Monday, 2 September 2019

Madness of King George 3 - 36 Hours of Pure Hell Would I Survive?

So the main event of the year for me was approaching and since Hope 24 a few months back in June, this has been my main focus. Having ran the 12 hour version 2 years a go in 2017, I was fully aware of the strict rules of this version but this will be the first time I will be running without stopping for 36 hours under these types of conditions in a race. 

The Madness of King George is the crazy creation of David Andrewartha, a Cornish Runner who's passion for running and Cornish Heritage are very much shown through his events he organises around Cornwall. They range from tough and fun to just pure bonkers, however you never fail to come away feeling you've been given a great experience. 

So since the Plymouth Half Marathon back in May, I've been running a run streak every day, and the day of MOKG was day 97 of the streak. The longest run of that run streak leading up to MOKG was 30 miles followed by a 10 mile the following day back at Hope 24 in June, since then I think the furthest distance was around 12 miles. Why? Well life really being more important. I'm running everyday but I am very aware of the impact on family life, so making sure the running fits around them and not the other way round. 

As MOKG approached within a week, I started to feel very unprepared, nervous, and even a little sick at the thought of running 1.06 mile laps for 36 hours non stop. I usually get nervous before a big race but this was definitely a little worse than usual. 

Registration complete

Originally there were 5 or 6 entered in the 36 hour event, 2 females and 4 males I believe, but eventually this whittled down to 3 of us for one reason or another. This did mean as long as I finished I could podium for the first ever time. Wow extra pressure! I planned to just finish anyways nothing more, nothing less. I had some sort of tactical plan in my head on how I was going to achieve the finish, and by the Friday, my race van was packed, and I made my way down to Cornwall. Typically I get a message from my Boss on the Friday as I was heading down. Just to let you know you're being trawled to possibly be sent out to the Gulf for two months. Despite being only shore side for just 5 months! Now I had to fill out a pain and grief form by end of Bank Holiday Monday by COP. The was the last thing I needed when I was about to race a very very very mentally demanding 36 hours. I just wanted to curl up and hide to be honest. 
So I had to try and put that towards the back of my mind and concentrate on the task in hand.

After staying the night at my parents who live not far from the race, we woke early so we could get down to the start, register in good time, and get my son tucked back up into bed in the van so he can try and sleep again. The roads were quiet as to be expected at that time, so there were no worries of any holiday traffic to contend with, as there can be on the section of the A30 just as you arrive into Hayle. I got my mandatory kit out of the van in bag for life, why a bag for life? Well it saves me unpacking my pack to repack it again after it's checked, so all I have to do is pack my pack once. 

Eventually we were all sorted, the 36 hour runners were registered, and the start line pictures were taken after we were given our mandatory race safety and rules briefing by Dave. My nerves were now leaving me as I stood on the line with the other two guys. It was going to be a lonely first 12 hours until we were joined by the 24 hour runners at 8pm. The sun was now fully up and already you could feel the heat turning up. 
Sunrise at the start line

So my goal  at the start was this...... FINISH! Yep, that was it. Finish the 36 hours and there was a bonus of 3rd place, and hopefully get to 100 miles +. I just had to finish though, it was going to be a scorching day with no shelter. I've done plenty of 24 hour/12 hour event amongst the ultra's I've raced, but a 36 hour version is new to me not alone one with such strict rules. I had no idea how I was going to tackle the extra 12 hours. I knew I couldn't do it the same way I would do a 12 hour or 24 hour version, it's pretty much a different race all together both mentally and physically. 

The siren went and that was it, we were off making our way out on our first lap. 1.06 miles all together with the turn around half way down with an aid station at both ends. We could only stop for 15 minutes max at these aid stations and that includes toilet stops/massage/food/drink. It was otherwise non stop for the whole race. The first few laps we stuck together, catching up along the way, and we already realised we were going to fast. We all discussed our goals and plans, and it was then as well we decided we were all going to help each other finish, no matter what. 

It was from here the bond began between us, as our own tactical plans started to take place, we soon separated going at our paces. Occasionally  we would do a lap again with each other, and it was around 4 hours I started to lose a couple laps on the others, which I knew that would happen as they are both tidy runners. Dean had won the 24 hr race the year before, and Kieran smashed out 100K during 2017 12 hour version (plus he's very fast at shorter distances), so I knew at some point they would lap me, but like I said I just need to finish! 
The start of the 36 hour version of MOKG
The hours slowly went by and I began my battle with my mind. My head was telling me, oh you could put in a really good marathon time here, oh you could do a really good 50K time here. I had to keep telling me self NO! You still have 30 odd hours to go yet you dick. That was it, I had to try and stop being a dick, well during the race anyways. The heat was becoming relentless, I was running 4 laps and walking 1 lap, keeping my speed down, whilst making sure I was hydrating plenty with both water and Tailwind Nutrition. I didn't want to fuck it up with making silly mistakes like not drinking enough. 

