Saturday, 12 August 2017

Would you like chips with that?

So Friday was a big deal. Did anything notably life changing happen??? Not especially, but I am coming to the view that changing the little things is what makes the big difference. So in heading to Sussex for the weekend we loaded the crew. The kids were locked and loaded into their kindles and the dog settled in the back. We started the journey and were soon stuck on the A14 due to an accident. Knowing my propensity for snacking I had brought a sandwich for Zoe and I to share. From there we progressed to the M11. The M11 was SHUT!!! We were delayed by a further 60-90minutes.

With children stuck in the car we elected, at the point of gathering pace, to pull off into the service station. Service stations are evil. What is it with the crap food choices and propensity to serve everything with chips. I'm surprised there isn't a serving of chips offered up with a coffee. Trying to make a healthy choice in a culture that seems to enable the view that fast food has to be junk food and that junk food is a treat, becomes very difficult.

Looking around the service station it was evident the volume of people gorging on crap. Worse still is the compulsion to then buy over priced sweets and fizzy drinks. It's a habit that is normally a part of my decision making. Thinking about it the concept of junk as a treat has been in my mindset for years. Probably since going to the sweet shop as a kid.

So in the service station it felt like there were choices to be made. I elected for one of the only non-chip options and no sweets were purchased, save for the kids having a packet of Smarties each.

On the start of this journey I've realised it's important to not let the environment control my decisions. So when the question comes "Would you like chips with that?" The answer will firmly remain "No"... except maybe after an Ultra :)

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Weight Gain - A turbulent struggle.

It seems that we often use social media to present the positive. For many this is only a snap shot of the real world. For most who train hard in running and other events, there will be highs and lows. I'm sure this applies to the pro athletes as well as average Jo. Despite this we rarely hear about it. For the majority we want to be the best we can. Perhaps this is for health benefits over performance, but whatever the reason the results don't just happen; or at least we rarely reach our full potential. Yet when we see success of others there can be a false assertion  that this came easy. It can feel somehow like it is owed to us. In the moments of disappointment we can then find ways to imply those with success must have had advantages or shortcuts that we don't have available to us.

So at the time of writing this I am probably the least fit I have been in several years and I am at my heaviest weight. How has this happened? Truth be told it has happened as a result of life. I have allowed work to overtake other matters and then in turn allowed all my weaknesses and addictions to overtake my resolve and addictions. Am I bitter about this? Do I seek to blame others or in some way justify it? At times this has without a doubt been the case. I have ignored the scales and decided to tell myself its a blip and one that will rectify itself. The weight creeps up and then it creeps down. On the way up I have blamed others and on the way down I have revelled in success and then taken my foot off the gas. Its a vicious cycle that is hard to be broken.

Presently I am back at my heaviest weight of 15st3 and a target weight of 12st feels like a long way off. I have struggled with my weight since University days. That's some 17 years of struggles. The lowest I have been is 13st2, just before the South Downs Way 100 in 2013. Since that time my weight has fluctuated between 15st and 14st6. Looking at this through an honest lense means accepting responsibility. I am prone to weight gain at times when I am busy or overwhelmed. My addiction to sugar is an unhelpful accomplice to fatigue. 700 calories in a 5 minute window become an almost too easy thing to do. From there weight gain becomes inevitable.

The discipline to resist the sugar is the same discipline required to get up early and train. It's one of the reasons why when in good training habits food choices are better. Being honest though I have then entered into the danger area of complacency around what I can eat. A common thought being, I went for a run so I can eat that. Truth being that the run is a further reason not to eat the junk. Why undermine the gains I am trying to make. Despite knowing all of this it remains all too easy to eat the junk. Then there is the guilt and this is followed with thoughts such as "oh well I will start again tomorrow." That is why I am writing this blog and it feels like an important one to write. Yes it is slightly self indulgent but making myself accountable with regular blog posts I hope will keep me honest and on point. I hope it will inspire others who read this to join the journey and be the best version of themselves they can be. It is not going to be easy. I will blog regularly and I am sure there will be moments when I am ranting about temptations. For now I am in the starting blocks and lets see where this journey goes. I hope others will feel motivated, inspired and share their journeys as well.

Presently my measurements are:

Chest - 41
Waist - 40
Hips - 41
L.thigh - 24
L. Calf - 16.5
R.thigh - 24
R.calf - 16.5
L.bicep - 14
R.bicep - 13.5
Neck - 15.5

I am sharing these as part of my intention to hide behind no smoke and mirrors. Also weight can be deceiving, but to stop that level of excuse creeping in the measurements will tell all. If in a month I weigh the same, but am 2inches less in the waist then I would still be happy. The reality of course being that wont happen. I hope sharing this journey will also encourage others to take on their journeys.

So there we go. There is just under 10 weeks until the start of the A100. I wont be at peak weight or fitness by then, but it will be a great start in to 2018. Then I will look to beat all my PB's, starting with the Half Marathon and also SDW50. Maybe I'll get lucky enough as well with a Lakeland 100 entry. By 2019 I will be sustaining goal weight and at the third time of trying, taking down the Centurion Grandslam. These are my goals on my journey to be the best version of me. No more half arsed efforts at running races, no more grinding a finish with a lack of training.

On the plus side, being back in this condition means I can start the journey in earnest that I set out to achieve 5 years ago... Dan fat to fit.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

South Downs Way 100 - A painful wake up call.

It was 4am and the sun was beginning to rise on Housedean. Tired and with the seething pain of a migraine I was broken. Slumped in the chair I was done... No finish... No buckle... No grandslam take 2! Rewind this back 22 hours and we find ourselves on the start line of The South Downs Way 100. James Elson is going through his speech with his Debbie McGee (Nici Griffin) ably assisting. As part of the speech James announces that for some the race will not be their day and that's ok. Truth be told I was standing there thinking "never going to happen," "not me." I would not go as far as to say I assumed a finish would happen, but in my head I knew I could and convinced myself I would. I gave no sanction to the possibility of failure. Truth be told the DNF is the biggest point of this blog, more so than the review. It's a cracking race and an array of blogs will account for that.

With this DNF I have formulated a multitude of hypotheses behind the reason and each and everyone my responsibility, my fault, my DNF to own. I'm ok with that. This DNF was overdue, this DNF was a long time coming and this DNF was purposeful. Let me recount some of the race and explain why.

