Sunday 31 January 2016


#122  Chocathon Fowlmead  3:56:30

"I run for Chocolate" themed event.   There was chocolate everywhere.

I suspect that this will be an annual event similar to the Cakeathon (which now has 4 every year) and sells out immediately. The event itself was a 6 hour timed challenge and because the weather forecast was poor there was an extra 15 minutes for you to get out on your final lap.

There was also to be a chocolate theme at the aid station (Brenda had made Ferraro Roche fudge) and the goodie bag would be dripping with chocolate and the medal would be a huge 1lb chocolate bar with theme "I run for chocolate".

With Donadea only 2 weeks away this would be my last run before then so I wanted at least to go 31 miles. As the weather was expected to be poor, mud and puddles was due to be the order of the day. I have ran in Fowlmead twice before and on both occasions it was atrocious conditions. Time would not be as important as distance was.

Guess who was there
Advise was sought and was given on the types of shoes to wear as the winter Cakeathon was on the same course on Saturday. Hoka road were the choice of the day.

We started in rainy and windy conditions on the third different route that I have done around Fowlmead. Even at that it was by far the best conditions that I have run here with the underfoot conditions being a little puddley and muddy but nothing too bad.

We were off at 9 on the dot and there didn't seem to be too many
fast runners today. Around 6 or 7 went ahead of me immediately but I cant remember any others passing all day. The route was a balloon (with a string) shaped route. It started off flat along a familiar part of the course from previous outings past a pond and crossing a small bridge before a decent climb for 400m up along the periphery. A steep downhill took us to a windy flat section before another very steep uphill (100m) to the main path around the park. A long section that oscillated from being into and with the wind brought us all the way round the park before a steep downhill brought us to the out and back section to the start/finish line. The loop was 4.37 miles with 6 loops being a marathon,

I would say overall today was mildly  hilly at around 1000ft climb.

Aid station
Remnants of the Cakeathon 
The aid stations today were special with the leftovers from yesterdays Cakeathon as well as plethora of newly baked chocolate themed goods as well as everything else you would ever need. The fudge today was strawberry cheesecake (a special request for me), fruit and nut and chocolate orange. It was all ridiculously good.

The goodie bag had nine different chocolate bars and a 1Kg bar of Galaxy as well as a bottle of double chocolate stout. The medal of course was huge and was 1 mm thicker than normal which gave a little extra weight.

I have little memory of the weather today but I have been informed that it rained a lot and was very windy but it was not cold. We had the tail end of storm Gertrude to contend with but we had the better day of the weekend. Certainly the course deteriorated as the race went on and large sections got very muddy. In general though the course held up fine.

Steve (well under 4hrs)
I ran quite a bit today with Steve from Swindon who was in training for the Manchester Marathon where he hopes to break 4 hours for the first time. We were going around at a nice steady clip and when he said he was stopping after 5 laps, I couldn't believe it as by then he was a way ahead of me and well under 4 hr pace. But he had his plan.

Goodie bag
Several clubs seemed to have many many runners there today with "the rebels" having around 10 with quite a few doing their first marathon. There seemed to be a full compliment of 134 running with many doing the double Cakeathon/Chocathon weekend.

Because I was with Steve and going well my plan changed mid-race and after lap 4 a sub 4 hr was on so I decided to go for it and leave the ultra for some other day. This would be good training for Donadea 50K nationals either way.

My pace today was remarkably steady with my lap splits very close together
  1. 38:14
  2. 39:36
  3. 39:41
  4. 39:32
  5. 39:29
  6. 40:08
Great medal
This gave a 1:57:19 first half and a 1:59:11 second half for a 3:56:30 which wasn't half bad in the conditions. There were very few today went out for Ultra distance and I was 9th over all and 5th of those that finished at marathon distance (Results to be confirmed). There were no super fast guys there today but there were a few that came in sub 3:30 which was good running.

Today was very much keeping concentration with the eye on a good time in Donadea and a sub 4 in similar trail and elevation conditions goes a long way to that.

Photo:  Philip Rand

Polar stats for today click here

Monday 18 January 2016

Jeskyns Challenge

Jeskyns Challenge, Cyclopark, Gravesend.  34 miles (5:31:26)

4:05 Marathon , 4:53 50K and 5th out of 116

At the start
The wet weather took its toll on this event and what had promised to be a nice run around Jeskyns forest just south of Gravesend didn't happen due to environmental reasons. Fortunately Traviss and Rachel swung plan B into action and found a new course at very short notice just a couple of miles away at the Cyclopark. There was also the option of transferring to a new Jeskyns challenge in June or swapping to another SVN event. In the end about 80% (116) turned up as scheduled to run the new route.

And we are off
The route was reasonably bland but at least we were running. The course started at the Cyclopark which had fantastic facilities in terms of toilets, showers and a cafe. The route was a 3.7 mile lightning bolt out and back shaped course. We left the Cyclopark  running downhill to join one of the trails along the motorway. A long climb on a narrow trail eventually opened up but kept climbing until we crossed the motorway and railway at about 1.2 miles. We then kept following the railway via a narrow path still climbing to a turnaround. The out section was into a cold cold wind all day. Turning we had a lovely long sweep back the way we came with the wind in the back. After crossing back over the railway and motorway we made our way back to the Cyclopark via a wide cycle track that was predominantly downhill. A sharp uphill brought us back to complete the lap and to the ridiculously well stocked aid station.
looking back towards the start

Coming back along the cycle path
The fudge today was Bakewell tart (not my favorite) and cinnamon and apple which was gorgeous but was all gone after the first lap.