Early doors into the race! pic by Dave Andrewartha
I made sure I put factor 50 emulsion anti sun (not that it does anything to protect me) and I kept moving. I had to remember, to keep moving, keep moving. It was soon the hottest part of the day and it was painful, but I was moving, I was running, I was making damage to the total. My wife had to get me a Calypso ice lollie as she could see I needed it. It has saved me on so many occasions. Soon enough all 3 of us were having them LOL.  The 12 hour point was approaching and at 11 and half hours in, I decided it was time to get a refresh of the legs and stop for the first time (apart from the odd toilet stop which was like frigging sauna in the portaloos btw). I had done about 48 ish laps and ready to get a calf rub down. 

So my first massage was by a guy called Louie, he didn't hang around he went straight in deep, much deeper than I was wanting or expecting, I just thought it was going to be a gentle rub down, but instead he thumbed in deep lol. Ok it did the job, but was not after a torture session so early in the game. As I went back out the 24 ers were about to start, I was making my way down the return straight, and they were soon zipping past, all happy and full of energy. They made me feel sick lol. Oh how I was wishing I was them. They were all fantastic though, some knew me already, some did not but that never stopped them sending me positive vibes, giving me "well dones2 etc etc. However, it was the 36ers every lap would check on each other, making sure we were all ok. We had survived the first 12 hours and now making our way towards the 24 hours. Darkness started to fall, and our head torches came on. I changed my kit whilst on the course, so not to break the rules, and made sure I had a wash to freshen up. 

Having some fluids. Pic by Becky Harris
It was going to be a tough 8 hours until Sunrise. I knew my pace was going to slow anyway as expected during the night stage, so it wasn't going be quick. It was however going to be cooler in temperature, but it became humid. I wanted to make as much use of the cooler temp as I could. There were a pair of 24 hour runners Danny and Robert, flying around together keeping morale up by singing, first of all I was like "dear God!" but soon it became a pleasure every time they passed me. They had a speaker playing songs, and they were singing along with it. The 24 hour runners were amazing, I was in awe of them, the pace some of them had, was unbelievable, Gary and Barry were zipping around, the ladies too. Sarah Cox and Sarah Hambley amongst them smashing in the miles. 

I managed to get through the 100KM mark before the halfway point but I was fully aware I had a long way to go yet, but that was the battle wasn't it? I felt I could've gone faster, but I had to make sure you don't burn out too quickly. It was defo a Tortoise and Hare kind of race, and it would very soon I would have to start digging deeper. 

One of the many motivational signs

I was going to watch a film via Sky Go on my mobile, during the early early hours, but by then I was mentally crippled, and I couldn't be arsed. Shame I was looking forward to watching the film Tag again. It was during the early hours, I was texted by my wife saying Kieran was having a tough time, proper big time. He had been in the massage tent a few times by now, and needed some company. So I decided to keep him company for a few hours. So I got my phone out and we went on an App I have for my boy called Kids Quiz. I thought, this will be simple enough to keep our minds ticking over as we went round and round and round. 

It definitely did the trick, and after a few hours of laps, I needed some blister treatment from my wife. It was 2am and my wife had been grabbing little naps here and there in between some laps. She was truly the hero here, she looked after all of the 36 hour runners making sure we finished. 

Looking like I've escaped the mines during the night phase. Pic by  Adam Terrell
After about 70 miles into the race, my feet started to swell, so out of retirement came my trusty Hoka Flops, I last wore in 2015. These were the shoes I had to modify during my Epic New Forest to Land's End 251 mile run. I knew it would happen, knowing it would be hot and I'd be on my feet a long time. So I packed them in case, and thank god I did they definitely helped to finish. The Carbon X's I wore for 70 miles were fantastic, definitely the best road shoes I've worn in my 10 year running career, had my feet not swelled, they would've got me to the end I reckon. 

I continued moving, drinking a nice warm soup. I was still drinking water and Tailwind but I needed a little comfort food, I was starting to feel low, The laps started to drag, and soon Kieran got a second wind and started smashing in the laps again, the guy is a frigging machine. I was at this point told I was only 2 laps behind Deano, I had caught him up a little, and about 3 laps ahead of Keiran. He was flying around, both me Deano were like "what the hell has he just taken?" I was pretty sure he took back 2nd, and although I wasn't really thinking about position, a little bit of me did die and now I knew I just had to keep moving.  Deano too upped the pace also to try counter Kieran a little. At one point I thought, my feet are a little tender, I need to get them off the ground for a min or two, so I laid on a park bench, set my phone timer for 10 mins. I put my feet up and laid back. I kept hearing runners going past, knowing they would check on me, I kept sticking my thumb up to prove I was ok and not actually dead. This little rest did the trick for a bit, it got me going and kept moving.

I had enough by now! pic by Becky Harris

The 100 mile mark started to seem out of reach now too, I couldn't see how I could do it. Although I was that tired (I was actually starting to fall asleep on my feet) I couldn't do the basics of Maths. It was quite funny, because me and Deano trying to basic Maths of working out hours left etc just wasn't happening. I was hoping the Sunrise would give me a spurt but it didn't, my morale was getting lower and a lower, I knew I had more heat to content with. I had a porridge not long after Sunrise, and I kept moving. Soon the 12 hour runners would cross the start line, and once again we would see the fresh faced, super speedy runners smashing out the laps and all I wanted to do was curl up in the corner. I had got through 24 hours, and still had another 12 do. Oh god! 12 more hours of going round and round and round. It started to get warmer as well, there was no way I can do this I was thinking. I kept going though. Kieran had slowed down as well and was back to shuffling, as was Dean now. I soon approached lunch time, having had my calves given a nice refresh by the next Masseuse who had taking over called Jay and eaten some lovely chilli, I was feeling content in myself. 

