Tag Archives: Enduroman

The Enduroman Festival of Ultra-Madness

“It’s got nothing to do with vorsprung durch technic you know
And it’s not about you joggers who go round and round and round”

Race to the Stones is now hurtling towards me at an alarming rate and I am now firmly into the sharp end of my training. There was a time when a 20-mile run was a major event in my life. Without wishing to sound blasé, they are now a fairly regular occurrence.

horses on the plain

Cate and Matilda – Man vs Horse

I rested for a week after the Marlborough Downs Challenge and then Cate, Matilda and I did another man vs horse run on Salisbury Plain, this time 20 miles. The horses threw the towel in after about 15 miles leaving me alone for the last five. If you think running with horses is strange, read on. My world of ultra-running was about to get a whole lot stranger.

I wanted to put one really long run into my training plan and I decided to do it at the Enduroman Festival of Ultra Events, a 3-day festival of extreme endurance events held at the Avon Tyrell Activity Centre in the New Forest. Just reading the list of events made me tired. Amongst other things on offer was a single, double or triple Ironman or a 50, 100 or 200-mile ultra-run. I entered an event called “Run to The Max” which challenged competitors to run as far as they could in one, two or three days. I planned to do it on Sunday which was day three of the festival.

As I pulled into the long driveway at Avon Tyrrel at about 6.30am on Sunday, I Avon-Tyrell-Activity-Centre-980x551passed a zombie on a bicycle coming the other way. If he was doing the triple Ironman then he would be nearing the end of his 336-mile ride that had taken the best part of 24 hours before embarking on a 78-mile run that would consume most of the next 24. If felt as though I was entering a very strange parallel universe!

I quickly found race HQ, had a 5-minute briefing before fetching my cold box and kit from the car. I found a space in the athletes’ tent which would be my base for the rest of the day, got changed and without any fanfare I set off.

What I haven’t told you is that, to add to the torture, my 40-mile run was actually 37 times round a 1.1 mile circuit. Because the extreme distances mean some people are running right through the night, the course is designed to keep everyone close to Race HQ in case of problems.

I had a breakthrough moment within 20 seconds of starting! The first 100 yards of the course are very slightly uphill. I felt fresh so I gently trotted up the hill.

“You walk the hills mate”

I turned round to see the guy I had just passed.

“You walk the hills”

I stopped and walked with him. He was doing the triple Ironman so had been on the go since Friday afternoon. He gave me a 10-second summary of how to run an ultra:

“You have one tank of energy. Look after it. You might feel fresh, but don’t waste energy running up hills. Run downhill and on the flat. No knee lift. Lazy running. Play the long game”

With that we reached the top of the hill and he was off. His words stuck with me for the rest of the day. He was bang on! I learned later that he has done 105 Iron distance triathlons.

I ran on with my head spinning in disbelief at what I was witnessing. Things weren’t helped when another runner on the first lap asked me if I knew what day it was!

Despite the madness going on round me, I soon settled into a routine as I got to know the run loop. I worked out exactly where to run and where to walk and put my head down and started ticking the laps off. One of the great things about a short run loop was that I got to meet loads of other competitors which made things pass quicker. Everyone was interested in what everyone else was doing. This is probably the only place in the world where, when asked, I felt obliged to say: “I am only running 40 miles.”

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Nutrition

I got into a pattern of stopping every third lap for a drink and something to eat. I had a kid’s birthday party in my cold box. Everything from Mars Bars and Snickers to crisps, pork pies and real full strength coke. If I failed, it wasn’t going to be for a lack of nutrition.

When I had done 12 laps, I quickly swung by the timing tent to check that they agreed with me. They didn’t!! Sod’s Law. Whenever there is a discrepancy it is never in your favour. They had me down for 10 laps. Of course they were right but that didn’t stop me feeling like I was running laps 11 and 12 again. A bit of a blow to morale.

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Showing Jason Briley that I have done 22 laps

As the morning wore on I continued to tick off the laps. When I was at about 25 miles I got a real lift when Jason, Laura and Sam from our tri club turned up to support. Getting a shout and high five from them every 15 minutes put a bit of spring back into my step.

At about the same time the old problem of sore feet began to rear its ugly head. They quickly went from sore to very sore. Every foot strike sent a little shock of pain through both feet. I tried all the usual tricks. Rest, elevating my feet, loosening my shoes but nothing helped. Then as a final throw of the dice, I begged some Nurofen from the support crew of a friend of mine. The difference was immediate. By the time I was halfway round the next lap, the pain had gone and I felt normal again. Enduroman was worth it for this one discovery alone!

As the afternoon wore on so the bodies on the course became more and more battered. Some people had been on their feet for over 48 hours and it showed. I have never seen so many broken bodies. But in the whole time I was there I never heard anyone complain nor was anyone anything other than cheerful and friendly. The spirit was amazing. Although technically everyone was racing, at the heart of the Enduroman Community is a spirit of “we’re all in this together”. I have never witnessed anything quite like it.

By late afternoon my lap count was into the thirties and I could literally count them down. Just a 10k, just a parkrun, until I found myself at the end of lap 36 – 39.6 miles done. Agonisingly short. One more lap!