At the start of the race I had gravitated towards a slight complacency. I have run enough ultras now to know my mental fortitude is good. I know I can run through physical and emotional pain. Generally when I'm struggling I can find a reserve and press on. The caveat to this, sadly for me is that a need to devote myself to training and key sessions was substituted by the mind telling me I know I can finish. Talking with Zoe after the race we reflected on how at the last three 100s I've struggled. The exception to this being A100. Why??? A100 had a good training block. The rest has been inconsistent, some of this brought on by frantic workloads and advancements in my career, some and largely most of the missed runs were as a result of an inability to prioritise and to simply waste time. It could be called a loss of focus and many other things. The reality being that whatever reasoning is given, the miles were not in the legs. This was not the notorious "mojo" issue or something similar, I simply did not prepare properly and consequently asked too much of my body.

I set off on the SDW100 feeling pretty good. I was running within myself and cruised through the first couple of aid stations with no issues at all. It was getting warm and that was always going to be an issue for me. I was heating up to an uncomfortable level. I was clicking over to about 20 miles and started leaping frogging with a few runners. Dropping into Queen Elizabeth Park I was feeling ok and pace was not too far off where I wanted it to be. I got the boost of seeing my best mate, Sam Robson, doing his volunteer duties. He was there with his family who are, for all that matters, my family. A short period of time messing around with them and then topping up fluids and consuming calories and I was off. Shortly after I began to get some pain in my right hamstring. I found myself stopping and stretching repeatedly. This lasted until about mile 40. By this point it stopped hurting, everything loosened up and I was feeling really good. I ran for a bit with Jo, before pressing on. Approaching mile 50 I was very hot, but generally not too bad. I was not too far back on pace and was building a sufficient cushion on the cut offs, but my mind was leaning towards being overly comfortable with the gap I had, rather than pressing on. A call to Zoe and I could sense her frustration. She was trying to get through to the rational part of me, the part that should have been putting as much on the cut offs as absolutely possible. That woman would have been kicking my arse if she had been present and rightly so.

Out of the 54 mile aid station i was ok. There is a short sharp climb, but otherwise it's ok. Up this climb I was conscious of my weight and the fact I have still yet to crack the weight loss process. I leaned towards thoughts of "if you just left the fucking snacks alone." Something that is easier said than done. The light was starting to become strained by the time I got to mile 62. I was greeted wonderfully by Sarah Sawyer. I was feeling optimistic that things would be good from here, it would cool down and I would press on and before I knew it I would be in Eastbourne. Sarah let me know that lots of others were struggling in the heat. I had a renewed vigour that everyone was in the same position. As I climbed up the hill I was calm and measured in my approach. I was tired, but nothing beyond the norm. Then at mile 64 my world began to flip. A pounding sensation was growing in my head and the pressure behind my eyes was building. At Saddlescombe I hoped to regroup, but the desire and need to stop was growing fast. The treatment at this aid station has to be on par or above any aid station you will find at any event. I knew if I contemplated my journey here then my journey would be over, I would be too comfortable and I would not leave. I got up, thanked everyone and pressed on. A matter of 3/4 mile later I slumped on the hill and phoned Zoe. I could feel my head pounding and thought I was done. Wrestling with a possible 2nd grandslam DNF was emotionally traumatic. It took me to a dark place full of self resentment. I wanted to sob, I wanted to scream and fundamentally I wanted to blame everything else to avoid blaming me. So with that I told Zoe I was going to press on to Housedean. I hoped the headache would pass and I'd kick on from there. In truth I was turning the mirror and using this time to hope for a recovery, but also considering what needed to change if I was going to have longevity in the sport.

I am always touched by the kindness of strangers when sharing such adversity. I was pressing on up the hill and a father supported by his daughter came up from behind me. They offered to hook arms and March me up the hill. I explained that my legs were Good, but my head was shot. Within about 15 seconds the couple located some paracetamol. Now knowing I was likely to stop if the headache didn't clear I chose to take them. The placebo effect off the tablets saw me push on and for a tiny window start to feel better. The reality of the new 10mile gap to Housedean (Clayton Windmills being no more) meant in reality I was going to face 8 miles of bloody Hell and some very dark spaces with that. The placebo effect had not lasted long and I was loitering with the pain of the advancing migraine. I was caught by Jo and another gentleman she was running with. Jo was amazing and tried to distract me from the pain and I could feel her will to see me finish. Secretly she just wanted to see my children run round the track. It turns out my kids have a knack for making Jo sob during races.

Fundamentally though with about 4 miles to Housedean I had to let them press on. I was fully encroached by a migraine and the fatigue of this was now overwhelming. I was fairly sure the race was over for me. I went through ditchling beacon and stopped multiple times to try to regroup and to prevent the pain advancing... it didn't work. I made poor decisions, including down coffee from people's crew.

About 2 miles out from Housedean I was disorientated and for the first time in my life I began to hallucinate. I stopped dead in my tracks, absolutely convinced that a massive bull was standing in my way. I looked down and then back up. When I looked back up the bull was replaced by an overhanging bush. I swore at myself and pressed on down the hill. I was struggling emotionally. I did not want my kids to not have a buckle to take home. Zoe would later tell me, "as long as daddy is home in one piece they won't care one bit." She of course was absolutely right. Two further bouts of hallucination; one bull and a non-existent headtorch behind me and I was sure it was game over, I then fell asleep standing up and as I was jolted awake I had made my peace with it. I trundled into the Aid the station, still with over and hour on the cut off, but my race was over. I removed my race number and gave it to a member of the Aid station team. As I sat waiting for Zoe to collect me I was in a world of pain... not my legs, I had running left, but the migraine was leaving me with blindspots in my vision. My peripheral vision was limited and I knew I'd made the right call. As I sat pondering what might have been and the fact that today I would not be running onto the track, a new found resolute washed over me. I will get fitter and faster, I will come back and conquer the grandslam. I'm not sure the same resolution would have occurred if I'd finished the race. This DNF will enable me to become a better runner.

My only disappointment of the race was at Housedean. I proceeded to take out my emergency kit and get dressed. With 45 minutes until the Aid station closed I was surprised and disappointed to see it being dismantled around me. I was pretty soon left sitting on a chair, with no access to food or hot drinks and the shelter of the canopy was removed. I was invited to sit in a van to wait for my wife. I understand people were tired and wanted to get home, but i was disappointed by this action. I stood up and plonked myself by the wall and waited for Zoe. By the time Zoe arrived all aid station crew had gone.

Zoe drove me back to her parents. I was exhausted and in pain, but grateful she had come to get me. We swung by the track to collect my bag. A hug with Nici and a knowing look of disappointment from both of us. I will crack this grandslam at some point and the failed attempts will make it all the more sweet. I spoke briefly with a couple of other runners at the track and then headed home. I put my feet up and rested for a couple of hours before the kids woke up. Sure enough they ran in the room and were just happy to see me. Big hugs reminded me of what is most important. I can't top the moment my little girl wraps her arms around my neck and shouts "dadddyyyyy" it has and always outweigh the value of any medal. A large amount of the pain in my head was easing, but the overall headache remained for a few days.

