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 

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

10 Things I Hear As A Fat Runner

Most people who know me, know I admit I'm no Mo Farrah in stature. It's always something I have to deal with, being a short arse as well, weight never looks great on me. It's just something I have to deal with. The weight comes and goes, plus I love my food. 

Anyway I thought I'd write the 10 things I hear often said to me when people who don't know me very well, hear I'm a runner and the type of events I run. 

1. No offence but you don't look like a runner (always a winner this one, starting with "no offence")

2. You? You run?

3. There's no way you can run that far

4. Have you just started?

5. Is it harder to run being a larger person?

6. Why aren't you skinny?

7. You should try Slimming World or Weight Watchers. 

8. I can't even drive that far

9. Don't you get bad knees

10. You have cake after a run? (Yep I have heard this a few times)

I once saw on an American Running Forum which I'm not a member of, mentioned me and that I was too thicc (fat) to be an Ultra Runner. No idea how I've made it across the pond.

I never claim to be the fastest, the best or even any good at my sport. I run, that's just what I do. I used to be really really fat, now I'm just not as fat as I used to be. I've always said people are welcome to join me on runs, if they're faster than me, then they'll either have to loop back or run slower. If I'm faster than them I will run at their pace. 

Just because I'm not physically slim doesn't mean those like me are not runners, as long as both feet are in flight as you move, you are a runner regardless. So whether you are skinny, large, tall, short etc etc if you run, you are a runner. If someone is out there running, encourage them don't make them feel like shit, at least they're trying to make a better version of themselves.

I just love to run


#GoTailwind #UglowSports #StitchFree 

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Kit Review - Zoncolan Running/Cycling Glasses

It's not often I get the opportunity to do kit reviews, so when I received a private message  from sunglassesrestorer.com via one of my social media outlets, I was a little dubious. Anyway, a few emails afterwards and here I am now writing a blog on this piece of kit which is available here Amazon

Now I love wearing with sunglasses, and I've been fortunate in the past to be supported by a brand before. One of the pairs I liked had interchangeable lenses which allowed me to wear them in any weather in, in any form light level. So regardless of whether it was raining or blowing a gale, my eyes would have protection. I hate wind and rain getting into my eyes whilst out running and even occasionally cycling. 

So these glasses arrived, in a nice hard protection casing, along with a soft bag and if required a neck strap. Can't remember what you actually call the neck strap but you know what I mean. 

Zoncolan Glasses 
On first appearance they looked a bit chunky, and definitely not a pair you would want to wear every day on the street or beach trying to look cool. These are definitely a pair designed with the purpose of running or cycling in.

Before putting them to the test I tried them on for size as such. To be fair they were pretty comfortable. As I never looked them up really prior as I wanted to gauge everything with out any pre made assumptions, I didn't actually know anything about these pair of glasses. 

They felt pretty light on my face, which is always a good start and also fitted very comfortable. So I decided, I would put them to the test during my up and coming race at the time, the Arc of Attrition (see race blog here ) . The weather was expecting to be rubbish, so with what are clear lenses, this would be ideal for the rain and wind that was to be expected. 

I wore them from the start of the race, and what I didn't realise was they were light reactive lenses. As the sun came out my glasses got darker. I only noticed properly when I looked at my reflection on a car window. This was a pleasant surprise, I honestly just thought they were clear lenses. 

Tested during the recent Arc of Attrition pic by NoLimits Photography
Anyway as the race progressed for me, they remained on my face. It wasn't until my race was over in the dark and there wasn't any need for them I took them off. I actually forgot they were there, to be honest. The design of them being light made it feel they weren't on my face at all. 

Now something I found with other brands was that they often fog up, when I stop or slow and down whilst running. This never happened at all during the race, the lenses have little holes in them at the bottom which allowed the air flow around them better. Also even when I had my Buff up around me face because of the cold and the wind, they never fogged up like others have before when doing the same thing. 

As the day darkened the lenses became clearer and soon running in the dark they were clear lenses, protecting my eyes from the elements. 

They felt really comfortable during the race - pic by Mudcrew appointed photographers
Since the race, I've run in them a lot and in various weathers, although during the race they never fogged up, they did once during a training run. However that said within like a second they defogged without the need of me having to remove them from my face. Which is something I've had to do with other brands. 

Now you'd think for light reactive sporting glasses you could be asking for a tidy penny to be spent for a pair but they're on Amazon for £27 which actually isn't that expensive and I can tell you they're really good for their value. 

I know people often will say the product is good because it was sent to them free, but this isn't the case, I'm saying for the value and for what they are designed for they are surprisingly good. Yes as I said you wouldn't want to be seen wearing them for every day use but they're not designed for that. What they are designed for is for running or cycling and they do the job very well!