I changed my kit had a wash down (all on the course as we weren't allowed to leave the course), to help me feel fresher. I'm glad I did, because I felt clean. I brushed my teeth, and made my way round the course again. 

Getting closer to the end. pic by Becky Harris
It was around 82 laps in, and I was getting a milky cup of tea, my wife came to me and said "I have a plan, you can achieve the 100 miles by the end" I was no, I can't. Up I got and I went for another slow lap. I was now averaging about 20 minute-25 minute walking laps, but when I arrived back at the start line, Dean was waiting for me, he too was struggling, he had 4 laps to get to 100 miles to do, he heard about my wife's plan for me and said we'd do the plan together. As long as I was out for each lap, by a certain time, and as long as it took no longer than 30 minutes, I could do it. 

I suddenly started to get another wind, was this possible, so off I went with Dean and we power walked the next few laps, we did 15 min-17 min miles averages. We got him to his 100 miles and he had the cow bell ring for his 100 mile lap. He made 94 miles and we still had another 7 laps for me, or so I thought. As we went past, we got told I was on lap 87 both me an Dean said to each 7 laps to go, then we finished the lap and got told I still had another 7 laps to go. I was in a little confused, so I thought well they must have meant prior the next lap would be 7 to go. As I finished that lap they said that was 87 done, which meant I had 7 laps to go again. I was tired, in pain and I just heard 7 laps to go til 94 3 times. I couldn't compute it. We got round to the start for a cup of tea, and that is when I decided I am just going to crack on, I crossed the line and confirmed that was lap 88 done. It was, so I just powered on, we made plenty of time so I could take some time, but I wanted to make sure I crossed the 90th lap mark first and finally get out of the 80's. Dean helped me get to 90th lap and that is when I decided to have another chilli, and a quick leg rub down. I headed out with Dean. Kieran was not in a good place, so I told Dean do crack on with Kieran and I will go on my own. I was so motivated now, I powered the next 3 laps, I wanted to get them done, so I knew safely that as long as I went out before 8pm on my last lap I would make the 100 mile mark. 

One of the final laps with Tracy, one of the Event Crew keeping our morale up! pic by Becky Harris
I powered the next 3 laps and gave myself 45 mins to do the last lap if I wanted. I had a Victoria Sponge, and a cuppa tea, leg rub and went out on my last lap with Dean, wife and son. I had 30 mins ish to the finish 36 hours. As long as I arrive after 36 hrs is up I won't have to go back out again, we took our time slowly plodding around. Kieran went round with his son. Me and Deano were going to cross the line together, him on 100 laps me on 100 miles (94 laps). We both had the cow bell ringing, for our 100th lap/100 mile lap. 

It then became an nice bimble around, with my son, wife and Dean. We took our time doing the last lap, knowing not to cross the line before 36 hours 00 mins as we didn't want to go round again. The sun was starting to go down, and the temperature was slowly dropping once more. We made our way round, and I thanked the marshals out on the course. With out those wonderful people giving up their time, this event wouldn't have happened and I know for a fact I wouldn't have survived. Their morale and support kept us all going! 

Eventually, Dean and myself crossed the line, the cow bell ringing, I had made the 94th lap aka 100 miles and Deano had made the 100th Lap 106 miles. So chuffed for us both, as we stood and waited for Kieran to come round with his boy in arms he crossed the line and the three of us gathered together for a big group hug. We earned it, no matter what position we ended up, we got each other round. We survived! 

Despite, the lack of sleep, the tender, swollen feet, my grumpiness, I bloody well did it!! Now I know there will be people out there saying " is that all he managed to run in that time", but those people didn't toe the line with me and the others. 

We did it! 
Considering the longest training run was 12 miles since I ran the 30 miles and 10 miles during Hope24 back in June, I think I did well. Gaining 2nd place was something I had never dreamed of, this event has given back some self confidence in my self, I've proven to myself I can be mentally strong again. No one will ever take it away I'm now a podium finisher in an Ultra event and a frigging tough one at that too! 

Even as I type this blog, I still think someone is going to tell me, it's a dream. However the official result came out, and too my surprise, I had actually run 95 laps, yes 1 more than I was told. So even better than I had thought!! Whoop!!! I just wanted to say, I was honoured to be on the same course as Deano and Kieran! Kieran was amazing, I was just lucky on the day. 

2nd place!
This event will live long in my memory, much like the YOLO adventures I have ran, this will be as special as them. I have Dave and his wife Sally to thank for giving me the opportunity to run in their events. I can't recommend the Bys Vyken Events enough, if you want a race where lots of love, attention to detail, a challenge then head over to BVE and press the enter buttons. You won't be disappointed!

The 36 hour race results, no one can ever take this away from me
I also have to thank Tailwind Nutrition UK for their on going support, I went through a lot of it this weekend, I have no doubt it played it's part in my success. Also a thank you to Uglow Sports, again the kit was amazing throughout the 36 hours, comfortable in the heat, and at night. I'm so thankful to be part of the Uglow family. 