So as I look back on this race I have to be honest and say that a migraine may seem like bad luck, but in truth it was deserved. I suspect it was my bodies way of expressing its physical exhaustion. I had been under trained and my sleep pattern had been shit for months. Work has been so busy that I've just lost focus. My body weight is too high and this all accumulated on race day to a DNF. You can't fake a 100 mile finish. Was I unlucky to get a migraine... possibly... did I deserve a DNF... absolutely!!!! So with that noted it's back to the drawing board. I have let training stay limited for a few weeks and to emotionally recover. Today is the 24th July 2017 and training starts in earnest for A100. What that really means and the challenges ahead, well that's for another blog. What I do know is that being honest about this DNF and the reasons behind it, will make me a better runner in the future. I figure you can hide from everyone, but yourself. Today I stand in front of the mirror and am happy that this is my starting line to my next challenge. Today I weigh 15st2lb and optimum race weight is around 12st. I'm not happy with this weight, but each day I will set goals and slowly it will come down. I will crack this battle I have with my weight. If i can succeed with this challenge then I know I can succeed at A100 and future races. Success or failure is on me. I have a great deal of runners to catch up. They have overtaken me in ability, purely through their dedication to training and all aspects of it. I admire each of these runners immensely; such commitment gets tested in various ways. So without remorse for past failings,  or jealousy for their successes, I take on board all my lessons from previous runs and am going to now strive to be the best runner i can be. Hopefully along the way that will result in me being the best version of myself.

A massive thank you to all those who said hello on the way. It meant a great deal. I was surprised by how many people recognised me and have read the blog of what is essentially a rambling over weight runner. I am touched that I have inspired some of you and I hope this blog and journey will do the same for others. My moment of the weekend was being asked if I was "The Dan Park" suitably embarrassed that runner can remain nameless :) My response still stands "Dan will do." Hope to see you all at future races and I hope the documenting of this next journey can continue to inspire others. It's not easy this keeping fit lark. I have some ambitious plans for the future and I am sure some of you will all be involved along the way.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Here we go. TP100 is upon us.

Well this moment seems to have come around quick. I left the office still with a massive to do list and a variety of things I will need to do next week, but right now I don't care. I am on the train and making my way to a Premier Inn in Chiswick. It now feels like a race weekend. I realise in this moment how long it has been since I have had the chance to feel the nervous energy of a big race. I can't quite believe TP100 is already upon us.

So many people thought I was joking in the office when they asked what I was up to this weekend. Eventually I just stopped telling people; having grown tired of being asked what was wrong with me and being informed most people go to the pub for fun. Truth be told I love my job, but I've been flat out with my main role and my business. Ultras have always been a sanctuary for me and the build up to this one is no different. This race affords me a space to clear my mind and just enjoy my surrounding. I know it will be tough and I know I will be exhausted, but I also know it will rejuvenate me. To quote Faithless "this is my church. This is where I heal my hurt."

I am sat on the train and the removal of traffic stress is absolute bliss. Moments from my childhood (or maybe the reading of Harry Potter) always makes train rides feel like an adventure. An adventure within an adventure... that may be a theme for the weekend.

Leaving the family is always tough. I miss them whilst away and both the kids are growing in cheek and are full of life. I hope that my challenges and strength of character show them a lifestyle choice that will allow them to have the confidence and courage to chase their own dreams in life.

Big shouts of thanks to my wife. I could not do this without her support. She is awesome and I am very aware how fortunate I am with my family and the life I have. So when I am running they will be with me in spirit and then when I turn in to that field on Sunday, I know they will be there to conclude part 1 of this grandslam adventure; another example of an adventure within an adventure.

I have no real targets for the race other than to finish and be in one piece. A sub 24 would be lovely, but I will not be upset if it does not happen. I am hoping that the experiences and mental fortitude of GUCR last year, will enable me to press harder and endure longer. If it has then anything is possible tomorrow.

The bags are packed and I have realised, the more races I have done, how little I need to take with me. I ended up second guessing myself and almost adding more because I might need it.

Giant shout out to the running community and army of volunteers. I will thank you all at the weekend, but having been the other side of the line I know what a hard job you have and the support is invaluable. No offence to those sweeping, but I sincerely hope that, unlike 2015, I see none of you!

I have opted for road shoes. Hoka Clifton 3's to be precise and after much panic my petzl Nao is up and running. It's all fitted in my UD AK 3.0 pack (I am sure UD are building towards an affiliated runner where they can have an R2D2 pack). There is tonnes of room to spare. I find the single back pocket is not segmented enough and so I have split kit into dry bags. One with kit I only need if I DNF and the other for stuff I will only need if temperature drops significantly.

My final tip for runners and something I am carrying... sandwich bag. I have a habit of ramming food down my throat at aid stations and then the volume of food making me feel ill. I will be putting it in my sandwich bag and walking and eating as I leave the aid station. It saves time and means I don't force high volume calories in a short window.

So to the volunteers thanks.

To the experiences ultra runners, you know what to do, just don't get complacent.

To the 1st timers, relax, enjoy and get some sleep. The race will take care of it's self. Focus on the moment and take it one step at a time.

TP100 is flat, but hard. Set off too fast at your peril.

See you all in Richmond.

Grandslam Take 2 begins... Now!!

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Grandslam Take 2 and basic advice.

I can't quite believe that it is nearly 2 years ago that I first attempted the Centurion Grandslam. So near and yet so far. For those of you who regularly read my blog you will know just how close i came and how devastated I was at having to pull out of NDW at 76 miles. It wasn't long after that race before I had decided that I would be making another attempt at the Grandslam. The Grandslam feels like an itch that still needs to be scratched. I have pushed others to finishes and now I am pushing myself.

The plan for 2016 was all focused on GUCR. As I have recently blogged about this race you will be able to see just how much that took out of me. The demand of the training and the race itself left my mental fortitude some what depleted. I have spent a lot of time getting my focus back. 2016 was full of highs. Having had the privilege to sweep a lot of runners home to finishes at TP100 and A100 and attending to runners needs at NDW100 I enjoyed remaining part of the community. Of course GUCR remains my personal highlight. See others achieve dreams, and playing a small part in that, was a very close second.

My training has been up and down, but overall I'd rate it a solid 7/10. I am a different runner physically and mentally from 2015 and I can't wait to get back out there. Some how having a race looming seems to have reignited a spark that I had not even realised had gone out. The missing spark was the charge that was getting me up at 5am regularly in training for GUCR. The missing spark caused me to hit snooze one too many times in build up to this race. I am committed to a successful race at TP100; a finish that doesn't skirt with cut offs and I come away unscathed from will constitute such a success. Following on from this race I feel that business truly begins. My plan for recovery and training into SDW100 is challenging but purposeful. It is all with the focus of peaking for NDW100. There is a good period of time then until A100 where I hope to be in the position of running for a giant buckle.