Used them a lot info February!
The company that sells them also restores sunglasses as well, if you need lenses for your Oakley's they do them etc etc. You can find the product here on Amazon  or you can visit their website for more info here https://sunglassesrestorer.com 

So there you go, overall I'm pretty pleased with this product, a friend has also ordered a pair herself now after suffering the effects from the weather on her eyes during the race. 

I've used them for runs since and still happy to wear them from now on. 

Thanks for reading


#GoTailwind #UglowSports #StitchFree 

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Arc of Attrition 100 Mile 2019 - Is it ok to DNF?

We have to scroll back in time a little to actually this time last year, I should've been standing on the start line to the Arc of Attrition 2018. Instead I was about to sail for a short notice 5 month deployment which as some of you know ended up a 10 month deployment instead. 

As I was sailing down the Bay of Biscay, I was envious of those racing around the coastline. Knowing that should've been me. Alas it wasn't! I had to defer my place and hope I'd be around for 2019. 

Rolling forward I came home end of November 2018 and whilst trying to give back some valuable family time, I also had to plan in some quality training for the Arc. Yes I had been running whilst away, but I hadn't had the quality training this event requires. It may have been too little too late, but I was going to give it a good damn go! 

Out on the CP for my first recce run
Having sat down with my wife, we worked out when best to get down to Cornwall and do some recce training runs. So I cracked on with my training in and around family time, before Xmas and then when January came off we went down to Cornwall for 3 weekends on the bounce. 

The paths were looking good over the three weekends,  testing out my kit went pretty well and I had my plan formulating. I did have a few niggles with my left calf, but I was managing it. 

During one of my recce runs, around the Kynance Cove area, I took the wrong path and ended up wasting time trying to get across, boggy lumpy marsh type land. I said to myself "right, don't take that one next time as it will be during the race, follow the path around closer to the coast line"

Sometimes on the South West Coastal Path, you could take the wrong path easily if not concentrating and you can waste a lot of time correcting yourself. 

With my recce runs out of the way, I was duty the weekend before and was able to give my left calf a rest the best I could. I had some fun times during the training, but did get some confidence issues. I'd been out of the long distance game for about a year thanks to work last year and my mental game wasn't up to scratch and it was something I would need to conquer soon or it might screw me over. Also knowing there would be people wanting me to fail as well, was also playing on my mind and I needed to make sure they'd not get too much in into my head during the race. 

How can you not love these trails?
Race weekend soon came round quickly, and I had to sort myself getting down to Redruth where my parents lived and where I was staying. My son was still in School back in Plymouth and didn't finish til 1pm on the Friday. So my support crew aka my wife wasn't able to crew me until she got down straight after picking him up from school and dropping at him at my parents on the way. This meant the first 3 hours ish I'd be with out a crew, I prepared for that kit wise and mentally wise. 

Thursday afternoon I got the train down, I took  with just some of my kit as well as the mandatory kit I was to race with. As we approached Redruth the weather had gone from rain to heavy snow. Suddenly this threw a lot of issues in the works, had I got the right shoes with me to start with? Had I enough warm clothes to race in? I had to to try and block that out my mind. 

It also got to the stage that I thought I may have to walk to registration just over two miles away as the roads might have been too bad for a car. Loads of people had issues on the roads traveling down, some didn't even get to the start sadly. That was my main goal, get to that start line. It didn't matter really after that, I just had to get to the start line. I really felt sorry for the organisers Mudcrew, although they always want the weather challenging, it usually storms not snow blizzards. It caused logistical nightmares!

I made it to registration, luckily the sun came out and thawed the roads enough for my parents to drive me there. Suddenly, I started seeing friendly faces  I've not seen in a while and my heart warmed up. With a hug from Jane Stephens one of the RD's for the race, followed by others I felt so happy. This was my happy place and I was back in it!

Snowfall in Redruth WTF?
After registration I went back for some food and tried to get a good night sleep. I slept pretty well, and because I registered the night before I was in no rush in the morning. My running pack was packed, clothes ready to go on and my parents dropped me down to the start. 

There was some snow still on the ground, it was cold and the wind made it feel colder. However I was surrounded by more friendly faces, and more hugs, handshakes and smiles were coming my way as I met and greeted friends who were either running, crewing or helping with the race. That's one thing I find with this discipline of the sport, the friendships made are amazing. I've turned up to 10K races before in the past and I may meet someone I know, but most of the time you are just a face in the crowd, you run, you finish, you go home. With these type of events, you see friends, you catch up, you make new friends, and then that friendship continues on regardless of how long it is until you see them again at another event if you don't see them in between. I love this type of relationship with other runners of this discipline. 

