got it out of the way.

Probably in the quickest turn around in history I ran 10 km last Thursday and then 2 days later on Saturday I got up at 5.00am and drove to Bishop Stortford and ran 21 km doing course checking for a big race that day. You can see by the accompanying picture I didn't seem too tired but I have to say I loved every minute of it which underpinned my need to get out there with a map and compass, my Monkey Feet and a litre of water more often.

The Monkey is Back

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Do or do not...

A rather smart friend of mine told me that if I want to get back into running I must first do it for fun and then build on it with the addition of a sentence that really sank home:

"Stop setting yourself up for failure, temper your goals."

This has turned out to be some great advice.

My regular readers will remember a post I wrote at the beginning of the year called GUCR 2015 and other ramblings and my breakdown in 2013 Depression, running and its aftermath and the problems that for now are hidden away but as I have noticed recently they are only a tear drop away.

I have noticed that my drive to run is as obsessive as it was and tells me that is was more a symptom of my depression and was an escapism to get away from my rambling, cyclical thinking and weary mind. In fact it was a self-fulfilling prophecy which in turn made me tired physically whilst my churning thoughts battled with it to make me tired leading to the symptoms of stress and tiredness, a perfect storm.

These days I think of the opportunity to run again and start making plans to train, some weeks ago I buckled under peer pressure by some friends to run the Gatliff Marathon (31-37 miles) but had to be realistic when whilst running on 2nd August 2015 ran about a mile and had to pull out as my breathing was horrendous.

Some of my running peer group post on social media mellifluous and ubiquitous "motivational quotes" and rally people to races which I jump at and then realise that I have no hope in hell to complete the event with my current level of [un]fitness. I have learned not to enter any "long" races until at least I have had a 24 hour cooling off period and know in my heart of hearts I will not be fit enough for Gatliff this year. This and my embarrassment to actually be seen in running kit which stretches over my ever growing stomach known as the middle-aged spread confirming my dread that there is a very long way to go before I am fit enough to even contemplate a return, if at all and as the great Yoda said:

"Do or do not, there is no try"

I feel that I should stop fooling myself and for the time being not even try.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Run Monkey, Run!

I must apologise to all my Dear Readers who have been so loyal over the years of my Blog writing and my obvious lack of posts recently, to be frank I just lost the enjoyment which could be caused by a multitude of things in my life in the past year.

Why Run Today?

Some of you will remember a post I wrote back in November 2012 named "Run Fatboy Run" coined from a film of the same name but related to why I started running again on 24th April 2007, have a click of the link and have a  read but take note of the picture.

I had already organised a run with my good pal Duncan for today but our personal lives can be so hectic that it can be gard to get a mutually accepted time to run. Today was no different when the start time was moved due to both of us trying to get back from a shopping spree with our respective wives.

Today, was my Run Fatboy, Run moment that really crystallised my need to get back running regularly, that moment was when I went to buy some clothes and my waist size had widened out to the next size. If I am truthful, in my heart I knew it had but it is this type of shove that needs the initial motivation.

The Run

After ascending a hill to our meeting place I was glad to see that Duncan was in the process of looking for an errant cricket ball that had escaped the local match so I used this moment to be "Really helpful" and help them but he was wise of it and we were soon running off to the woods.

The run wasn't great, I huffed, puffed and wheezed my way around whilst we broke into our usual philosophical chats about fatherhood, about being 50 years old ("We are NOT old, we are older"), to children driving the family car("They are taught to control a car but we teach them to drive the car"). We watched a Heron fly away disturbed by our footfall to be told there were two nesting nearby.

Duncan, the ever patient, walked when I gasped out that "" and slowed his pace when I said I was OK. I am pleased I managed just under 7 miles and that I am re-purposed  Now all I need to do is to start in getting back my waistline to its previous size.

Thanks Duncan

Monday, 3 August 2015

Run, wheeze, walk, wheeze and crawl.

The plan this weekend was to meet up with some runners at the now hallowed High Elms car park now called The HEROS car park. I had volunteered myself to be the "leader" or better known as "Follow Jerry he has planned a route".

Much to my joy twelve other runners joined me in the car park and at the stroke of 8.00am I called to gather and blurted out the route and we were off. I felt great as we strutted up the hill but then noticed my breathing was becoming very laboured, my pulse rate was going through the roof and I then started wheezing. I decided to take a breather but my heart rate was still up and much to my embarrassment the pack were all waiting for me at the top such that I tried to take the lead again but the wheezing was getting worse and so I called to  Brian who has years of experience running in the area to take over.

Bidding my farewells I limped off to the car park feeling utterly miserable that this was the last nail in the coffin for my running and that I would have to start all over again.