By far the coolest tradition at The Enduroman Festival is that you have to run 13315487_10208051447857547_7427120194325846190_n (2)your final lap the wrong way round the course. This means you pass all of the other competitors who are still out there. In true Enduroman style every single one of them, without exception, gave me a high five as I passed. And as I reached the race HQ my finish was announced over the tannoy and everyone who was there stopped what they were doing and applauded me over the finish line.

So 40 miles done. What I have learned? Well I have learned that I can run 40 miles which is a great confidence boost. I have also found a solution to my sore feet, although probably not a text book solution. But the best discovery I made was the existence of The Enduroman Festival. It was the most incredible day and I would love to come back a try another event in the future.

For now it is a short rest and then back to the training. Although Enduroman will be my longest run before Race to The Stones, there is still plenty to do.

 

It’s Not a Marathon, it’s an Ironman Run

This week I took another small step in the learning process of Ironman training. As if I needed reminding, I learned that when it comes to Ironman, normal rules don’t apply – but more about that later.

First I had a mojo problem to get on top of. The week started well with a Club swim session – a gathering that I always enjoy. Lots of chat and banter amongst good friends mixed in with an hour of hard work helped to cheer me up. But by the time I got to the track for our Club’s weekly coached running session on Monday, I had slipped back into my rut. My legs were heavy and I moaned my way through a session of 8 x 600m at about 800m pace.

The turnaround started on Tuesday when someone posted in the fantastic “Ironman Journey” group on Facebook that they had hit a huge motivational brick wall. Their words could have been mine exactly. What followed was like a “Spartacus” moment as literally dozens of people, all training for Ironman, posted their confessions. Everyone was suffering from the same thing. But as important to me was some of the Ironman veterans in the group reassuring everyone that it was perfectly normal to experience a low at some point in training.

I don’t know if it was the reassurance that I wasn’t alone or the rest day I took on Tuesday, but when I woke up on Wednesday morning the world was a different place.

I did a great high intensity 90-minute bike ride in the evening looking for hills and working hard and I followed that with my long run on Thursday. It was a shorter run this week of 8.5 miles to give my legs a bit of a break, but it was such Lakea nice day and I was enjoying the run so much that I ran straight past the road home and tacked an extra loop on to make it a round ten miles. It seems my mojo had returned. To prove it I tagged along on a trip to the lake that evening which I had planned to skip. It was a beautiful evening and I had a great time swimming 2.3km with a group of friends from the Club.

Friday was the big one – the 80-mile cycle that I had bounced from the previous week blaming the weather. This week I was really up for it and was out of the house at 8.30am on a beautiful sunny morning carrying my bodyweight in energy bars and gels and a pair of legs which were slightly heavy from the previous day’s run.

After a tour of lots of pretty villages south of Andover, I stopped at about halfway in the small market town of Stockbridge to buy some water and top up the nutrition with a chocolate twist from the Co-op’s pastry counter – as you do! The only other interruption to my ride were two puncture stops during the second half. The roads around us are terrible at the moment.

I got home in just over five hours of riding time (excluding puncture stops and lunch) having covered 83 miles (132km) with 3,500 feet of ascent. A moving average speed of 16.5mph (26.4kph). For a training ride with ten weeks left, that will do nicely. Then came an important Ironman lesson.

What I wanted to do when I got home was to lie on the lawn in the sun with a large bottle of ice-cold water. What I knew I should really do was to pull on my running shoes and run for a mile straight off the bike and so I did.

It should have been no surprise to me that, as 83 miles is the furthest I have ever cycled, that one-mile run was going to be a challenge. It was a small taste of what starting the run in an Ironman might be like. Let’s not quibble about the fact that the ride was 30 miles short of the Ironman distance or that my run was only one of the required twenty-six miles, it was a struggle.

When I think of running a Marathon, I think about things like pacing strategy, splits and other important stuff. Forget all of that! From now on I am working on a “get round strategy” which starts with ignoring the pace on my watch. Whatever the strategy, run, shuffle or walk, it will have one aim which is to get me to the finish line, come what may.

Tim Lebbon, a member of the “Ironman Journey” Facebook group put it perfectly in a post last week:

“One of the best bits of advice I had was: It’s not a marathon, it’s an Ironman run.”

When I read the post, I thought I knew what he meant. Having done my 83 mile bike and 1 mile run, I now know exactly what he means. It may be one of the best bits of advice I get too.

In other news, endurance racing madness reaches an all-time high at Andover Triathlon Club over the next two weeks as my friend and club mate Jason Briley takes on Enduroman, a double iron distance race (4.8 mile swim, 232 mile bike and 52 mile run).

Because part of the race is through the night, the course is designed to keep everyone close by for safety reasons. So the run course is 50 times round a loop of just over a mile – psychological as well as physical torture!

10356588_10152393645121745_1601295816_nTo keep himself motivated, Jase has had all of his mantras and motivational catchphrases printed on card and laminated and plans to collect one at the start of each loop of the run to see him round the next mile. A brilliant idea!

I’d wish him luck, but he doesn’t need luck. His cheery chirpy exterior belies a core of steel. Enduroman doesn’t stand a chance!