I have weight to lose (My great nemesis) and for sure I can gain pace this way. I can get physically stronger as well. With that said I am ready for TP100 and there will be no excuses. Whatever the weather, whatever happens on the day I will remain focused and will press for a finish. I am not underestimating this race and I am ready to give 100% effort. Too many people underestimate this race, after all its flat and fast. The reality being of course that many people set out too fast and just don't manage a running plan; the result being a DNF.

The Grandslam is gruelling and I am ready for that. It makes you question your ability and I am ready for that. 

For those running their first 100 and for those on their first effort at the Grandslam my advice is this... Enjoy it! Be prepared for pain and be prepared for this at early points. That is ok. Hurting at mile 30 does not mean you won't be feeling good at mile 60. A 100 miler is like the waves of a sea. You will go up and down and sometimes feel overwhelmed. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and you will get to the end. NEVER underestimate the value of running 10meters. If you can only run 10metres in every 20 then by the time you have done 10km you will have run 5km. My point being find your way, but never underestimate how much the little things add up over this distance. Address any niggles early as well. That tiny stone in your shoe that you don't want to lose 2 minutes taking out, well it's now a rock 10 miles later and has grated your foot. Be smart and be responsible. A death March for 14 hours is no fun!!! Trust me on that.

I'd also suggest strongly to pack your kit on Thursday. Have it all done and put to rest. Friday night needs to be about unwinding and letting the nervous energy keep contained. Sleep Thursday night and Friday night will pay dividends on Saturday. Hydration in build up to the race is also something not to overlook.

I guess the key thing to maintain is self belief. I am not special, but I do consider myself tough/stubborn. If I can finish then so can you. Just maintain that belief even in the darkest moments. Turn off notions of quitting. I didn't at NDW100 2015 and I got beat. If a volunteer spurs you out of an aid station they feel you are safe to go on. Trust them over yourself. They are usually right.

Don't underestimate the euphoria of the finish. It will always be worth the suffering.

For me I am so excited to get this started and embrace the weekend as a runner. This ultra running malarkey can be as lonely as it is sociable. I will be catching up with Phil Bradburn on Friday before he commences his grandslam journey as well. We will be at the Chiswick premier inn. If you are staying there and see us in the restaurant then come and say hello. I am rubbish with names so if you see me do come and say hello I love the festival feel to these race weekendS and am always happy to chat.

As part one of this four part saga begins I need to thank my family. I know Zoe kills me when I don't warn her that I'm mentioning her in my blogs, but all thanks and gratitude are well deserved. I can only do these things because of her. She never argues or complains. We do argue, but normally this is when she keeps me in line and reminds me I need to be committed to my training. I am minded to a point I made in my wedding speech 6 years ago... I am a better version of me, because of her. I am so proud of my wife and our little family. They ensure I remain focused and appreciate life. I love them more than I tell them and hopefully completing these races continues to show my children to set their own limitations... and then go and smash them. Their strength and determination always feeds into my race weekends. Knowing they will be at the finish is all the inspiration I need to get there. I seem to be watching my children grow up through the finish line photos by Stuart March. 

If you have read my blogs then my alien from 2015 has survived and will be on the back of my pack, hopefully until the end. It's a good way to recognise me. Although in 2015 I think he was more popular than me.

This is going to be a heck of an adventure this year and one I get to share with so many people from the Centurion Running family, my friends and my family. Lets hope this first step goes smoothly.

I have two other blogs that will give an indication of what to expect. The first from 2015 and the seconds as sweeper in 2016. Good luck everyone.

Final advice.... stop checking the weather forecast ;)

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Grand Union Canal Race 2016

I remember for a very long time being told by so many this is the "best" ultra race on the UK calendar. In fairness many will still make this bold statement. Regardless of the validity of this statement it grabbed my attention and so I entered the race. This story, however, does not begin in 2016. It begins in 2014 with a DNS. I was under trained and ill prepared. Even I'm not foolish enough to try and blag 145 miles. Instead I supported a friend and ran the past 45 miles with him. Many reading this will see 45 miles as inconceivable, but having run further and subsequently finishing the GUCR, I can safely say the difference in the two distances is massive. If you can eat one slice of pizza you don't suddenly assert that you can eat three large pizza's... well not without vomiting, maybe passing out and possibly ending up in hospital. By this virtue very similar to the difference between running 45 and 145 miles.

Having been part of my friends experience I understood the buzz around this race and the desire of so many to complete it. During 2014 I shared many highs and lows with runners. There was a huge camaraderie and sense of a united front trying to slay a beast. 145 miles seemed impossible and in so being drew many to try. Those that fell urged others towards the finish. The course for the most part is also beautiful and develops an aura of a world separated from ordinary life. In 2014 I remember being delighted and very proud when my friend finished, but also very envious. This race was firmly logged on my bucket list.

So it came to be that 2015 I would try the Centurion Grandslam. I got close, but to no avail. Now under the watchful eyes of Edwina Sutton I changed my approach to running, not my love, just my approach. I was to be purposeful in my training and consistent. In entering the ballot for GUCR I hoped by virtue of having a crew that I would secure a place, but in my mind I readied myself for making other plans. Following the draw the results went live at about 1am. I was in and I could not resist a message to my crew. They were equally delighted. My focus now increased further and specific training was now in total dedication to running a flat 145 miles.

Week in and week out I stuck to plan. My love hate relationship with sugar meant my weight was not falling off, but everything else was going great. So the race got closer and plans became real. I was hitting personal checkpoints in my training and then BAM! I get a message from my crew. 2 out of 4 could not help out. No animosity as it was for health reasons and I would never want someone to jeopardise their health on my behalf. I was worried that i would not be able to source alternative crew. Bloody hell what it did next was energise everything. I became aware just how much people believe in me and supported me. So many who would have helped but were out  of the country. It did not stop me rapidly sourcing crew.

My best friend Sam Robson pretty much dropped everything and at the risk of a disgruntled wife he sought her approval (Thanks Jen), was then on my car insurance and on the crew. Bryan Webster and my wife Zoe were already planned to be supporting at certain junctions of the race. I really needed one more person... in stepped David Barker. Now this is a man who ran A100 in under 16hours and then went and helped at the Reading Aid station. On this day he would be finishing work and then leaving Kent at 3am to get to the race start. He would then support until 4am and then look after his children whilst his wife went to her own race (thank you Sarah.)