Probably the worst run in the history of this blog. 

Friday, 24 July 2015

The Monkey and the Dog's B******ks

These days it is a very rare thing to see me at either the track or the club running, this is down to one of two things, either I am working or the Delightful Mrs S is. Tonight, however, my luck was in and I was able to get the car for the evening as Mrs S had taken some much needed leave.

The weather has been very humid and the temperatures were in the mid 20's and I was actually looking forward to a gentle run with no specific goals but to say I had run for the first time in a month. So, running into the house, I grabbed a pair of shorts from the draw, a shirt and my Monkey Feet, as usual I drove barefoot with the intention of putting my MF's on at track side.

Bumping into one of the regulars in the car park we strolled in, paid our entry fees and went to the meeting point. There whilst others mingled and chatted happily I got me Monkey Feet on and bid my farewell as I jogged around the track. My plan was to do  400 metres, rest, 400 metres, rest etc. until I was happy that I had done 12 laps or more if I felt like it.

It was only until my third lap that Mike, the coach, whispered to me that my wedding tackle had been hanging out in front of everyone!

I must remember to throw them away sooner rather than later! 

As for the running, what did I expect, it was slow, tough and very disheartening but at least I have made a start and will now try to keep to a regular training regimen from now on, even if it is to try and shift some of this weight I am carrying.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Monkeys, Music and Mirth

And so the evening arrived when we were to meet outside the Queen's Head public house in Downe, Kent. There is always that slight doubt that anyone will turn up to it as people who say they will come have change in plans.

So as Duncan and I pulled up in my car we saw three people bedecked in running kit approach the pub and then two others scuttle from different directions to join us all.

As we stood there waiting for the church bell to strike 8 we chatted and laughed we were approached by a colourful local gent (read as the village drunk) who was attracted to our gathering. It was here I interrogated the poor soul on his local knowledge which was pretty impressive but it became a little uncertain when he mentioned that the pub we were running too was hit once by a jet and that 747 jumbo jets could land  at the local airport. Luckily the bells chimed and we jogged off into the hot and humid evening.

We were aware that there was loud music being played from some far away place and assumed that it was a local farm who once had demolition derby's  and concerts but as we dipped away from Charles Darwin's house into the local valley the music was muted by the trees. Everyone was chatting and laughing about things and it was turning out that the pack was beginning to enjoy it even as we took the sharp ascent to Bigging Hill Airport. As the route for night runs is a closely guarded secret until the day a few of the experienced trail runners in the group were not aware of the path that runs around the perimeter of the airport which was so pivotal in WWII as a first line defense against the invading armies, around it are remnants of buildings rotting away in the woods which now hide the scars of many a bomb. In fact little did the pack know but we ran past 5 locations within 100 metres of us where a HE bomb exploded between Oct. 7, 1940 and June 6, 1941 

Now the music got louder and as we ran around the border and into a waist high corn field it slowly dawned on me that is was the pub we were going to that was the source, we joked that it was almost a good reason not to wear headphones.

As we got to the pub the band had just one more track to do before it too had a break and we were able to tuck into our ales of choice, I decided to go for a very cold cider as the evening was hot and humid such that I was dripping wet. So, with the sun setting over the pub we got up to leave but not before one of the other colourful characters (read as the other village drunk) told me "To look out for the wild boar in the woods" I smiled and replied "I think I have just met it" and left through the door sharpish.

So the run went on but not before Duncan and I made a detour and ran up to a 10 bar gate to the bemoans of Karien who has fell victim to some of my "detours" but Duncan soothed her furrowed brow by telling her this was part of the original recce and without question we all clambered over it to continue our run along the tractor tracks. I got lost in the moment and enjoyed running my hands through the ears of the wheat whilst the others laughed and chatted behind me with their bellies full of beer.

As the dark began to fall, running under the trees was becoming more difficult such that a torch was needed for parts of it but in open arrears you could still navigate. After a quick break to look at a bomb damaged derelict building we continued on running through a golf course and up the valley to retrace our steps to the pub we stood outside a few hours before to take in one more ale or cider pleased with our run together.

Great times, great run, great company.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Should I pursue a path so twisted?

And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.
Khalil Gibran

Today's run was simply described by my buddy Duncan as "It was one of those feel good runs for sure." Picking him at 7.30am we got to our destination to do some route planning and reconnaissance for an upcoming night run. The route that I planned was along a few paths that I had never run on before and it felt strange that I had crossed them on many occasion but had never explored them. Some my Dear Readers who live around these parts may recognise the path in the picture above but may have not run off some its tributaries as we did today. 