Jane and Fergie two out of the 3 RD's. 
I digress, so I got my tracker fitted by Richard from Racedrone. It was good to catch up with him briefly also, after which all of us gathered for our race safety brief. I had a joke with Fergie one of the RD's about reversing the course and telling everyone just to see their faces, but alas he never did. After our race brief, we all got on to the 4 buses that was provided and we were off on our way to the start line in Coverack. 

The start line was busy, music playing, everyone getting those last minute selfies prior to big the off. Fergie, introduced the top 5 male and female runners for the race. It was an exciting start line for sure. 

Soon start music was blaring, drums were banging and we were awaiting the horns to set us off. It wasn't long before those horns sounded, we were off down the and along the road. Smoke flares blowing in the wind as we ran past spectators and crews cheering us off. This was it, I took a big breathe in and said to myself "Let's get this done"

At the Race HQ prior to starting
My support crew wasn't going to appear until further down the course, so I set in my mind to just do what I can, manage my fluid intake and keep pushing on. As long as she got there at some point in the first section I would be ok. 

As soon as we started to leave the Coverack area, we hit our first diversion on the path. This took us up and away a little from the actual path via a steep climb, but wasn't a major diversion as such more a pain in the arse especially so early on in the race, as it was narrow and we soon were bunched up. 

Eventually though, as the miles started to tick off, we all opened from each other with some breathing space but able to see each other ahead to follow. I was on plan, and things were going alright. I was in a happy place and making head way. The weather to start with was pretty good, but the path was not as good as it had been during my recce runs. It was sticky and slippy mud, and my first error was noticed. 

Myself and fellow Muskie Sarah (she's bloody great!) pic taken by Carl Champion
I chose to start the race in the Saucony Peregrines because the path had been pretty reasonable prior. I could only take one pair down with as I couldn't carry spares on me during the run and my others were being brought down. I was keeping my more aggressive lugged Koa's for when I reached Land's End knowing they would be fair better for that section afterwards.

So already in the sticky mud, my lugs on my shoes were full of mud, so I couldn't get the traction I needed. I wasn't how ever going to let this put me down. I cracked on, up and down the hills as best I could. The temp warmed up a little and some runners took off a layer, I however was comfortable enough and didn't remove my jacket. I knew it would get colder soon enough and it would save me precious time not having to put it back on again. 

I then had a company for a little while, in the form of a lovely Swedish runner called Lupita. We had some conversation, and I assisted her in directions through a cove. Soon enough though she was off ahead and eventually I was by myself. No one in front or behind for a while, I was alone. Something I trained for during my recce runs was lone running. I enjoy company and if I get some it's a bonus. However knowing I was more than likely going to be alone for majority of the race, I needed to be mentally prepared so despite having offers of training with others during recce's, I decided I needed to be use to being on my own. It worked for the duration of my race anyway. 

Eventually I made it to Lizard Point about 11 miles in my left calf was a little sore, nothing major, but I was a head of my plan schedule by about 15 minutes at this point. I needed a bottle filled, so the Marshalls filled a bottle up and put one of my sachets of Tailwind Nutrition I had in. It was going to be another couple of miles yet before I hopefully get to see my crew. 

I cracked on to Kynance Cove, trying to make good progress where I could. I saw a friend who happened to be one of the No Limits Photographers doing pictures for Raidlight the sponsor of the event along the way. I gave her a hug and thanked Harriet for being out (I know she had to be but that hug is what I needed to keep me in a good place). 
At Kynance Cove having just met my support crew. Pic taken by Mudcrew appointed Photographers
I made it to Kynance Cove and as expected my support crew was there, with bottles ready to change, so I had fresh bottles to get me to the next meeting point at Mullion Cove. I was doing ok at this point. As I made my way after Kynance Cove I soon came to a point where I messed up during a recce run. I saw the path I took last time which was wrong, I knew it was wrong so I then went with what I thought should be correct. I said during the recce don't take that path during the race, as it took me over marshy boggy land and would slow me down. So I followed another path closer to the edge of the coastline and it started to lead me down and around. I saw what looked a foot path as I went round and thought is this the path, it wasn't quite right, but didn't want to stop and waste time or head back and waste time. It was when I looked up and noticed I was at the bottom of a sheer cliff side. "Fuck" I'm such a dick. I missed the correct path as I ran round and cocked it up again! I gathered my thoughts which were over the place, and had to decide whether to go back which would cost me time, or climb straight up in hope to find the path. Thing is I was slowly gaining on the runner in front I could see him on the other side of the cove, and not only had I wasted time, I had cocked up catching him up. 