So with a revised but in no way compromised crew I was ready for race weekend. Conditions looked favourable if potentially a little hot, but heck I was going to be running over 2 days, anything could happen. So on the Friday i packed my gear and got on a train to Birmingham. I could not get as way as early as i would have liked. It became a little bit of a rush to the premier inn and then registration. There was a buzz around town and i recognised a few runners all displaying the nervous energy. As i approached the Premier Inn i bumped in Tom Garrod. He was in fine form and clearly ready for the race. I always love catching up with Tom, he is an absolutely inspiration to anyone over coming adversity. The registration is without a doubt the most understated registration i have ever experienced. I collected my Hoodie, T-Shirt and canal key and my name was ticked. That was it i was registered and good to go. I made a vow that i would not put on the Hoodie or the T-Shirt until i completed this race. It felt like i had not earned them yet. I took the decision to head back to the Premier Inn, rather than join the crowd. I caught up with a couple of runners and then proceeded to bed. A quick chat with my running coach, a review of kit and a panic of whether i had anything and then lights out.

The alarm went and blurry eyed i woke up. It was 4:45am and the start of a very long period of time awake. My mind was clear and the training was done. Everything i could do to prepare had been done and could no longer improve my chances of completing this race. A call from Sam to check i was awake and the dawn of what i was about to undertake was washing over me in droves. I gathered my kit and covered my feet in anti-chafing powder, before getting dressed. Now i should at this point note that the powder is brilliant stuff, but slip and it may look like the aftermath of a party hosted by a Rock and Roll band. For future reference i will apply this stuff to my feet in the bath, in order to reduce such aftermath. So once again probably like a party hosted by a Rock and Roll band.

This is not what it looks like.

Willing, ready and hopefully able i headed downstairs. Sam was patiently waiting for me and then the gloom of the rain was visible. Seriously all signs had pointed to no rain and already it was chucking it down. Forecasts were for this to progressively clear as the morning progressed. I put it to the back of my mind and decided that what would be would be. Nothing was going to stop me from crossing that finish line. I dont think i have ever been so determined to complete a challenge. If it was going to rain then so be it. The iron being, as this report will show, not long into the race i would have killed for it to rain just a little bit.  

At the start line i was relieved to know that David had arrived and he and Sam would now be together to assist as my crew. The start was awash with nervous energy. I caught up with Rodrigo Freeman and Mark Haynes. Both were well prepared and ready to get going. After the race announcements, cautions and advisory's we were released upon the canal. Truth be told it was all very anti-climatic. Imagine the 100 metre start line of an olympic final, everyone crouched low in their blocks, the gun goes off and all bar one runner of eight stands up and begins a casual walk. Magnify these proportions to 150 runners and this was in effect how the start would have translated to an outsider. Inside though i was running to a plan. It was a case of slow and steady and leave enough running for the final 45 miles. Oh sure i will just take it steady for 100 miles and then run the last 45 miles. Bloody hell what was i thinking. Who considers this a normal way to spend a weekend. Well truth be told i saw nothing about this weekend as normal, but i did see this opportunity as a blessing, a peaceful one and something i would grab with both hands, until i reached Little Venice. i trudged along with Mark Haynes and watched Rodrigo disappear into the distance. 

Super excited to get going.

There i am "whizzing" by.

The rain was a distant memory and rapidly the world was heating up. I say world as nothing beyond the canal and the rhythmic pounding of my feet seemed to exist. I was becoming encapsulated by the melody i was creating on the tow path. I was losing any concern for the stresses of my daily life. I was focused, i was calm, i felt positively in control. I arrived at my first meeting point right on schedule. 10.7 miles completed in a little over 2 hours. I was feeling good as i took supplies from my crew. All was going smoothly, yes it was heating up, but everything was in working order. It seemed on the surface like it was going to be a lovely day of running. I even had the chance to laugh off an error when i realised my crew had passed me the spare bread i forgot to tell them about. Yum sandwiches with no filling. Well at least i made some ducks happy. Cruising in to mile 18.1 at 9:32am i was 4 minutes ahead of schedule and not feeling too bad. By this point it was hot though. I could sense the danger that the heat was going to be a problem. As i trundled away from my crew i was feeling warm and the naive optimism of "what could possibly go wrong" was being replaced by "you fucking idiot, its 145 miles of course it was going to be brutal." In any event i decided the best course of action was to ignore myself. 

Collecting my bread with no filling.

I had an opportunity to run a little with Ashley Hurd. He was keen to complete the race. I left him around mile 15 where he was supported by his wife. I did not see him after that and was sorry to hear he DNF'd. At about mile 18 i saw Phil Bradburn and would frequently see him along the course. Time was drifting a little for me. Nothing to panic about at this point. I was well under the cuts offs and not too far shy of my A race pace plan. With that said i was feeling increasingly worse. The heat was bloody appalling. I was left with indigestion and a sense that my body was slowly imploding. I was drinking regularly, but some how could not quench the first. I wanted to eat and project everything from my stomach in equal measure. Both options held little appeal and i was slowing as a result. A furiously hot day with the sun bouncing off the tow path causing increased intensity. At mile 30 i looked like shit, I felt like shit and my ever honest crew told me i was looking great.... lying bastards. I still had loads of running in my legs, but i could not muster the energy. I was not prepared to contemplate a DNF, but it felt like the body was failing my mind. At mile 34 on the verge of frying my body i saw a safe haven, a utopian vision of tranquility. I could not have asked for it to be better placed to save my race. Now truth be told it was a break in the hedge that created a space completely enclosed. Beautiful shade and a swing hanging from a tree. I was in no mood for a swing, but i did force some calories in and sit down and close my eyes for 10 minutes. Maybe i could cool down, hit reset and get moving. Well reset is about right. My body temperature dropped and as i stood up had a massive head rush. I felt nauseous, but was keen to get moving. One step... two step... and we were playing anything but "round and round the garden." I toppled to my knees and vomited violently into the canal. I have since been informed that a number or runners passed me and assumed i would be DNF'ing. The little voice in my head decided that i 'only' had 110 miles left to race so i may as well press on to the finish. 

A beautifully scenic route

Hot and feeling like utter trash.