Duncan and I have a similar philosophy when trail running, calling it free spirit or the need to play, to discover and find something new. In my Magic Forest blog there are many examples of this such as Let's Make a New One Then and it was no different today as we ran a border path we both saw a path leading of at right angles and was not that made by animals but by foot fall of a human, we both promised that we would investigate it on our return journey.

We arrived in good time to the chosen pub that was to be the halfway mark, one that boasted Real Ale and knowing there was some interest in the drinking part it was important that the hostelry was as important as the route.

So the first part of the route agreed as suitable with a nice hill, some rough path, mud and woodland we traipsed off on the second leg of the route. The pace was up a little but the run stopped at various viewpoints or areas of interest and so our attention was drawn to the path that needed to be explored.

I often think that had Duncan and I been to school together when we were younger that we would have probably been the two kids at the back chucking paper at each other whilst our teacher tried in vain to get us to travel what ever educational path she wanted. We are never interested in the path in front but the one leading off towards some dark area of the wood. So, following the route layed out by the path we initial thrashed our way through the weeds and nettles and it was only until we discovered that a land owner had taken great effort to block the way that we turned back but not until the flash of "how can we get over this fence?" popped into our heads but even we saw sense when we noticed that there 2 metre tall stinging nettles on the other side. As we turned back and were about to hit the original path, there was a flash of orange/brown as a Roe Deer ran past and we then heard it thrashing at a fence to escape us but then turn and fled, bouncing and jumping over the corn fields and we stopped and just savored the moments as it got out of sight.

We returned to our route planning and plodded out the final 3 miles ducking and diving through the golf course. I am not always enamored to golfers, I find it a decadent pass time but today, the golfers waved to us and let us run through which is very rare on some courses where they have been known to play through you.
As Duncan said "It was one of those feel good runs for sure."

On our way back to reality we laughed about how much our legs itched and stung caused by our little deviation in the woods but it was worth every moment.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Athlete's Monkey Feet

It still amazes me that of all the miles I have run in sometimes horrific conditions where my feet have been have been wet through for over 24 hours, pounded through raw silage, stagnant mud or just sweating from a long distance run that I have never suffered from fungal infections.

I always wash and thoroughly dry my feet after a bath or shower post-run but I had a tell-tale sign last night when I noticed that my foot was itching and on looking a crusting around my little toe...Athlete's Foot or to give its posh name tinea pedis but just be careful how you say it as it can easily be mispronounced and mean something completely different!

All I can guess is that I have picked it up on my muddy run last Sunday and maybe left my feet damp for a bit. Anyway, there is no stigma to the disease, I just have to put some spray on it once a day...and, boy, does it STING and some medicated talc in my Monkey Feet shoes.

Another thing I learnt today was NOT to put "Athlete's Foot" into Google images, it put me off my food!

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Mud, Monkey Feet and Jet Engines

This morning I was again run leader for the 8.00am HEROS run and the usual brief was about 6 miles and to finish around 9.15am. Last evening I was seen pouring over maps to try out and get the distance and found the job pretty hard as the only way to get a guaranteed 6 miles is to do an out and back which is pretty boring for group runs so chose a "lollipop" run which is an out and back with a big loop at one end. These are quite nice runs as people who wish to have a race towards the end know the route back.

The weather overnight was heavy rain which blends in well with the people who like cross country and I was totally knocked off my feet when I drove into the car park and got out to find twelve other runners ready for the run with smiles and laughter.

I had decided the night before to take everyone on a route that they are not taken on usually and to get us on the other side of Biggin Hill airport to get into the Biggin Hill Valley via fields of horses munching happily on the wet grass oblivious to our laughter and chat. Joining a path that allowed us to run next to the airport we trudged up the long but shallow gradient through unripened corn which was at knee height, my Monkey Feet slipping slightly underfoot, it was here that the conversation dropped as the hill took its toll but was soon back to normal when we jumped into the valley. The wind was up as it blustered past us, the long grass flicking up and down like waves.

One of the more bizarre things that happened when I was busting for a wee and so asked Peter and Brian to take over until they reached Nash, a small village up ahead and then jumped to the side but had forgotten that the others hadn't heard and so all stopped and grouped around me probably expecting so beautiful view, after I had told them what I was up to the hooted with laughter and ran off!

No run in the country comes without its challenges when we came across some workmen re-seating a telegraph pole such that their two flatbeds completely blocked the road and so without any grumbles or moans we all clambered under the tail end of the flatbeds to continue on....these things happen on trail runs.

