Ultimate Trails 110km – A long day out in the Lakes

The Ultimate Trails 110km race took place on Saturday 27th June 2015, starting at 00:15am; when around 300 runners toed a very quiet start line in the heart of Ambleside to take part in the second running of this 24 hour, 110km endurance challenge.

10pm and an eerie mist descends on the quietest campsite ever


There was no doubting the route was stunning, with around 5 mountain passes that Map my run rates as cat 2 – second highest to the cat 1s! However, and just to make it more exciting, the first 3:30  hours were in pitch black with just the illuminated snaking trail of runners gingerly picking their way over Garburn Pass and Nan Bield Pass to light the way. I remember climbing up and out of Ambleside to look back and see an eerie Lake Windermere lit by a half moon shrouded in wispy cloud. It was definitely a highlight of starting so late/early.

Mass start - much quieter than normal

Mass start – much quieter than normal

By this stage I’d already been up since 9am, 16 hours earlier. The intention was to get to the campsite, register, set up the tent and sleep and although the campsite was fantastically chilled out, sleep did not happen. The weather was humid and overcast but as the evening wore on and the excitement began to build, the clouds did part, the sun did come out and the prospects were looking good for favourable weather; something the race director, Graham Patten is renowned for providing.

Very hilly lakes.

Very hilly lakes.

Kit check was thorough with a mandatory kit list including full waterproofs, an emergency 100ml bottle of water and 200 calories of food, a first aid kit, head torch and spare batteries – and photo id. It made for a heavy pack but everyone was in the same boat and it was common sense to be safe on such a long course. The good selling point for this race for anyone who is new to ultra-running, as I am, is that the race director guarantees it is all marked and sign-posted so no need for map reading skills. It sticks to established trails (ok so maybe only mountain goats might use some of them) and by and large it was straight forward, although there were one or two points that you had to take an educated guess at but overall it was a well-marked route enabling me as a runner to focus on making it through without the additional mental effort of being responsible for route finding. It might not suit purists but it didn’t detract from the challenging nature of the route.

Although navigation wasn’t required, I did study the route in order to create a game plan, which had me down for 16-18 minute miles to come finish under 20 hours. As a pace it seems bizarrely slow, basically a brisk walk but after doing some homework and speaking to past participants I felt it was a realistic aim given the terrain. As it was I was on track for the faster end until about mile 43, around Grisedale Tarn, when heat and some serious climbs/descents had a deleterious effect on my.

The route itself was a huge circular course, starting in Ambleside, moving on to Kentmere, Haweswater, Mardale Head, Bampton, Howtown, Glenridding, Grisedale Tarn, Dunmail Raise, Borrowdale, over Stake Pass (never again) to last check point at Stickle Barn Tavern and then on to Ambleside. 65 miles of pure Lake District hard work.

Seeing, or hearing to be more precise, a couple of marshals I knew at the top of Nan Bield Pass was a real boost before starting the tricky descent to Mardale Head, then at about 3.45 the dawn began to break over Haweswater and 20 mins later I was able to take off the head torch which was starting to irritate after having it on since about 11.30pm. By the time I reached Bampton it was a glorious sunrise but I was unable to enjoy it too much as I managed to throw up big style in the gents and had a wobbly few minutes. However after a cup a soup and a bit of bacon (no bread for me thanks) I was right as rain and on my way again with no lasting ill effects.

In total there were 9 checkpoints with varying food options; I’d listed these on my plan as mental stepping stones to help get me through each stage and to minimise having to carry too much nutrition. I knew which CPs had coffee, sandwiches, soup, chips, pizza and which one had the option of beer (mile 57 Stickle Tavern). So it was a bit of a blow when the key food stops I’d earmarked basically came up short, no chips and no pizza and many checkpoints were running out of coke. It seems trivial but when you plan something into your endurance challenge and it isn’t there then it can reverberate throughout the day.

Ultimately it didn’t interfere too much, I had trail mix of my own and ate copious bananas that were on offer, indulged in flat coke where available – which was great especially as I haven’t touched it for over 2 years, and the cup-a-soups helped with the salt intake. I ate absolutely no gels, no crisps and no sweets, but I did purchase 2 orange ice lollies from a tea room near Watlendloth before the Borrowdale checkpoint. It was the boost I needed as coming off Dunmail Raise had left me a bit dehydrated and nauseous.

During the course of the event there were 2 bag drops, Glenridding (36 miles) and Borrowdale (50 miles) but the day was hot and dry so a change of socks at the first one, followed by a bladder malfunction (not mine, my backpack’s) cost me 30 minutes in some blistering sun. In future I will be adding additional nutrition in with my drop bags so as not to have to rely on the organisers, oh and also sun cream which was probably a rookie mistake to forget.