The next phase of the race was spent trying to ignore the heat and watching other runners also rationing their water. I seemed to struggle to compute a simple bloody lock on the canal tap. Thankfully a Canal Boat resident took pity on a sweaty salt ridden runner and showed me what i was doing run. He was very friendly and i think resisted patting me on the head and telling me it would be ok. I filled my water bottle and set back off. Approaching Braunston Locks i was anticipating seeing my crew. I knew they were due to appear and probably would just be relieved to see that i wasnt dead. It transpired to be a downhill stretch to my crew and at 44 miles there was my crew with fresh coffee. I sat down and took in the view. I was not feeling great, but was revising my targets. This race was about achieving and showing myself that the seemingly impossible could be done and reassuring myself that the only boundaries that apply to me as a runner are the ones i set myself. I was down, but far from out. I was over a 100 minutes down on my planned pace. Apparently vomiting in a canal and sitting on the side of a canal wondering what the fuck is going on takes up a lot of time. I knew i had stopped too much with my crew. I was wasting time, but i needed to get myself focused and this was the only way of keeping me in the race. On the plus side the stretch down to my crew saw the first of many running friends appear, Nick was full of encouragement. I am sincerely always touched by the running community and their happiness to give up time and support. 

My crew worked tirelessly from start to finish.

After a bloody good cup of coffee, thanks David, i felt a lot of better and was determined to get into a rhythm. I may have felt shit up until now, but i was NOT going to get myself timed out. 

"Could murder a cuppa."
Feeling like trash, but a cracking cup of coffee worked wonders.

Now in this race whilst the cut offs are very generous the cut offs up until CP4 force you to keep a reasonable pace. I was finally in a good place. By this i mean i was resigned to feeling like crap and was able to turn my brain off to this. I ran safely and for decent periods of time. I was struck by the surprising beauty of the course. It was proving to be a very scenic route and the heat was reducing and my pace increasing. I was happy i could make it through the cut off at CP4 with plenty of time. I was trading places with a few runners. Glyn Raymen reminded me we needed to get a bloody move on or we would be timed out. Shit.... really... you mean i fell asleep in a bush, vomited in a canal and demonstrated my ineptitude to open a basic lock... all to get timed out. Bollocks to that. I picked up the pace. This was a liberating moment. I reminded myself no matter how bad i was feeling i could and would still run. I ran a few good miles, but Glyn and other runners were still panicking. I then asked them what time they thought the cut off was. "7pm" was the response i got. For those unfamiliar with the race the cut off was 7:30pm. The relief in that moment is hard to describe. I had grinded to this point and would come in to the checkpoint with plenty of time to spare. I saw my crew briefly, clambered over the lock at Buckby Top Lock and jogged down the steps. I was ok and fast realising that Mountain Dew was settling my stomach. Yep so the influx of the caffeinated ghost buster coloured bottled substance began. I continued the run to CP4 and came through there at 6:55pm. I was 35 minutes under the cut off and could now relax into the race. 

There are not many races i can think of where 53 miles and 13 hours in i can comment that it was time to relax into the race. With that said i was relaxing and feeling in control. I had planned to arrive at mile 53 by 4:54pm. So yes i was 2 hours down, but heck i was in the fight and this fight was not going to be won by knockout. It was going all the way to the 12th round and i was going to need to win this fight on points. From this point you approach Blisworth Tunnel. It was a very pleasant evening and still light, although the sun was fading fast. Climbing up the hill i took a comfort break and in the process discovered a dropped digital camera. This was handed off to my crew and i believe successfully returned to its owner. It is worth noting that this section has a suprising bit of incline, but it doesnt last long and is definitely runnable. Do not be deceived into thinking you have to walk the hill.
The inspiring Tom Garrod in top form.

Finding some rhythm in the heat.

I was feeling ok, tired and fatigued from the heat of the day, but generally in good spirits. My next mental goal was Navigation Bridge. It felt like it would never appear and whilst not exactly half way it felt to me like this was my midway checkpoint. About 4 miles out i found myself running with Ian Shelley and Jay Close. I was very grateful as a couple of silly navigational errors could have caused me undue distress. They kept me on the straight and narrow and as we came up to the top the hill i stopped for a quick coffee. I then pressed on into the darkness and the descent down the road. Navigation Bridge was looming. In my haste i crossed a road and plodded down a hill. Something didn't seem right and after about 400 metres i checked my map and could only assume i should have turned left at the crossing. I saw a flash of light that appeared to be trying to attract my attention. I retraced my steps and at the junction i could see nobody. Maybe i had made the flash of light up and then there it was again, but slightly further down the road. I ran down after it, hoping that i would not becoming like that crazy dog chasing the ice cream van. As it was within about 50 metres of the runner i heard "thank fuck for that." It was Ian Shelley expressing relief. It turns out he had seen me drop down the hill and was worried i would not realise. We chatted for a bit and then he pointed me to the point in the village where you access the canal. I pressed on and it was apparent that Ian sadly was approaching the end of his race. I am for ever grateful that he appeared to instill his last amount of energy into motivating me to get to Little Venice. For this who will run the race remember to turn left at the cross roads and when you head down the hill you cross the road and there is a gate that lets you back on to the canal. 

Running along the canal, in the dark, i was reflecting on what i was trying to do. I was knackered and nearly 18 hours into my race. Then from the darkness appeared the well lit bridge. I heard my name, well i thought it was my name. Oh that's pleasant i thought and then it became a scream and a cheer and a whoop and a holler. Finally i had made it and there was my crew, my friend Anne and her partner and my wife. Anne appeared drunk on the energy of watching all these running loons coming through for several hours. Zoe was genuinely concerned for me. I was cold and exhausted. I went to the car and slept for 10 minutes. BIG MISTAKE! i strongly advise anyone undertaking this race to resist sleeping in the night. I got bloody cold, bloody quick. I was not making sound judgements and failed to make a sensible decision to put on running tights. Yes i added layers, but the quickest act would have been to wear running tights. After a limited effort to eat something i took a few hugs  and some swigs of Mountain Dew and pressed on. I now had running support with me and only 85 miles to go. Sounds so simple when written on paper. 

At this point in the race my crew excelled. I could not have done this without them and my sincere thanks to them all. Bryan Webster joined us at about mile 80. It was good to see another friendly face. When i received no sarcastic banter i knew i must look like shit. Photographs and crew accounts would safely verify that i looked like garbage. David left us at this point to get himself home, huge thanks to David for nursing me through 80 miles. 

Yep looking brilliant.

We pressed on to mile 85 and what was CP 6. I could not keep my eyes open and i could barely put one leg in front of the other. I decided i needed another nap. Naomi Newton-Fisher was at this checkpoint. I was so tired i could barely must a hello, so apologies if i was in any way rude. I bolted for the car and reclined the seat. The plan was 15 minutes and then really make progress. With this plan in place Zoe came with me to have a power nap, in truth i think she was more worried that i may swallow my tongue. After somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes i sat bolt up right and was ready to crack on. I knew that if i didn't get moving it was game over. I caught Bryan on the hop, but he responded admirably and chased after me along the tow path. For the next few miles things were going ok, but i really needed a shit. Yep the glamour of ultras is the reason i got into these things. Any way after a couple of failed bush visits i decided it was pointless trying and just pressed on.