And so we returned on the trail past the airport just as private jet was readying itself for take off and as the wind blew it carried the stench of its fuel around us and then roared off into the low cloud as we slipped and skated along the path we had run before, my Monkey Feet had no real problems but the shoe wearers were saying they must have had their own weight in mud on each foot.

The run finished soon after but could have happily taken a few more miles and really pleased with my returning fitness.  

Saturday, 30 May 2015

London Youth Games 2015

One motto I hope my children will take with them is "Take every opportunity that comes to you as you will regret it if you didn't."

Today was one such opportunity when I received an email from the Delightful Mrs S who is a dyed in the wool technophobe, in the email it read:

"Next Thursday on 4 June, the London Youth Games are hosting the Para Games Swimming Competition at the Beckenham Spa in Bromley. With over 170 para athletes due to attend it should be a great day.  However, the London Youth Games organisers still need volunteers for key roles including timekeepers, marshals, medal coordinators and people to record results."

I jumped at the chance and wrote an email to London Youth Games outlining telling them of my experience at London 2012 as a Games Maker working in Anti-Doping in both the Olympic and Paralympics, I think I may have over-egged the cake but I really wanted to show them that I had some experience both in volunteering in a large sporting event but also had quite a responsible role. This is part of what I wrote which was pretty good I think for the time I took to complete it:

"...I was a Games Maker in the London 2012 Olympics and worked as a Doping Chaperone responsible for selecting and taking athletes from the field of play to the Doping Centre. I worked at the North Greenwich Arena (O2) during the Gymnastics, WheelChair Basketball and moved to assist in Goalball at the Copper Box Arena for the day so have good experience with para-athletes.

I also run for Petts Wood Runners and an ultramarathon runner covering distances from 50 miles to 100 miles, I am an experienced race organiser and have worked from Race Sweeper, Marshall and have done some timekeeping..."

Every 10 minutes that day I checked my email and was excited to receive an email at 4.55pm saying that they were offering a job for the day and I was really blown away when I discovered that wanted me to be a Timekeeper with an early start that included training and breakfast. The young people who are taking part are from all over London Races will have a mix of impairments (functional; visual; and hearing/ learning) and are aged between 6 and 19 years. 

My work have been really great as they have agreed that I can take the time as "Volunteer Leave" which each member of staff has a quota of 21 hours a year and as some of the competitors are from Lambeth (the area I work in) these hours valid. 

Friday, 29 May 2015

Onwards and Upwards

BOOM - I am out of the door.

I have spent too much time wallowing in my inner self and I have decided that I need to get going and set myself a few challenges. Looking around I remembered that there was a race that popped up on my running RADAR last year called the Saffron Trail Ultra organised by a great team called Challenge Running led by Lindley Chambers who is a seasoned ultrarunner and from past experience puts on a great race.

Breaking the news to the Delightful Mrs S was the biggest hurdle as she makes no secret for her desire for me to stop these adventures but this race has everything that I look for in a race as it is one of the more unusual ones that it starts at 6.00pm. So my calculations tell me that the sun sets at 8.47pm on 18/7/2015 and the sun rises at 05.00am on 19/7/2015 such as the majority of the beginning miles are in the dark when the temperatures are cool. 

So after I told Mrs S of my intentions (Jeez, she has a sharp tongue) I mentally limped away to get my wallet and entered with the result email thus:

Hello Jeremy Smallwood
This is to confirm that you have signed-up for Saffron Trail Ultra. The organiser has added information that you need to know about the event, to the bottom of this email receipt. A copy of this email has been sent to the organiser.

Wow and so we have it,a new challenge. More to follow over the coming weeks.

Monday, 11 May 2015

A monkey by any other name would smell as sweet

My Dear Readers, you may have read in my blog about HEROS, a group with no leader, no secretary, no run length limit (apart from what can be done in 2 hours max.). This concept has run for over 25 years and there has been a run from the same car park at 9.00am every Sunday come hail or sunshine running at the speed of the slowest person.

I first became aware of this group about 7 years ago when running with my then trail running partner, George, when we bumped into them on the North Downs Way. The group was full of people I had met before from club runs and races, this was a group with no affiliation....perfect.

Let's jump forward those 7 years and like time, the group has morphed with the chance of a new option of 8.00am which has been amusingly called Anti-Heros, not because it is in competition with the 9.00am group but it allows more options to runners who may have something on that day and want to go out earlier. Every week the group leader of choice is asked who their favourite anti-hero is and it forms the poster for the coming run, mine was Clint Eastwood's brilliant character "The Man with No Name"

The Planning

It is mad to think that I have trodden the paths leading off from our meeting point at the "Third car park on the left" on numerous occasions but now I have been asked to devise a run of about 6 miles at 10 to 10:30 min/mile pace   or 75 minutes for faster runners. This got me pouring over maps of the area and trying to find routes that took us to what I considered to be "interesting" but as I am a bit of a nerdy geek what I find interesting may not always sit well with other, more normal people.

