Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Really not so bad

I have been touched by the comments on here and by the many emails I have been sent. Many many thanks.

I'm sorry if my previous post was a little terse and gave the impression I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. Actually I am fine and it feels like a weight lifted from my shoulders - it was always likely to be the case that my heart and passion would continue beyond my ability to keep doing long runs. In truth, the commitment was not where it was 10-15 years ago in any case.

Whats is liberating is that I am now clear about my own motivations and goals. This blog is for public consumption so I won't talk about family or relationships matters here but quite apart from that, there are just so many things out there to do that I already have the 1,2,5 and 10 year plans sketched out and can start working towards those - putting on a great long distance race in the UK, writing a book, kitting out a van to travel Europe and beyond, building or converting a home to live "off the grid" - they are all there waiting to be grasped. Alongside this I will continue to adventure and push myself in the hills and mountains.

...and this self indulgent little blog will continue as I travel and try to learn the capabilities of my camera.

Many thanks for your interest and support and please be assured - I am HAPPY!!! :)

Saturday, 11 July 2009

End of an era

Well, it didn’t work out yesterday.

My training had all gone well and I seemed well acclimatized. I also did not make the mistake of going off too fast. At around mile 50 (towards the top of Engineer pass) my body simply started to shut down – low energy, aches and pains, an increasing urge to sit down and sleep. By the time I reached Ouray I was in “death march” mode.

I had some time to think out there – all my 100 mile attempts of the past 2 years have ended in DNF with the exception of HURT (Hawaii Ultra Running Team 100) and that did hurt!! I love the mountains, travelling light, covering lots of ground but when it comes to races; I love being “in the mix” too – the competition, the adrenaline rush of catching someone, the buzz at aid stations.

So – Hardrock 2009 will be my last attempt at a 100 mile race. I have had 19 years or so of running very long and have been privileged to have the opportunities to do this. Perhaps in common with many other people, the head still wanted to race and dream for a little longer than the body was willing to support that idea but I am now reconciled and content with that.

I will still race shorter distances, I will still travel and adventure, I will still probably come up with near impossible schedules and epics but I will not push my body Ultra-long.

Many people have given me a lot of support, time and encouragement over the past 20 years to help me achieve my drams - I thank you all profoundly.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Big Day tomorrow

Much of the Hardrock course is truly beautiful

The drop bags are packed, the wraps are made, the specially imported rice pudding is packed and portioned for each aid station, the toenails are clipped and everything is in place for Hardrock 2009.

I feel good - the past week has seen little activity on my part except for a team ascent of Virginius pass (where these pictures were taken). We have been sleeping above 11,000ft (average course elevation) and Lynn has been tackling some chunks of the course with me as support. This has provided the opportunity to take the ageing Subaru Outback over some challenging terrain - over Cinnamon pass for those who know it!!

Virginius Pass - at mile 75 - provides a steep challenge in the middle of the night!

Race starts at 06.00 Friday US Mountain time. Thats 13.00 Friday for anyone in the UK. THere is a Hardrock live runners site that intends to post aid station times - keep in mind this is a loooooooong run so there will be long gaps and also that, if I am running smart, I will not make any kind of push until after Ouray.

MY RUN NUMBER IS 137 and the site is www.hardrock100.com

If anyone wants to post a comment on here with their best guess of my time then feel free - we will see who gets closest and come up with some kind of prize!! I have great support and am really looking forward to the next Hardrock adventure. Update hopefully on Saturday night (US time)/Sunday morning (UK time) with the outcome. Stay well and have a great weekend wherever you are.

Mt. Sneffels - a 14'er that the course does NOT go over

Friday, 3 July 2009

Bloomin Spectacular

The Continental divide and one of the easiest parts of the course

Unlike Jake and Elwood (Blues) I was not on a mission from God, nor did I have a full pack of cigarettes. I was wearing dark glasses, however, and I did need to cover around 930 miles to get from Reno to Silverton. Backing up a little - after pacing Eric to his excellent first 100 mile finish and 3rd place age group award at Western States I had managed scant sleep and then stood for hours in ridiculous heat for the awards ceremony. Driving East up to Tahoe was OK with Jez for company back to his car but then it got tough and I realised the only thing to do was head for a cheap place to crash - Reno.

The following morning, armed with 3lbs cherries, 2 large lattes, half of a 4 cheese pizza and a gallon of carrot juice I hit the road. (small aside here in case you think I may have sprouted floppy ears - US gallons are smaller than UK ones on account of a US pint being 16oz rather than our 22oz. This means you get smaller pints of beer but also that petrol is not quite as cheap as you might think and fuel economy on cars is not quite as bad as you might think in US cars).

The driving was mostly easy - on cruise control on quiet freeways - and occasionally spectacular as you crest a rise and see an immense stark white landscape covering the whole horizon. Bonneville salt flats is one of those "wow" moments the first time you see it. With a 7am start, a couple of stops for "rests" (US euphemism for a poo), coffee and provisions for the trail I arrived at 11,100ft Red Mountain pass at 11.00pm.

Time to saddle up and hit the Hardrock course then. No Alpine start but 11am saw me heading out of Silverton and skirting the beaver ponds on an anti-clockwise circuit; feet wet within 5 minutes and destined to stay that way. To cut a long story short the recce of the past 3 days involved a night out at remote Pole Creek, a night in Ouray with former race winner, Rick Trujillo and author of Colorado 14ers, Gerry Roach, a couple of strategic hitched rides up the jeep roads to Engineer and Governor and about 70 miles of running with 23,000ft of ascent. On one hand, completing the equivalent of the Bob Graham round at altitude with a pack around 10 days before the race seems stupid; on the other it gave me great confidence in my acclimatisation, fitness and knee-descending ability. Thanks to Martin Beale I now regularly check my ascent rate on the altimeter and was pleased to be averaging around 13-14m/minute at 13,000ft. Without pack and with another week at elevation this will equate to around 17m/minute or comfortably over 3000ft/hour in the race.

The view from Handies Peak at over 14,000ft - not much like WS100 then!

For those unfamiliar with Hardrock 100, it is unlike any other 100 miler in the USA. Over 90 of its miles are above the high point of Western States; around 80 of its miles include terrain steeper and or tougher than anything States has to offer and it is a "race" where weather can play a decisive role - in 1997 Mark and I got snowed on crossing Handies Peak and the prospect of having to sit out thunderstorms is real. Check www.hardrock100.com for info and some great course pictures.

Colorado's spectacular flowers - just coming to their best

Today is a rest day where my main objective is to consume calories (I made a good start with a cooked breakfast and short stack) and catch up. I feel that I have another sub 30hour or so Hardrock within me and that is so much better than I expected a couple of months ago. I know, though, that this is not really a race against the other competitors - it's a personal quest to meet the challenges of the course on the day in the most efficient way possible. I am determined not to make the mistake of running someone elses race again like I did in 2007.