The sun was up now and we were in for another hot day. Oh good, i enjoyed this so much the day before. As if to test my legs, or take the piss Bryan and i approach a swan along the canal path. It was blocking our route and there was no alternative way to pass. So i picked up the pace and jumped pass the swan. The swan swore and hissed and darted its head towards me. Thankfully the swan missed and now it was Bryan's turn to get past. So he lined up and ran past.. and.... nothing... nope nothing. The swan gave him no notice. So remember people Swans are evil and pray on the weak. 

Beware of the killer Psycho Swan.

Pressing on Bryan and i arrived at the 100 mile mark in around 27 hours. I got to use an actual toilet and felt significantly relieved. The joy was captured in a photo taken by Bryan. As we left the checkpoint Bryan and i discussed the fact that despite how bad i had been feeling i had still gone through the 100 mile mark in 27 hours. This moment and the rising of the sun gave me a sense of renewed vigour. I still had running left in my legs and felt able to press on. I reviewed the race to this point and realised there had been some seriously low moments, but i had overcome each and everyone. I was feeling better than i had felt at mile 30 and i was growing into the race. I had loved every moment of the race. Yes the near disasters were not pleasant in the moment, but the challenge of the race was why i entered. I did not go to Birmingham for an easy and unfulfilling experience.

Yes a poo can be this rewarding.

So running along the canal on the Sunday it did not get as hot as the Saturday, but it was a beautiful day and i was enjoying my running. I was struggling to eat anything and probably pissing my crew off as i rejected all things i had requested. I believe at one point Bryan suggested to Zoe that she just reheat the last set of noodles as i would not bloody eat them any way. I can't say i blame him as well as it transpired he was right. I am not sure at what point it occurred but Sam and Bryan swapped out pacing duties. I was tired, but running with a smile and growing in confidence that i would get the finish. I was bettering my revised target times and sustaining pace. At about mile 110 i felt like i was in a Rocky movie as various running friends appeared to offer their support. Paul Radford was out and in good spirit. In addition Phil Gatsky appeared. I had first met Phil when i swept Thames Path 100 and bullied him to leave the mile 91 aid station. It was a welcome period of support and i believe i ran the next 5/6 miles straight with no walking break. With power of others around me and my further consumption of Mountain Dew i was feeling good. Phil ran with us for about 9/10 miles and it was a huge element of support. 

Beginning to feel better and get back in the game.

My crew working super hard!

The clock continued to click and it was apparent that i was going to be out running into a second night. Once i accepted this the rest of day was great. At Springwell lock i knew there was just 25 miles to go. Yep only a marathon to go. If it were not for the 125 miles in my legs then this would be a doddled. I pressed on and Bryan jumped back in as a pacer. My body felt tired but ok. This was with exception of my feet. Every step made my feet feel like they were being dipped in lava. I am sure i was walking barefoot on hot coals. I could not run, i could barely walk, but i wanted to get to the finish. We had considered whether Zoe would run with me or not. At this point it would be anything but running. 

Only a marathon to go. NB: I am not sponsored by Mountain Dew.

As Bryan and i progressed along the tow path i started chanting "ow fuck, ow fuck, ow fuck fuck." For whatever reason this worked. Provided i continued to repeat the chant i was able to continue running pace. We ran past some highly diverse cultures. This included a barge bar and a man in a whacky top hat... oh the temptation to have a pint, but i would have passed out in the canal. Everyone was happy and engaged and even as the sun was setting the moods were lifting. I was on the look out for the famous left turn and the sign to Paddington. Honestly as i was chugging down more Mountain Dew i convinced myself that someone had moved the left hand turn. It was not there and i was convinced we must have missed it. Of course we had not and eventually the left turn appeared and so did more swans. These were more friendly than the previous swans and we passed without issue. Sadly this last section was littered with rubbish... sigh.. come on people.

The relief at the sight of the left hand turn. I promise i am not sponsored by Mountain Dew.

At CP9 I briefly caught up with many runners i knew, both who were running and those who were crewing. I sat down briefly to compose myself. I took on some fluid and some more Mountain Dew (i may have been glowing green at this point.) I wanted the race to be done and so got up and pressed on. We decided Bryan would continue to run with me rather than switch Sam back in. Bryan and i were in momentum and he was now zoning out my swearing and recognised that my body was telling me to sleep when it should keep running. Bryan appropriately forced me to keep moving. He rewarded me with limited rest breaks at appropriate times, but in general there was little break. We caught up runners and for the first time in hours we were overtaking people. This felt good and aided the miles being ticked off.

A well earned rest break. Can you spot a theme in what kept me going.

The sun was setting but our pace was improving. I could not believe the miles were ticking away so well. Then before i knew it we were at mile 139. Bloody hell 6 miles to go. We had sustained such a pace that we were there 30-45minutes faster than anticipated. I took on some more Mountain Dew and Zoe confirmed that she was going to run the last 10km with me. I was overwhelmed by this gesture. 

A moment with my wife that i will treasure forever.

My wife and i have shared some of the most incredible memories in life that no one else will ever share with me. We have shared a marriage proposal in Spain, entering into a marriage, Zoe has walked in the last 9 miles of SDW100 with me, she has given me two wonderful children and here we were about to share the most amazing moments of this race. I couldn't  have wished for a better partner to finish this race with. Don't let this blog present our marriage as perfect, we argue, fight and disagree, but Zoe is my hero and the love of my life. I am who i am because of her and she inspires me to be a better parent and generally better person. I guess in that way we are a lot like the GUCR race. It is not always easy and there can be a lot swearing, but ultimately the journey is without a doubt worth the challenges. I prepared myself to walk in the final 6 miles. I knew Zoe had been training and was becoming capable as a runner, but my feet hurt. I held her hand and as we walked into the darkness i knew in that moment it was only about me and her. Yes there was a huge wealth of support and people i could not have achieved this race without and social media was bursting with encouragement, but in that very moment it was only about Zoe and i. The world was quiet and we pressed on. Zoe shared with me that she had been training up to  10km distance to run this last leg in. Oh come one Zoe with the emotional blackmail. Now i had to bloody run. So on we ran, and it was wonderful. We entered into banter and counted the miles down. I calculated that we could walk it in about 2 hours. Zoe's response was to tell me that we could or we could run and be finished in 70 minutes. Zoe was absolutely right and we ran. I entered into a facebook countdown. Zoe had found the Bryan balance of supporting me, whilst also ensuring i did not stop running. Mark Haynes had obviously found a second wind and passed me with about 3 miles to go. Zoe and i pressed on and the last 2 miles seemed to go on forever. I could have sworn that Little Venice would never appear. In that moment i did not want it to. I wanted this experience and the moment with the love of my life to last forever, it was a wonderful feeling. Then in the distance there was a flicker of a light. The light was dismissed by Zoe, but i became like a kid at Christmas... "Its a light a light... i can see the finish." It felt to me like a lighthouse shining its beacon. I could see the finish and knew the home straight was in my grasp. This whole journey had lasted for over 41 hours and in truth the real journey started months prior. I was happy, i was grateful and i was proud. As i crossed the line i felt so drained. Suddenly i had no more energy. There were other runners also sat, all looking broken, but all in their own state of reflective euphoria. 