The Run

The route was set and after picking Liz up from her house we drove to the "Third car park on the left" where I was pleased to meet four other runners and went off at 8.05am onto the trails. I was nervous that some of them would know the route, especially , Brian, who was my inspiration to run from London to Brighton but he would know the trails, like me, as he taught me a lot of them but the joy is that they can be put together in so many combinations that it is not always the route but the company you have.

Everyone was chatting, I made the pace gentle and enjoyed the company until , unbeknownst, to the others I took a turn too early and found I had cut off a section of woods so after a quick parlez with Brian we cut off towards the woods I wanted to go through and on entering it my jaw dropped, as did my fellow runners by their whoops of joy and admiration. The woods were awash with Bluebells and when I say awash, it was a beautiful like a carpet of blue sprinkled around the freshly leafed trees.

The run continued and I decided to make up the loss of my previous error and took us along a section of path where the local pet farm puts some of its animals to grass. I was a little concerned when I remembered that there was always a Highland bull in the field ahead and knew that Liz has a morbid fear of bulls but this guy was as docile as a teddy and as we passed I tweaked his horn surprised by its warmth leaving Liz to make friends with her camera.

The run came to an end too early for me as I really felt I wanted to do more but pleased that everyone went away happy

Friday, 8 May 2015

Monkey Catch Up

On Monday 27th April 2015 was the day I went to the doctor for a check up and the discussion went over to my general fitness and he expressed concern when I told him I had run a marathon the week before without any proper training. He was aware of my long distance running as we had bumped shoulders on the running track a few months before.

It was a few hours afterwards that realised that it was true that I was most happy when I was fit and out on the local trails so it became a red letter day, the day I started running and get training for a big event towards the end of the year. Now fully recovered from my marathon in Hanover the week before I planned my week ahead and in doing so I have run 70 km in 5 runs, the longest was 34 km running at night along the Thames Path, from Henley on Thames to Streatley as a sweeper at the Thames Path 100 mile race.

My fitness is not where it used to be but I know it is there and if I continue this way I hope to be upping the training and get some more long distance runs in. 

My last run of 13 km from my house to the Cutty Sark in Greenwich was a tough run for me especially with the Thames run still in my legs from the weekend but I did it, it wasn't pretty but I got there. Things are going to be tough over the next two months as I have to work 46 hours a week as well as keeping my training up.

One good thing from all this is my weight is dropping off me  and beginning to feel a little happier in myself possibly down to medication but it is a nice place to be for a change.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Monkey Sweeping Duties

It is 17th April 2015, the time 10:57 am and an email arrives:

Please see reassigned sections below :

Start Richmond to Dorney CP3 : Simon W

Dorney CP3 to Henley CP6 : Mark T
Henley CP6 to Whitchurch CP8 : Jerry Smallwood
Whitchurch CP8 to Clifton Hampden CP11 : Pip H
Clifton Hampden CP11 to Finish Oxford: Garfield J

New sweepers … welcome!  Please read the attached and the below and let myself or James know if you have any concerns

Jerry – can you confirm your phone number for me please :o).

Yes Dear Reader I have volunteered to be one of a team Sweepers helping out at the Thames Path 100 (TP100). This race has become part of me since I completed it which was my very first 100 mile race which seems so long ago in 2012. Since then I have completed the Winter 100 and run numerous ultras and marathons along it length. In 2013 I remember being a Sweeper for the same race and ran a 40 mile length!

I am really looking forward to doing my duties this weekend as I will be taking on a 16 mile (30 km) slot but hope to team up with Pip at Whitchurch to run the extra 4 miles together so that I can get some breakfast at a local hotel and then take the train back to London. Some of you will note I said "breakfast" and that is why I am excited, one of my  favourite forms of running is doing it at night with the added fun that it will be by Old Father Thames.

In true tradition for the TP100 looks bleak with the promise of some rain and social media groups chatting merrily but with a hint of nervousness about the comments. All I can say to this year's runners that they should not underestimate this event, it is mainly flat but is surprising hilly in places, there will be mud, lots of mud and there will be tarmac, lots of that. Foot bridges that whilst at 20 miles you will bound over in the latter stages of the race you will swear at the God of your choice as your aching muscles do the same to you.

I cannot wait for Saturday when I turn up early for my shift to kick the runners out on to the night section. Whitchurch will be the maker and breaker for runners as it is the halfway point and the mind does funny things at this point in a race especially with the night ahead.