The final thank you is to my Wife and son. My wife crewed me the whole 36 hours, with very minimal sleep. If it wasn't for her, her experience in crewing me over the years, I know I would've been down and out if it wasn't for my wife and her plan.

So wow that was a little long but it was a long race. Thank you all for your support and time reading. 

Bathing in my own success 

#GoTailwind #UglowSports #StitchFree 

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Hope24 2019 - When a Festival of Running becomes a Family of Running

If you go back to 2014 when Hope 24 was first started, it's aim was to raise money for charity as part of a group of Firefighter's fundraising efforts. It was a small affair, just over 150 runners and straight away this event fell into many runner's hearts. One of those runners was myself. 

My little family helped the event that first year by volunteering for hours on end marshalling out on the course. My son was around 3 and half years old. He was giving out high 5's and Mexican waving all the runners every lap. Given those 150 ish runners the morale they needed to keep going. 

Little did anyone know, this event would not only become an award winning event but a family! My son has been involved in some form every year since the 1st, and apart from last year when I was deployed, I had as well. 

So this year, I was excited to be back, preparing for one my favourite weekends of the racing calendar. So my plan was to take a couple days off, prior to Saturday from work, go down, help out with the course set up. I love giving back to this event, mainly because the RD Danny Slay is pretty much a one man band when it comes to the set up. It's so nice it's gone from a couple of us helping out, to a good amount of people that come and help out. It makes a lot of difference and it's what makes the event even more special knowing it's built by runners. The fact it's a charity event is just the cherry on top of the cake. 

One of the pre race laps in the rain
It was going to be a busy weekend for me for many reasons. On Friday night, I went to the Theatre as we had tickets for Les Miserables (it's amazing BTW). Having to drive up to Portsmouth Sunday evening for work meant I wasn't going to be able to run through the night like I usually do. So I had to have a break planned in during the race, so I made my race plan around the busy weekend. 

I decided, I was going to run 30 miles on the Saturday in no longer than 8 hours, take a good break get some sleep (attempt to) then get up early morning, and try again to run another 30 miles. Well that was the plan anyway!

During the Thursday whilst helping out I recce'd the course to make sure it made sense and measured ok. So I did a lap, which then followed later another another lap. I wasn't expecting to do another lap. I had got out of my wet running clothes from the pissing down rain and was in jeans etc. Due to having to pick my son up from school, we had to get a jog on as we went round measuring out the mile signage. As it was still pissing down with rain, I suffered some serious chaffing doh!!

My son completing another Hope 2.4km race

Friday morning, back down helping Danny with the registration stuff, doing the numbers etc giving him an extra hand. I also got out for another lap, to double check the course and check the lap mileage. We were pretty much all ready to go, I set up my gazebo for the race at the start/finish straight and then left to go to the Theatre. I had a great time to be honest and it probably allowed me to chill out and become less of a Runzilla (I said less, I still was a little) prior to the race start. 

Soon enough race day was here, we got down to the arena in good time, finished setting up my little run base, and got my boy ready for his 2.4km race he had, which started at 10am. It was great to see so many kids taking part in the two distances they could race. They all seem to have smiles going on. My son went off, and made his way around the course. When he finished, we asked him if he enjoyed himself to which he did. We said we'll go find out his chip time but he response was just brilliant. "It's ok I'm not bothered, I just went out to have fun. I don't care about my time". I love his outlook to running I really do. 

It was race briefing time, I tried to shake off my pre race nerves, and relax. After Pete did the usual safety briefing, Danny did a few mentions, 1 was for remembering a Hope24 runner who sadly passed away aged 36. This automatically brought me to think of my own best mate who died of the same age a few years ago. We did a round of applause for him then the second mention was for a lady who was celebrating her 21st birthday by running solo around the course for 24 hours lol We sang happy birthday to her as you do. 

Having fun on the trails! Pic by AG Images
Everyone gathered on the starting line, and we were off. The course took us out of the arena briefly before turning back in and heading down towards the bridge by the cottage. From here, we then started our climb, firstly up through the wood behind the cottage for about 1 and 1/4 miles before getting some relief running down a gentle descent through the the equestrian fields full of sheep. Once we reached the bottom it was straight back up up the climb, it wasn't steep but it was long, you eventually finished the climb around 2.5 miles in once you were in the woods. From there is was downhill ish all the way back. Although it was undulating in some of the more flatter sections, it was definitely a negative split lap. The second half was fun, beautiful and very enjoyable for me. Each lap was fun as I made my way through 3 miles towards the 4th. Just before the 4th you reached marshal point which was amazing. The Dartmoor Search and Rescue guys and lasses were brill. They laid on a bit of an aid station with various sweets, coke and water and most of all Watermelon! The Saturday day time was a complete opposite contrast to the previous few days, it was sunny and very warm! I'd say borderline hot, so the Watermelon was a welcome treat each lap. From 4 miles it was the run home, down through the shooting grounds, over a bridge, up a small steep hill, over the undulating hill top to run down in to the arena to the finish line. 