We left the finish after i received my doorstop medal. I could barely stand with it around my neck. Nonetheless we got up. After many hugs and congratulations it was time to get a taxi. I had contemplated walking the mile and a bit to the hotel. Thankfully both Zoe and Bryan exercised common sense and informed me they would like to be at the hotel in the next hour. We got to the hotel and as i was signing in nearly fell asleep on the reception desk. Thankfully there were lifts, the rooms were large and the bed comfortable. I flopped on the bed, fell into the shower and then back onto the bed. I was tired, but elated. I went to check my phone and respond to some comments. My phone went crazy with beeping and updates. I was falling asleep whilst holding my phone. I was shattered, but peaceful and was experiencing a sense of fulfillment. I had achieved a bucket list race with wonderful memories and vomiting in the canal seemed a life time ago.

In reflection this was such a good race. The diversity of cultures that i experienced on the canal was like no other i have experienced. It was so much fun and everyone was friendly and interacting. On the whole the race was beautiful, genuinely beautiful with diverse scenery. I loved the different sites, although no site tops that of the flashing finishing beacon and the bloody big medal. I can put in a better performance and i am sure i could go quicker (i will be back,) but no finish will have the magic of this first finish. GUCR 2016 was magical.

GUCR is beautiful.

Very tired crew member.

A medal worthy of the experience.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

A blog on the run! Housedean to Eastbourne

All my blogs are generally written retrospectively. Today I thought I would put my thoughts down as I go. Having flogged my legs at the gym on Thursday I was concerned today they would be dead; I would get 1/2mile into my run and drop to the floor crying like a child who has been told they can't have any sweets.

My plan was to head out of Housedean and run the SDW into Eastbourne. Once there I will run to the Marina where my wife's parents live. Setting out on the run things felt great. I am wearing a weighted pack. Probably 2kg heavier than it needs to be. I am trying to follow an even effort level and not concern myself with pace. This definitely keeps the ego in check, but I'm finding the run that much more enjoyable. So as I tackled the climbs from housedean and on to the yellow brick road, I found myself in an uplifted mood. For the first time in forever it isn't mattering what my watch is saying. 10mm/11mm/14mm I do not care one ounce.

My normal preoccupation when running is time. How quick can it be done, can i press the pace a but more. Today is simply not about that. So as I ambled into southease I am now sat typing from the cafe. I'm am going to sip my coffee and enjoy the moment. Then I shall March up the "dreaded" climb and enjoy a run through into Alfriston. I may even stop there for cake. What ever I decide it's going to be fun.

My recent post is my lesson point. If we rush through everything we see nothing and in that absence I find there is a void that takes the enjoyment with it. So I'm going to enjoy the moment and I will get to Eastbourne in a good mood and probably ready for dinner :)

So it's all a bit too comfortable sitting drinking this coffee. Coats in the bag so hopefully won't need it when I get to the top of Southease. Watch says 6.5 miles and the centurion aid station list says it's 7.4. I always did like centurion. Right time to put the pack back on.

So as I march up Southease I am reminding myself for future runs that the climb is not so bad. You can all mock me post SDW100 blog when I'm complaining. The wind is picking up and mist is setting In, but it remains a stunning reminder of why I love running. The cafe is a distant memory and I am hunting down the hikers. I fear this live blogging may be sending me a little crazy ;) see you all in Alfriston.

I have now arrived in alfriston. That last section went really well. The weather definitely turned as I hit the peak. The wind was swirling around my head and the noise engulfed all thoughts and any indication that anything else existed. In truth it was bliss. It's is only bettered by the the sounds as I am typing. The wind has died away and been replaced by the chirping of birds and the bleating of sheep. I have my first sign of the climb out of alfruston. With no pressure on time and pace I am looking forward to it. I think the South Downs may truly be my favourite location I have ever visited. The photos below show the mist that closed in and is a reminder to anyone running the downs, be it on their own or as part of a race, the weather changes from hill to hill. Go prepared. Oh and yes I did chase down more hikers. Next stop Jevington.

In the spirit of this blog being "live" it seems fitting to capture the fact I nearly photobombed a wedding party. Coming through the village I thought I'd check in on the aid station of the centurion races, for a moment of reminicising. Turns out there was a wedding going on. Needless to say I didn't enter and I think I avoided the photo. Now the climb begins. During races this segment to Jevington seems to whizz by. I wonder if it will be the same today.

So the climb out of Alfriston is done. It wasn't too bad. The below pictures will give an indication for those not familiar with Alfriston. If you are racing in a centurion event then the arc of the climb makes it feel like it goes on forever. One foot in front of the other and it's not so bad. Enjoy the photos. I need to turn off phone for a bit as battery dying.

Just like that I'm in Jevington. I'm sure there is a time warp between here and Alfriston. Still during a race you will be glad of it. I'm stood by centurion final aid station. It's in the picture below. Sorry but for food you will have to climb the steps. Otherwise press on to Eastbourne. It's only a few miles. That is indeed my next stop. With only 6% battery I will have to finish this blog at the end of the run. 

So Jevington flew by almost as swiftly as the climb out if Alfriston. At the top is where centurion races leave the downs. I decided to pursue the SDW and then run the promenade back to the harbour. This gave an unexpected opportunity to reminisce on moments from Beachy Head Marathon. The wind picked up as I ran through the golf course. I was holding hope the golfers teeing off were better than i am at swinging a bat. I'm relieved to say they were. 

Climbing towards the seafront is an interesting experience. Lots of social people saying hello and enjoying a shared experience of trying not to be blown to Oz. Then i descended off the downs, along the start finish straight.

Thanks South Downs it was a great day. I trundle along the promenade back to the harbour. I noticed how few people smiled or said hello compared to whilst out on the Downs. This had been an excellent run. A confidence boost towards the upcoming 100milers and a great way to clear my head after a manic few weeks. 

The finish was an opportunity to reflect and drink milkshake :) More importantly though the clarity gave me an appreciation of the life I have. I am super luck to have a beautiful a d healthy family and a fitness level that allows me to spend 6 hours out on the Downs. I needed an end of day reminder then checking in on my children after their bedtime story showed me that.

Happy running everyone!