I decided to climb the side of the cliff back up, it was horrific, I found the correct path and I had lost about 45 minutes to the error. I knew the race was over, I'd be chasing time instead of time chasing me, but I knew I could scrape through the CP1 cut off and see how far I could get before being pulled. I had to control my thoughts, and get on with the job. 

Pushing on earlier in the race. Pic taken by Mudcrew appointed photographers
I then pushed on as hard as I could. I got to Mullion Cove 18 miles in and my support crew was at the top waiting. I passed by one of the Mobile Marshal Crew at the top first, it was Daz a runner from my club. He checked I was ok, he was wrapped up trying to keep warm, the Arc Angels out and about were amazing. The weather had turned and wasn't pretty any more. I had a quick change of bottles, picked up my poles and made my way onwards. 

My crew continuing to meet me along the way, changing bottles if needs be and some Cola if I wanted. The sun was going down, so as I knew my race was over, I quickly took a picture as it went down , so I had something positive to take away from the race. It was beautiful and it's what brings me to the path often. 

I made my way to Loe Bar (a beach section) and crossed the sand to the right side of the fence as directed in the Race Brief. I wasn't that far from CP1 now, it was dark my head torch on. I made my way up the diversion to the top of the hill and headed towards Porthleven. 

I was about a mile out, and saw time was getting close, so I picked up the pace. I hit the tarmac and it was getting closer to the cut off. I was determined to get there. I was flying now down the road into Portleven. I reached the Arc Valets waiting on the corner, they shouted I had 5 minutes to get to the CP. I carried on with my fast pace, I was blowing hard. I had one of the Arc Valets running with me. Soon I had a few Arc Angels around me, encouraging me on. I went past my support crew, who grabbed my poles of me as I ran. I went passed the previous old CP1 (I would've made the cut off had it not moved from here) and was disappointed for a moment as I ran passed it LOL. I was told we had to run up a hill to the CP1, so I turned up the hill and gave what I could. It was hard! I looked at my watch, I was told it was only 100m to go (it wasn't it was more like 400m) and I had 30 secs left. I couldn't do it, so I slowed to a walk. I saw other runners on the way back out from CP1 continuing on to the course and wished them well and good luck. For me I knew it was over, I was a minute over the time and that was it. I had run 26 miles and gave everything but it wasn't good enough. I felt good, I could've done more and wanted to do more but knew that was that. I walked in the CP1 and saw Jane one of the RD's and got a hug.
Just got to a top of another climb and shocker someone there to take a pic whilst your blow out of your arse. Pic taken by Mudcrew appointed photographers

I gave back my tracker and drank a cup of tea and had some soup. Although my race was over, I was ok about it. This is my 3rd DNF in 7 years, first was at my first ever Ultra, 2nd was the 2017 RAT Plague which I attempted after finishing my North Wales to South Wales attempt the day before. So it's not a new thing, and I've learnt from each of them. This one was ok, I was pulled from the race for being rubbish not because I gave up. 

Me and the wife left the CP and I caught up with two friends having some food whilst they were in the middle of crewing another friend. It was lovely to catch up with them, and the kind words Sarah and Anthony gave me afterwards was nice and I knew then I was in a good place. 

Myself and Lupita. Pic taken by Mudcrew appointed photographer
So that was it, Arc of Attrition 100 mile over. I ran a marathon of it, cocked it up and now I have to just get on and focus on future events. Will I return? I hope so. I enjoyed myself out there and that is what I wanted from it. I reached two of my goals - the start line and CP1 so I have easily something to improve on for sure. Is it ok to DNF? I think so, when an event has a high DNF rate like the Arc has, there is nothing to feel bad about DNF'ing. There were many reasons runners fell short of the finish, the adventure to the start line made them worthy of being there, everything else is a bonus. I was so pleased to see some of my friends reach that finish line, one made me shed a little tear. Mark Evans who had attempted 4 times prior finally crossed that Arc finish line. All of us were so happy to hear that news. 

The course record was broken by Kim Collinson who ran it in 20hrs 43 mins and 46 secs, beating 4 time winner Steve Wyatt. The Female record was also broken by Laura Swanton. 

To all the runners whether you finished or not, you all amaze me and thank you for being on the start line with me. Thank you to Jane, Fergie and Andy all the Angels, Valets and Marshals. Mudcrew events are something special.

So now my next event is the London Marathon, if I end up cliff climbing on that I really have cocked things up!!

Thank you to my support crew Cathy aka the wife for doing what you do for me out on these courses. Thank you to Tailwind Nutrition and Uglow Sports for the continued support. 

Until next time


#GoTailwind #UglowSports #StitchFree 

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 f...