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My next few months of running already taking shape, my failure in the CCC hasn’t dampened my spirits for running and has actually only hardened my resolve to run in races I think I’m going to enjoy and to run them my way (probably talking too much and taking too many photographs – if I listen to the criticisms often levelled at me).

To help me overcome the disappointment of CCC I’m a late sign-up to Saltmarsh 75 – my first multi-day adventure – taking place in October and I’m thoroughly looking forward to taking 75 miles of mentally challenging flat running – this hopefully will put me in good stead for training for what I hope will be a successful ballot entry to GUCR (but that comes later). Post Saltmarsh I’ll be joining the ever awesome Traviss Wilcox at the Ranscombe 8hr timed challenge event. Here I’ll be hopefully be joined straight off of Kilimanjaro by @chiltondiva as she moves from mountain mastery to ultra running starlet. I’ll be hoping to wend my way round enough laps to run 40 miles or so but we will see. 

Staying with Traviss Wilcox and his oversized medals I’ll then be bumbling my way round the November Hugin Challenge looking for another 30 mile ultra distance and a 1:1 scale Viking ship sized medal – well I think that’s the scale!

Winter continues to be my favourite running season and I’ll be finishing the ultra year with the Saintelyon – my absolute ‘A’ race – this is the one I’ve been working towards and the one I’m looking forward to. I might even squeeze in a bit of pre-Christmas shopping while I’m there. I think failure here would be quite crushing but I really do have to turn up for this one as everything about it rings out ‘spectacular’ – well except the lack of medal. That should be the end of longer distance running for 2015, if it all works out that will have been 10 ultras attempted this year and 9 of them completed (fingers crossed).

However, I’m not leaving it there, January brings with it my second pop at Country to Capital (and I’ll be being joined again by the awesome @chiltondiva). I’m planning on this being an easy jaunt to get 2016 underway, perhaps run a better time and simply enjoy it a bit more. C2C is a personal favourite at a great time of year and it’ll be excellent to go back – though I’m hoping the toilet won’t be blocked this time around.

With C2C in mid-January I’m leaving February light on ultra distances as my own stupidity is likely to catch me out on the first weekend of March when I look to conquer the magnificent TransGrancanaria. I signed up to TransGC in a moment of madness the day before the start of the CCC when I saw Wendy offering a few euros off and a very blue t-shirt. Now I’m running the risk of another major ultra going a bit Pete Tong because of a lack of hot mountain experience. However, having examined the profile, done a bit of research and a ‘don’t give a fuck attitude’ I should at least make a passable attempt at TransGC. 

And that’s my next six months sorted – obviously there will be an assortment of other races involved in keeping me active – I’ll probably do a Movember run, more than likely the awesome Vigo 10 miler and I’ll see if I can find a marathon to chuck in there too. But then what happens after TransGC? 

I have some ideas – the Isle of Skye Ultra looks properly amazing but is at the same time as GUCR, Devil of the Highlands also runs into conflict with other races. My favourite ultra St. Peter’s Way would be a lovely addition and if it runs the Leeds-Liverpool canal run might make an excellent replacement for GUCR which I doubt I would get a place in anyway. However, I might get a London Marathon place which would make the Hoka Highland Fling a problem but of the two I think the Fling would be more fun. There’ll be no Centurion races either in 2016 so I could try the 12 Labours of Hercules and some other 50 or 100s but the big decision would be between the 86 miles of The Ridgeway and Ring o’ Fire (both of which have been on my hit list for a while). There’s just so many and I don’t want to be trying to run them all.

So which should I run and do you have any good quality recommendations that are a bit out of the ordinary, probably not that many competitors and have awesome medals? I’m curious to see what’s out there.

‘My legs still ache’
‘From?’
‘Bournemouth Marathon, not sure why I does these races…’

And that got me thinking, ‘why do I race?’ Which then brought me back to the cost of racing, the value of racing, the merits of racing versus running and mainly my own personal ambitions in running terms. It was pretty clear to me from a young age that I was never going to emulate my original running hero Steve Cram. Nor will I ever run a sub 10 second 100 metres – my 11.47 is the fastest I will ever get. So I’m clearly not running because I think I’m a potential champion, perhaps I’m running simply for something to do, let’s not forget that running is my primary hobby and quick fix when things go wrong. After my epic failure at the TG100 I came home and actually was really rather upset, more upset than I had to be over a race perhaps but this is hindsight showcases to me just how valuable racing has become to my personal wellbeing. The day after the race my running mojo had left me and showed no signs of returning, I removed my plethora of medals from their normal home and hid them away in a drawer, I stopped looking at races to sign up for and I didn’t even think about visiting a running shop just incase I was recognised as a fraudulent ultra runner or just fraudulent runner. The TG100 broke my runners heart.

But a stern talking to by a friend who is not a runner reminded me that the reason I run and the reason I race isn’t for the bling, it isn’t to be a champion, it’s to stave off the inevitable heart attack or piling the weight on after binging on all the chocolate in the world and I was told to ‘shut the fuck up and just get out there’. With the help of my lovely physio, Joe Rodgers I get back out on the trail and started running again! only shortish distances but then races started coming and my desire has been working its way back into my life and perhaps just in time.