A lap with Nicola pic by Melvin edited by me
So as I said my plan was to run 30 miles on the Saturday in the very warm temp. I ran the first 3 laps pretty much by self, occasionally seeing some one I knew at various points to have a chat with and either they or myself would move on ahead. I was joined on my 4th lap by a friend called Nicola, it was lovely to have her company all the way round that lap, we'd chat whilst we went round and the lap soon was finished, it was then I was met by my wife who said my lap times had not been registering. 4 laps completed but not showing on the timings. I went straight to the timing tent, who checked my bib. Due to how I had it pinned on the back of my race vest, it wasn't working. We rearranged it, they checked that it worked which it did and I went off once more. They added my laps on and all was well again. 

I'd grab a fresh bottle of tailwind, and off I went. I went through a 500ml bottle each lap, and this plan worked for me. I lost about half an hour grabbing stuff in between laps, and stopping to sort out my chip timing. 

My fuel and recovery nutrition for the weekend
After I finished my 5th lap I checked to make sure it registered which it had. I had one more lap to do and I went out to finish it. 6 laps were completed and I was pretty pleased with the time of 6 hours 47 minutes for the 30 miles. I was just over an hour faster than I planned to be and considering it was a tough course, off road and very warm, I was pleased how it went for me. 

Cos I had more time, I went home for a shower, then we popped out for something to eat. I enjoyed my big steak! It was late by time we got back to the arena to get some sleep. I did eventually get some sleep though before waking as planned around 3.30am to get sorted to get out at 4am. I started the 7th lap just after 4am and although my legs weren't quite awake , they were moving. It was still dark so I had my head torch on but as I made my way round it soon became lighter and by the time I had started my 8th lap I could chuck my head torch in the gazebo as I went past. 

All going well! Pic taken by Gill Case, edited by me

Again I saw a few people I knew during the 7th lap, there weren't as many out as there have been in previous years. Some even thought I'd be out all night as it's normally what I'd do. I hadn't this time, as it'd be too dangerous for me to drive up to Portsmouth later on (check me out being all sensible and that). 

During the 8th lap, it rained heavy. I had taken my coat off and ditched it at the end of the 7th lap as I was too warm in it. I was soon soaked through, and it was at that point, I decided enough was enough. With the drive later on, on my mind and the fact I couldn't be bothered to keep trugging on through the soft mud along the river side, I called it a day at the end of lap 8. 

Out on one of the laps
After a pleasing 30 miles on Saturday, the Sunday's 10 miles became a bit of a recovery run instead. I'm not too disappointed, I covered 40 miles in under 10 hours of running, I had done a good 30 miles for me and I was feeling strong, I could've done more if I could've been bothered. I still enjoyed the 40 miles I did and that was the main thing. I didn't want to ruin an enjoyable experience by carrying on in the rain and mud. 

So thus was the end of my Hope 24 weekend, a weekend of running, watching my boy race, catching up with friends and having a good time. The event feels like a big family gathering, and it's a feeling a few events I have experienced has given. Once you've toed the start line of Hope 24 you feel you've been accepted into a family and that's how it should be, whether it's your 6th time or your 1st. Whether you done everyone or come back after  a break, it's great!
Danny, Me and Pete. It was Hope24 that brought us together back in 2014
I believe we are so lucky to have this event in Plymouth, it's worth the travel for those who have to, each year it gets better in my opinion. It deserves more recognition than it actually gets. Whether you're an inexperienced runner or a season veteran, it's an event that allows people to test their limits whatever their limits maybe. 

Thank you to Danny and everyone who puts in the hard work required to put on this event, if you're reading this and never done it, look it up and enter next year when entries are open. It's the cheapest 24 hour race I know of, most are double the amount, you get pretty much the same as the other but most of all you join a family and two great charities benefit from it. What more could you ask for?

Thank you to Uglow Sports and Tailwind  Nutrition UK for their continuing support, I am forever grateful. 

Finally thank you to my wife and my son for being the best support crew. I know I wouldn't be able to achieve a lot of the stuff with out them being there doing what support crews should do. 

Thanks for reading, hopefully my film I'm putting together should be out in due course. In the mean time, read some of my other blogs or head over to my YouTube channel, watch the films and subscribe. 

My son's and my medals 


#GoTailwind #UglowSports #StitchFree 

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Film Review - "Underdog" Chasing a Dream at UTMB

So this is a first for me, I've been asked to review a book and various kits before, but to review a film is not something I'm often asked to do. In fact I've never been asked to review a film before. When I was told it was a film called Underdog, which was about Damian Hall's attempt to break the top 10 at UTMB last year in 2018, I had no hesitation to say but to say yes. 

Watch the trailer here

Having met, and spoke to Damian in person before,  I found he's a genuine top bloke, and I've been following his adventures on Social Media for a while now. So I was pretty excited by this and looked forward to watching the film made by Summit Fever Media. Having seen plenty of their work in the past, I have high hopes based on the films I've seen at this point. I hope this would be as good as the previous films I've seen such as their Spine footage. 