My first goal of the year is to beat the cut off at the national 50 k championships in Donadea in a months time. This gains me automatic qualification for 2017 and a world ranking. I thought this event was a great chance to see where I am. I started off very steady lapping at around 35 minutes.  7 laps was a marathon and 8 laps and 1 mile was a 50 k.

It was cold, very cold and my core never really warmed up all day and I struggled with cold cold hands all day. I came through 3.5 laps or half marathon in 2hrs exactly. This was slightly disappointing as I thought I was going better than this.  I kept going and didn't slow down that much keeping well under 40 minutes a lap.

Awesome medal
Brenda is back
I could tell where I was in the race as you met everyone twice every lap and I was keeping my place in the race. The marathon distance came in 4:05 which was OK and probably meant that a sub 5hr 50 k was on the cards. Lap 8 went OK in just under 40 minutes coming through in 4:43 and I turned immediately for the last mile confident of a sub 5 hr 50 k. It was a tough last mile mostly uphill and I was delighted to come through in 4:53. That gives a lot of confidence for Donadea which is trail and a similar

Immediately I slowed, reset my watch, drank a bottle of water and shuffled forward as part of a cool down. To say I slowed is an understatement as I walked shuffled around lap 9. I was frozen by the time I finished and rang the bell as soon as I got there.

The medal was awesome and I got my 300 mile SVN badge.

Photos courtesy of Dee Rand and Gary Groutage and Phil Batchelor

Results Click here

Polar stats for today

Sunday 3 January 2016

Enigma Winter Marathon

#120 Enigma Winter Marathon Day 2  4:04:50

The start
I was a bit unsure about today. I had a big week running over the holidays which started with a big sub 4 effort at the Phoenix River marathon on Monday and also included no less than 3 Fartlek sessions and 2 Park runs. So I was a bit knackered. The Park runs were in Basingstoke. Since the last time I ran there, the course had been modified to accommodate larger numbers, and it was now nearly all off road. I don't like the new course as much. Given the muddy week that was in it, it was a complete quagmire. Not surprisingly they were my two personal worst Park run times at 25 and 26 minutes respectively. But all good training for the Dublin Masters O50 Team XC in St Annes Park in Dublin next Sunday.

Brian Mills with 2 laps to for a 7 in 7
It was also to be my first visit to Enigma running and after researching the course which was 7 and a bit loops around Caldecotte Lakes in Milton Keynes I wasn't too keen. I find the looped runs quite lonely as you can spend a lot of time on your own. Milton Keynes was 1.5 hrs away and was pretty easy to find.

To top it all the weather forecast was pretty bad with heavy rain forecast. It wasn't cold.

However, I have to say I really enjoyed the day and "Foxy" certainly puts on a good show and I actually ended up loving the course. The course itself is right on the lakes and you get right up and personal with them on quite a few occasions.

Marshals doing a sterling job
About 50 started including some doing a back 2 back and some even doing 7 in 7 (more of them later). Not surprisingly a few hared off from the start. I soon found my place in the race in around 10th spot and stayed there for most of it. The race starts with approx a 1 km section that follows the end of the main loop to the aid station (finish) where you start the loop for real. The loop itself can be easily broken into sections by either flyovers or bridges (not one for Finn as I reckon there is north of 30 bridges on the route) and lakeside residences. You can see the finish on several occasions during the loop and you very quickly got the hang of things.

Miserable weather
Its mostly solid path's with one 100 m grass section (that was waterlogged) and many puddles that had to be navigated around including one significant one that had to be bypassed. The wind was into the face at the back end of the loop and with you at the start/finish section. All in all quite straight forward.

The lakes from the finish
The race started off in cold and drizzly conditions and for the first couple of hours stayed like that. But then the rain really moved in and the winds picked up and temperature dropped. For my last hour and a half it was pretty miserable with the rain getting heavier and heavier and was actually coming down sideways at the end. God help those poor marshals who must have froze today. There was a manual timing and lap counting system which given the numbers worked well.

Philip and Caroyln
I actually ran this race blind today in that I didn't look at my watch once and tried to run within myself. As expected I was on my own for most of the day but after 2 laps I actually started to lap some people. I suspect these were the 7 in 7's and Back to Back people. There was great encouragement as you went past. I was only lapped myself by 2 runners with the first way out in front.

This told me that most people were struggling today. In particular I passed Paulo Gino who I see running in Ireland a lot, but haven't seen him since Denzil's races in July 2014. I also passed James Bennet who was trying a 7 in 7 and had ran sub 4 on Saturday. I passed Paul Sahota who was just back from hibernation in Barbados and was on a double. I passed Carolyn and Philip who were having a good chat on the way round and missing both their dog and camera. Lastly On the final push for the line I came up behind Brian Mills for the second time. Brian who now had ran over 1100 marathons is famous for being quiet and reserved and I was shocked as when I passed him he struck up a conversation. I was impressed that he knew who I was until it was clear he knew me as Brenda's friend. But I'll take that. He was on a 7 in 7 and I was surprised when he told me that he was doing it just to see if he was able. I guess we all have our unknowns. I sprinted for the line and was delighted to come across in 4:04:50 in what has to be said were very challenging conditions.

Some photo's courtesy of  Dee Rand.