Tuesday, 14 June 2011


As my good friend and experienced ultra-runner said to me at mile 59, “training, it’s a good idea to do some”

That pretty much sums up the weekend – you can’t fake being fit enough to run 100 miles so Saturday exposed that fact that I was 50 mile or 60 mile fit but not 100 mile fit.

How was that? A combination of factors – the Lake Sonoma 50 mile got cancelled, I had a chest infection that affected my training in the 3 weeks up to Fellsman, withdrew from that race after 12 miles with a torn hamstring and thus did no more than about 25 miles per week over the past 4 weeks. So more rested than trained then!!

On the day there were some schoolboy errors too – I dimly registered that the race would be up at 6000ft but dismissed it. In truth the altitude was not significant although you do just about fee it uphill. More significant is that a semi desert environment at altitude has some important characteristics the runner needs to prepare for – very low humidity, high day-time temperatures, low night-time temperatures and a stronger exposure to the sun. These were the main factors that caused the “drop” as I only covered 65 of the 100 miles.

In essence, I got a little dehydrated early on although I did pull this back and was good by the early evening, I got fried by the sun during the day and should have worn a hat or visor and, once the sun set, I simply could not keep warm. As others powered into the night in vest and shorts I was wearing long sleeved top, windproof, hat, gloves and buff and still shivering whilst climbing uphill. These are the circumstances when it makes sense to avoid becoming a liability and so, around 1 mile after leaving the mile 64 aid station I turned around and headed back down the hill.

You may think that I would be really down about yet another DNF but strangely not. I need to reflect a little longer on the reasons it bugs me less and on what actions I will take as a result but the experience of the weekend was overwhelmingly positive for a number of reasons:

  • The course and scenery were amazing and well exceeded my mental picture of what it would be like. Nearly all singletrack, sometimes technical, trail through mature open forest with shallow lakes giving way to rocky sometimes barren open ridges with expansive views down several thousand feet to the Anza Borrego desert
  • Wonderful support and crewing from Lynn who kept me going, persuasively countered my whinging and was all set to get up at 3am to pace me the final 13 miles
  • The community of Ultra and catching up with some great people who I haven’t seen for a while
  • Sustained effort and concentration with a single purpose. Our lives are so fractured, dissected and distracted that its almost a luxury to thing “today I will be mostly running” and nothing else.

The aftermath has been exquisite stiffness but no injuries and, on the journey back from San Diego, the purchase of my US wheels – a VW Passat Estate/Wagon – the 4wheel drive version all ready for the mountains and the ski season.

Enough for now – gotta run!!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Plan B takes shape

Well, today's little 5 mile run out to the local park and along the beach confirmed that the offending Hamstring is now feeling fine. The rest of the body feels wrecked but that's another matter.

So, Plan B will be put into effect - that is to say that this Saturday I will try to run a 100 mile race in San Diego. Those who know me may recall that I officially gave up running 100 mile races about 3 years ago so I fear this may turn into yet another one of those multiple "retirements" from a sport where the comebacks are gradually less memorable!!

Anyway - first thing is that it is actually 100.1 miles (and that's before I add any detours and navigation errors). The second thing is that I don't intend to race this one. Several people have instructions to trip me up or knock me to the ground if I am remotely near the front of the race.

It seems unlikely but I actually want to take this one pretty slow, soak up a course and a part of the world I have never visited before and see if I can finish feeling good. You see, behind the Plan B there is a Plan C lurking in the wings and whilst it would be too early to "open my kimono" about that; suffice to say that finishing a 100 feeling like you could tackle another one is pretty important.

So, Saturday 7am in the Al Bahr campground, Laguna - inland from San Diego - should see me having fun for all of Saturday and a reasonable bit of Sunday.

Heron and Bobcat visit the back yard

Meantime, I am keen to rave about the wildlife we have in our back yard here in Santa Barbara - lizards we like, snakes we don't, Coyotes we have seen but yesterday we were blessed with a double. In the morning a Blue Heron and in the evening twilight a young Bobcat. Check the pictures. More will follow on Monday. 'till then - happy trails!