So here is the synopsis taken from their website "Damian Hall takes on the most famous ultra marathon in the world - the 171 km +10,040 m ascent UTMB® - the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. His aim is break into the elite ranks of the top 10 male podium finishers. The athletes he is up against are professional, full-time runners. Younger and faster, many live and train in the mountains. "

If you don't know what UTMB is, then watch the film and I'm sure you will soon get the idea. It is like many of these worldwide known races in Ultra Running, it's a bucket list event for many to just finish. They have a series of races of various distances, all highly contested, with UTMB being the main one! Having some friends who have raced it and completed it as well, it always gets me excited for the live tracking during race week. It's just an exciting race series to follow!

Anyway the film, was it any good? Here's my honest review. 

The film starts off building you up for the big day. Damian out in all weathers, training for his dream, his goal to break the top 10 at UTMB. Something not many British Athletes have done. He like many other Brits don't have the training play grounds of huge mountain trails, he has to make do with what Britain has to offer. Up early hours, sacrificing family time, special occasions as many elites do, to be able to put in the best performance they possibly can. Running through bogs, gale force winds and rain at the top of some of our highest points, early in the morning when everyone else is still in bed. 

Already the film has you hooked in and as a runner, who although I'm nowhere near Damian's or even any other good runners standards I am fully aware of the sacrifice I have had to make for the events that I have run. You immediately feel part of his journey and the film has you from the start. Even though, most of us already know the outcome, I was still willing that nothing was to go wrong and he makes the start line. 

The film really shows off well, the journey to the start line and I was now excited for the race to start. 
Weather was not going to stop the training - pic by Summit Fever Media
Once we're in Chamonix, it's just beautiful cinematography. I wanted to be there, starting with him. It had drawn me in, and I just wanted to go put my trail shoes on and go find a mountain. 

Damian is joined by his support crew Nicky Spinks (legend), and we're soon watching Damian flying off. You're now taking on a breath taking race, with stunning scenery made even more stunning by the great filming. Not once did I find it all over the place, or it didn't work. I felt I was there, egging Damian on. Damian's narrative of the race as it goes along is so captivating. He has a way of speaking that goes so well with the footage. 

Soon enough I was on the edge of my seat egging Damian to do it, I kept saying in my head "you've got this". Seeing Nicky getting emotional at the end, also made me a little emotional. For a film to have that effect on me, showed me that it is a fantastic running documentary. I've watched many running films, I even attempt to make my own which are mainly for my own enjoyment, but this has to be up there with one of the finest I've watched. I genuinely believe it maybe up there with the Barclay Marathons official film. That film is often watched, and I'm sure once this is out there and known about, it will be well viewed over and over again for years to come. 

Stunning pic by Summit Fever Media
Overall, it is a really good running documentary and one I've already watched 3 times prior to writing this. Each time, I'm wanting to head out the door and get on the trails and for a film to do that, proves to me how well it is made. 

I think it epitomises the sacrifice, the effort, the drive required to not only finish this event, but to break into the Top 10. 

I personally didn't find anything I didn't like with the film, that could be because I'm not an avid film critic that goes searching, but I would be surprised, if those interested in trail running, or running itself don't enjoy it. At 21 minutes long you don't need to clear your diary either. 

Go and watch your self the adventure that Damian leads you on, as he attempts to break the Top 10 at UTMB, the film Underdog

Thank you Summit Fever Media for giving me the opportunity to watch and review the film. I'm now off to watch it again.


#GoTailwind #UglowSports #StitchFree 

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

London Marathon 2019 - Is it Still as Special as 2010?

The London Marathon, if you spoke to the majority of people even if they don't run and you mentioned the London Marathon, they would know about it. Of course there are other marathons all around the world and some bloody fantastic ones here in the UK but if you asked 100 random people "Name a marathon race in the UK?" most would probably say London. 

Now I get other runners have their various opinions on this race, I understand many of those opinions but for me the London Marathon is special and I will explain why along the way through this blog. 

I remember as a child seeing it on TV, hearing that parents of friends of mine at school or where ever having completed it. So I have always been around the London Marathon for a long time. Never in a blue moon did I ever think back then I would run the London Marathon when I was older not alone have the opportunity to run it twice. 

My focus, since my last race the Arc of Attrition was the upcoming London Marathon, I devised a plan and had been following it pretty well. Training over the Feb and beginning of March had been going pretty well. Until I made an error one Sunday. I had already gone for a longish run but had not ran as many miles I'd have liked. So I decided to jump on treadmill at home and beast myself to make up for it, instead of just putting it to one side and sticking to the rest of the plan. 

Out on one of training runs near my house  

This unfortunately lead me to injuring myself and giving me a calf strain in my right leg. I was so furious at myself for being such a dick! So I eased off over the next couple of weeks, but it didn't seem to be showing any signs of improvement. So off to my buddy Big Geoff the Physio at Flow Therapies here in Plymouth. The man has worked wonders in the past with my body. 

Thing's seemed to be improving, although it wasn't fully healed, the uncomfortablity (is that a word?) I was suffering during my long runs were nowhere as bad, and although my training took a hit, I was content with how it was going. Up until the injury my pace was getting quick and I was feeling stronger running wise. It took a big knock with the injury, and damage limitation took over. 

