Monday, 21 November 2011

Brecon Beacons Ultra - November 2011

Having had a couple of weeks off from racing due to illness, I felt like I hadn't raced for ages. Luckily I still had one race remaining to finish off my first ever ultra marathon season - the Brecon Beacons 45 miler in Wales. This race, now in its fourth year, is organised by Martin and Sue Like from Likeys, a fantastic source for all of your ultra running needs. This was also a very special race as it would be my best friend, Dan Park's, first attempt at running an ultra marathon. He has been running to raise money for St Wilfrid's Hospice, and this was the last challenge in his series of runs.

We headed off for Wales on Friday evening expecting the worst (traffic-wise), yet fortuitously managed to get a clear run all the way through to Talybont-on-Usk. We even managed to get there in time to pick up our registration packs, saving us from an early start the following day.

We made our way over to the Dan Y Wenallt youth hostel and, following some slight navigational misgivings and geographical embarrassment, we finally found it nestled by the Talybont reservoir. Considering that we had a satnav it this stage of affairs, it wasn't a great indictment on my navigational skills... We met a couple of other runners, including our room mates Karl Zeiner and Jonathon Bacon, who were also looking forward to the following day's activities.

After a rather restless night's sleep (due to the incessant heat from the blocked off radiator in the room), we made our way over to the start by the Talybont canal. My original plan had been to run along with Dan, so I had packed a large amount of food to last me the day, along with the large amount of kit that we were required to carry. This meant that I had to use my OMM 15L rucksack rather than my much smaller and more comfortable Salamon Skin S-lab pack. However at the 11th hour we decided to run separately, with me chomping at the bit to see if I could keep up with Karl who seemed to have a similar pace to me, and Dan wanting to continue his streak of doing his challenges on his own. So, with a quick last minute effort to dump half of my bag's contents, I was ready to go.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Ah... Push it... Push it good!

There's a great article at by Andy Jones-Wilkins regarding Brian Morrison's "winning" finish at Western States in 2006. Brian pushed incredibly hard on this race and came into the Placer High School track at Auburn 12 minutes ahead of his nearest competitor... and promptly collapsed 200 meters from the finish. He was helped across the line by his friends and pacer Scott Jurek to cheers from the crowd, but was unfortunately disqualified for receiving physical assistance. It's heart breaking to watch:

The article itself asks the question "how much is too much?". Brian has apparently admitted that he pushed himself too far for the conditions of the race (it was incredibly hot that day), and says that he was probably out of gas much sooner than this really. Somehow he was able to push himself on by sheer power of will alone but, when he entered the stadium, his brain relaxed and thought he had finished, causing his entire body to finally give it up just before the actual finish line.

This is one of a couple of such articles that I have read recently giving first-hand experiences of runners pushing it too far and suffering for it. Andy himself recounts ending up with acute renal failure following Angeles Crest in 2004, and there are many more comments at the bottom of the article of other runners with their own (often terrifying) tales of post-run issues. James Elson, RD of Centurion Running, discusses the issues that he has had attempting to run a packed 2011 season, including the Grand Slam in America (WS100, Vermont 100, Leadville Trail 100, and Wasatch Front 100), having not allowed himself time to recover from injuries and a tough race in Badwater last year.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Last short run for the year

After running the Great Eastern Run at the start of the month, I felt pretty terrible. I could feel a cold coming on that weekend, and I suspect that the run really helped to drive the cold right through my body, completely overpowering my tired immune system. Bugger. I spent the next week coughing and spluttering and generally being pathetic, culminating in being forbidden from running the Round Rotherham 50 miler the following weekend. I was very disappointed at this, since it was the final run in the Run Further series of ultras and was the second one I had missed (the first being due to impending nuptuals). Unfortunately this means that I was not able to complete the minimum number of races to get a final score, although I did somehow manage to come 76th out of 208 in my age category with only 2 of the required 4 races under my belt... Oh well, this gives me something to aim for next year, where I will be concentrating on ultras.

Even though I am still not feeling 100 % even now (an annoying spluttering cough still creeps up on me when I am running and cycling), I went ahead and ran the BUPA Great South Run which I had actually entered before even running last year's event. This is one of the top 10 milers in the world (an odd distance really), and is held in my old home city of Portsmouth. I ran last year and was annoyingly close to coming in under 7 minutes a mile, coming in only 1 minute and 7 seconds over. This year, my only goal was to crack the 70 minute mark. Even though I don't really do any kind of speed work, I do seem to be able to keep a pretty good pace going, and my increased stamina since last year should allow me to keep up the pace for the entire distance.

As with last year, I ran the race with my dad Jeff and my aunt Liz. My mum had suggested that I run with them rather than heading off to do my own thing, but I'm just too competitive for my own good and instead pushed my way to the front of the 24,000 starters to just behind the good club runners section. The weather was overcast and a little chilly, which was great for running but not great for standing around waiting for the start of the race. The horn was eventually blown by Dame Ellen MacArthur and we were off along the Southsea promenade!