When I ran the Royal Parks Half just over a week ago I still wasn’t buzzing with enthusiasm, infact I was a little bit too emotionless about it on reflection. But in the last week I’ve been hitting good times across 5km and noticing a general increase in pace – although there have been bad days too. Therefore I come into my next event Xtreme Beach, not filled with confidence, but filled at least with the desire to perform and that I hope will set me up for a better performance at the Snowdonia Marathon.

So what’s your reason to race?

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And I quote … ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no use being a damn fool about it’. W. C. Fields

I gave up the Thames Gateway 100 because I tried and I tried and I tried but to carry on would have been foolish. Let me roll the clock back several weeks and try and give a bit of a background to this sorry story which starts at about 1am in the morning, late in June stood on the edge of the River Tyne crossing into Gateshead having completed Rat Races The Wall. I was elated but with destroyed feet and I knew that my recovery was going to be significant but with that I felt I could more than happily sign up for my first 100 mile race – this I did just a few days after finishing The Wall. Then the problems began, one week passed with no training, two week, three weeks and then a month and still no training – I was now in late July. I kept telling myself that my body would carry me through but how wrong can you be?

Anyway, August arrived and I finally started running again but no more than about 6km per day and not at any great pace. Mentally I wasn’t in the right space for racing and certainly not for ultra running but I did a bit of RRT (running retail therapy) and felt much better about things and having tested out my lovely new Hoka I thought I’d give it a go and see what happened.

Race day arrived at the end of what can only be described as a very hot August and I had hoped for a little bit of rain or I might struggle (as I don’t really enjoy hot weather). But on the day of the ultra the rain settled in on us and stayed that way for the whole of the race that I ran. The first thing to note was that people I was running with were top notch and I can’t praise Mike and the team at Ultra Trails (Saxon Shore) highly enough. The second thing of note is that the village hall that they were set up in was brilliant – warm, dry and well segmented so that those who needed sleeping and/or changing facilities could do what they needed.

I signed in to the race and discovered that there was no race number for me, though this wasn’t such a problem as they simply prepared a new one for me but it turns out they then gave me a number that someone else had. But these things happen and in the grand scheme it was relatively minor that I had to explain at each checkpoint that I was the duplicate 113. Anyway with a small field of only about 15 runners we set out in the damp morning air armed with nothing more than our wits, the race directions and enough jelly babies to sink a battleship.

I felt surprisingly good as I raced along the North Downs Ways, the lack of training and succession of injuries seemed not to be getting to me. The first five miles were filled with delightful chat and even a bit of laughter as we kicked forward. I stopped briefly to add compeed to my feet as I could feel that they were already succumbing to the rigours of there damp conditions and the fact I was wearing my oldest pair of Injinji socks (the fact I’d only done 3 miles in my Hoka probably didn’t help either). Anyway with my feet patched up I set off again and actually for much of the second checkpoint held a leading position but by about 15 miles in my thoughts were already heavy.

The rain had joined us and it was torrential, the ground was then heavy going and worse, the north downs way was incredibly over grown and very step was either biting into your skin, making your blisters sting or filling your already soaking shorts with even more water. Despite this I ran into checkpoint 2 feeling pretty joyous, changed my socks, ate some food, had a bit of a cup of tea and thanked the lovely chaps at the checkpoint, I even met Ian Braizer ( @bibo_boy ) which was absolutely lovely, a great guy from Essex who just had that capacity to keep you going when things felt a bit grim.

But from about mile 33 I was on my own and it was pretty lonely, especially given that my navigational skill isn’t amazing and the directions, while not as bad as the White Cliffs 50 weren’t much better. The one thing about the course was that it was very scenic and I was able to enjoy parts of Kent I had never seen before and this lightened my mood. But as I approached Gravesend I knew that the blisters, lack of training and the weather had drawn my race to a close. Possibly the actual killer was the problem before I came into the Gravesend checkpoint, I had gotten quite seriously lost on the checkpoint prior to my withdrawal and ended up running (according to the GPS) at least another 7 miles. In terms of the ultra this meant I was going to be behind time and also done an extra portion of distance I didn’t need to.

Arriving into, what for me would be, the final checkpoint with only half an hour to spare before the cut off meant that I wasn’t going to be ready for the next challenge. I needed a full set of clothing change, to dry off, new footwear, medical treatment to my feet and food and drink – I just couldn’t face it. I called Mike, the race director and informed him of my decision and headed home. Mike was full of sympathy and I’m grateful I was able to be picked up by my partner and simply sulk all the way home, as Mike sounded like he was having a busy day.

The killer to this event, where just three people finished, was twofold 1. the lack of directions on the course and 2. the weather. Ultra trails have a really good series of events not their hands and deserve to be praised and better attended than they are. But the course description this time, while an improvement, was still not much use, although the GPS files were appreciated and pretty accurate.

The lack of an easily release for the course description was also a bit of a letdown. But let’s not get caught up on negatives – this was a great event in a beautiful place with good support. Each of the checkpoints was well stocked, the people who were manning the checkpoints were pleasant and as helpful as could be. Even when disaster struck and the checkpoint blew away at Gravesend the chaps manning the post stood firm (well under a bus shelter) and saw us in.

I think we just got a bit unlucky with this one and I’m hopeful that the event comes back next year because it is amazingly good fun, great value and with a little tinkering it could be an event people think about as a first choice ultra. I failed this ultra and it hurts that I failed but I’m not done with the TG100 and I’ll attempt it again in the future.

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