Yet, two weeks before the big event, during my last long run, I had to cut my run short. I managed 8 miles but at around 6 my calf started to become comfortable again, and it worried me. I decided to call it a day at 8 which I was a little annoyed about but with two weeks to go, it was the sensible thing to do. Now I had a big decision to make, do I still start and hope I finish. Yes it may not be quick or pretty but I will cross that line again, whilst also giving me mileage in the legs for the future events I have lined up or do I defer until 2020? 
One of the training runs along the Camel Trail. Very lucky with the weather!
The only other time I have run the London Marathon was back in 2010 and that was the start of my running adventures. It changed my life and in a good way, ever since I've applied each year again through the Ballot hoping to replicate my good fortunes of 2010. After 9 further I attempts I finally was successful again in the Ballot, and finally getting a place for the 2019 event. My wife ran in 2018 which I was unfortunately away for, so I was unable to be there as she crossed the finish line, like she was for me back in 2010. 

I decided to sleep on it and give my calf a few days rest. I have until pretty much right up til the day before to decide either way. As it stands I chose to make the start line, knowing it'll be an easier last couple of weeks anyway, with no further planned long runs. I had  treatment still booked in at this point also and after a few days rest it felt good again, and treatment seemed to be doing it's trick. Only time will tell now, I will lay off any treadmills, so the temptation isn't there to push myself and I will just put in a few smaller, comfortable runs on the lead up. 

The weekend prior to the Marathon weekend was my birthday weekend, so a good excuse for a rest. I did absolutely no running at all. I just wanted to spend quality time with family and my best mates family. Something I rarely do on my birthday as it's often away, last year for my 40th I spent it at sea in the Java Sea prior to coming alongside in Jakarta, Indonesia (see blog here)

I spent the remainder of the week leading up to the marathon, with easy runs and just chilling. My original game plan was already out the window thanks to the calf injury scuppering training, so now it doesn't really matter I wasn't going to beat any PBs or my original London Marathon time. I'm there to enjoy myself come rain or shine. 
So the time arrived, and we made our way up to London on the Friday, the journey was pretty painless on the way up. We arrived and sorted ourselves out ready for visiting the Expo first thing in the morning. The one thing I love about the Expo is seeing friends, it's like a local a running event feeling, where you see people you know and catch up. Well that's what it felt like for me anyway.

We arrived at the Expo early, when it wasn't too busy and picked up my race number using the new system. It went far more smoothly than the first time I ran London that's for sure. They scanned my QR and boom I had my number. We made our way around the show, and I caught up with various people, including good friends Dan Lawson and Mike Julien. 

We spent a good forenoon visiting stands and looking at the new products out. It did however feel a lot smaller of an Expo to what I've seen in the past there. It may have been the way it was laid out, but it felt smaller or less there than usual. 

Good friend Dan Lawson
The rest of the day was about family time. So this meant lunch, trip to the cinema to watch Avengers: End Game (bloody loved it btw) and then getting some good sleep prior to the race (normally this doesn't happen but it did this time). 

The Day of the Race

Race morning came, I was already prepped and ready to go. I tried my best not to be a runzilla (you know the pain in the arse twat some runners can be because they're nervous and anxious etc about the up coming race). We checked out and had some breakie, something I don't normally do but I fancied some porridge. We made our way to the start line at Blackheath, the train from Charing Cross to Blackheath was rammed, and hot. Not the greatest way to start the day but, it wasn't going to ruin it. I siad my good byes to the family, and made my way in. After handing in my drop bag after security checks, well they weren't very thorough checks. If you had your own bag you couldn't take them in unless you put them in the clear bag provided. They didn't check the privately owned bags though, which seemed to defect the object of having security checks. Yes mate your rucksack won't have anything dodgy potentially in it, if you stick the rucksack in the clear bag. *facepalm* It's not a bomb proof clear bag!

Anyway the niff naff and trivia was all done, and I awaited for my zone to open and start the race. I saw some more people I knew and has some good pre race chat to calm the nerves down. I'm not going to lie, I was very nervous. Probably more nervous than the first time I ran London. I could probably put this down to various reasons, but either way I was nervous. 

Night before preps
Eventually around 45 mins my zone crossed the start line after what was a quite a cold hanging around period. In 2010, I started only 2 minutes after the gun went, there was no real wave type format then so this although cold, was far better due to reducing the congestion at the start but not for those in later zones (see further down in blog).

Not having a determined goal time, I went out with the aim to have a nice comfortable first half, the crowds from the start were pretty much buzzing all the way. The support along the course was absolutely fantastic, and I was making sure I took it all in. I chatted to other runners, I high five'd supporters. I danced to the bands, I went and had a ball! 

The miles ticked off one by one, as I weaved in and around the other runners, as I approached Cutty Sark, I was expecting to see my wife and boy waiting for me to cheer me on. I saw them not long after and seeing my boys face made my smile bigger, as I knew how proud he was. In 2010 he was there but wasn't born yet, the wife was pregnant with him. So it was amazing he's got to witness both his mum (last year) and now me finish this great Marathon Major. 
Approaching Tower Bridge
I continued on my way, making it to half way shortly after crossing the iconic Tower Bridge, I don't know why but at this point when you cross the bridge, it really does lift you. Is it because you know you are half way, or because the crowds are pretty epic? I don't know but it does spur you on. 

The miles kept ticking off, and as I ran I kept sipping on my Tailwind ( I went through about 2 ltrs but the end) , and just making the most of the atmosphere. The miles soon fell away and I was then counting down the miles. 15,16, 17 miles soon went, and I started to look towards the final 10K that was soon approaching knowing I will be seeing two friendly faces that I knew. I also by now had 2 wee stops!

At 20 miles, I saw two friends on the official London Fire Brigade water station. I stopped, gave them a hug and took some water. It was great to see friendly faces of Danny and Susan who organise Hope 24 (which I'm running in June). 

Up until then I've been supplying my self with fluids, having Tailwind Nutrition in my race vest. Two reasons for this, 1 mainly because it provides me with everything I require nutrition wise and 2 because I wanted to reduce my use on using plastic bottles. I did over the course of the race only use two bottles, and this was to pour some over my head and just to have a little change in taste. I also took S-Caps along the way in addition to help prevent cramp coming on which hit me bad back in 2010. All in all I was pretty pleased with how this side of the race went. 

At 23 miles pic taken by Susan :)
As I ran down mile 22 towards mile 23, we head the other direction alongside the runners still on the other side heading to mile 14 and on wards. I made the effort to applaud them and cheer them as I ran past. I know what it's like to be at the back and it can be a little demoralising seeing the quicker runners heading the other way towards the finish. But you battle on because you want to finish. It was sad to see though the road cleaners literally sweeping up the tail runners. 

They were still in front of the cut off, and with official pacers so the road cleaners shouldn't be there yet. It was also sad to hear that water stations had already closed for them as they made their way round. I'm sorry but if you advertise a cut off of a certain time you should allow those within the time to experience the same as every one else. Yes the crowds may disappear, but the event crews shouldn't go until the last runner is through. I can see why my wife last year had a horrible experience. 

I could go on but that's already done on my facebook page.

I carried on my merry way, ticking off the parkruns left to go. At mile 23 I came across another two friends, Chris and Maria shouted at me as much as they could until they had my attention and it worked, and so glad it did. In 2017 I gave them massive hugs when I saw them and this year they returned the favour. I bloody love these two!

I know I didn't run the racing line but wow! lol
I made my way along and came across the edible fluid pods that were being handed out. What a fantastic idea, and defo a step forward in my opinion to reduce plastic. My only criticism is the delivery as they were in cups, which sort of defeats the object. If they solve the delivery of these pods then it's a good way to go! I again by this point had my final wee stop, which was bound to happen as I took on plenty of fluids. 

I made my way down Embankment towards the home stretch and I was on cloud nine, you know it's the last couple of miles, left to go. You pass the 40K marker then the 25 miles and you turn the corner on what can feel like the longest home straight ever. However you turn right at Buckingham Palace then suddenly everyone's emotions are running. Many are running for great causes. It's a reason why this year's tag line was #ThanksaBillion because they predict around 1 Billion pounds will been generated for charity since the Marathon first begun! It's why this event is one of the greatest charity events, where people do such amazing things, some it's just running the marathon which is no mean feat, and some is running it whilst making it even harder wear some fantastic fancy dress. I saw a guy finish in full riot gear! 

A friend who saw me around the 41K mark said I looked a mess, I felt fine, however I have never looked very pretty anyway when running, so I'm ok with that. 

The Finish! I was sent this by Carly a friend who was watching out for lots of us.
I crossed the line, and I absolutely enjoyed ever step of the way! No time pressure, no worries, it was a fantastic experience, which is very hard to beat. Yes there are other amazing marathons out there. But for me there is something very special about London, it may not be the best course, but the atmosphere is very difficult to beat. I'm so glad I got the opportunity to run it again, and it will leave on in my memories and who knows, may even inspired my son to run it when he's old enough. If he does I will be there with him like he has been for me. 

I'm glad I didn't defer in the end, yes I could've come back next year stronger and my time this occasion wasn't my fastest but then I may not have enjoyed it as much next time. I took the risk and it paid off, two weeks leading up was looking very dubious, but in the end it was all worth it. 

So YES, London is still special if not even more so now, I just wish it was the same for my wife and others who didn't get the same experience I had.

Thank you to all those who sent me messages of support, those who were there and gave me hugs along the way and of course my little family, without whom I'd probably not finish the events I run. 

Thank you to Tailwind Nutrition UK, and Uglow Sports for their continued support. It really does help having such great brands behind me. 

So now it's time to look ahead, I've two smaller local races to look forward currently before Hope 24 in June. 

In other news I recently was informed my YouTube Channel was one the Top 20 Ultra Running YouTube Channels. Not expecting this, but I will take any good news that comes my way See Link but thank you Feedspot for this! If you haven't already here's my channel for you to check out and if you can please subscribe YouTube Channel. You can watch the video here 

Thank you for reading (I know it was pretty long and probably boring sorry!). 

Me in 2010        My wife in 2017        Me in 2019

#GoTailwind #UglowSports #StitchFree 

Madness of King George 3 - 36 Hours of Pure Hell Would I Survive?

So the main event of the year for me was approaching and since Hope 24 a few months back in June, this has been my main focus. Having ran ...