The Borrowdale checkpoint (50 miles) was a real morale boost, manned by a genuinely upbeat chap dispensing sustenance and advice. I took both and realised that I had never done this distance, for this length of time ever, it was a great moment amid a brief respite.

Stickle Tavern was a great final checkpoint with cheering crowds and well wishers but it was unfortunate that in order to get there you first had to ascend the zig zag craziness that is Stake Pass. By now it was mid-afternoon, the heat was ferocious and I’d been walking through every clear stream to cool my feet, wet my head and a few other body parts. As crazy as the ascent of Stake Pass was, the descent on the other side was worse, boulders, rocks, crazy angled paths never ending switch backs – it is one steep hill.

On the approach to the last checkpoint, Stickle Tavern, there was another morale boost when a friend from my running club popped up as she waited for hubby and fellow OAC her husband (doing the 55km), a pleasant surprise is always welcome on a long run and although I was a bit spaced out at the time it was a welcome diversion. On arrival at Stickle Tavern  I downed some water, flat coke (which was a sugar free cola so we were adding our own teaspoons of sugar) as well as leak and potato soup. None of which touched the sides and all of which tasted fantastic. To send me on my way I ordered half a pint of the tavern bitter, served to me in a big paper coffee cup so I could walk on, as long as I promised not to discard it carelessly. It was beautiful moment and another highlight.

mile 59

Smiling at mile 59 – after the half pint

From here on it was more runnable than it had been since before Stake Pass and what surprised me was I could still run, even after 14 hours! The last few miles were twisty and turny, my fellow club runner, Tom, spooked me by shouting my name from behind and for a brief second I thought the trees were calling to me. Those last few miles took longer than expected but it was great to be able to run without boulders underfoot and finally, after a longish last 3 miles, the finish in Ambleside burst into view, I crossed the line and it was done. 18 hours, 56 minutes for 65 miles of hellishly challenging Lake District terrain in hot and windy conditions.

How did it feel finishing the longest and hardest race I’d ever done? Muted is the only word that springs to mind. I wasn’t elated, I wasn’t injured, I had a cold shower (no hot water on the site, bit of a shock), walked around Ambleside looking for food, finally got some fish and chips and watched some of the later arrivals. And then bizarrely I packed my tent up and drove home. I figured if I was going to be in pain then I’d rather it was in my bed and not flat on the ground hours away from home.

As it was I arrived home at 11.30pm (the last runner didn’t get in till 1.40am) after being up for about 40hrs, I ached for a few days, my sleep pattern was all over the place and overall recovery took approximately 2 weeks. Although it is only now, just over 4 weeks since the event, that I am really starting to get back into the swing of running. This is more the mental fatigue following a big race, which I was half expecting. Now I look back and after some reflection I am extremely proud of what I achieved. It was the culmination of a lot of work this year; with my April marathon, May trail 40 miler and now the Ultimate Trails 110km. A lot of it may have been walking but traversing 5 passes in the Lake District is no picnic.

Winner came in at 10:48:57, and first lady was 14:49:01 in 13th position – both from the local area. I came in 102nd in 18:56:29 out of 194 finishers – what happened to the other 66 runners who knows as no DNS/DNF listed.

So for any aspiring ultra-runners I would say that this is a challenge that will test your body and your mental toughness. The views are stunning, the night time section was incredible, the sunrise, the friendliness and helpfulness of the marshals and the enthusiasm of the race organisers is not to be doubted.  But don’t underestimate it and make sure you put your training in on terrain that is comparable – better still try and recce some of the route beforehand.

Lessons learned:

1 Get used to running with a headtorch, it hurts after a while, consider wearing a buff over your forehead and then the torch on the buff.

2 Be prepared for your plan to go south as inevitably things will change on the day. Do not let this put you out too much.

3 Additional nutrition in your drop bags – if you don’t need it leave it (and if it says just shoes, stick a bar of something in your shoes)

4 Emergency money is a must (£10 – enough for an ice lolly and a pint)

5 Suncream!


On my feet I had bog standard New Balance off road shoes but conditions were good and the course was mostly dry, the descents were a bit dicey but there were no falls or sprains.

I wore my Nike 2-in-1 shorts and a long sleeve HH top with a t-shirt over it that had a bit of a collar, this stopped my arms burning and protected me a bit in the wind.

For anything of similar nature I will be investigating the use of poles, for those that used them they looked like an asset – especially the folding ones.

Finally, I knew my Garmin would not have enough juice to be of any use and even my phone was not likely to last the day so I took a mobile battery pack for the phone, it is a bit of extra weight but it meant I was guaranteed use of the phone (camera, music) and I managed to keep Map my run going all the way round.


Going into this challenge I started to doubt I would be able to complete the distance, I thought my body would fail me, my legs would buckle or calfs cramp but it turned out the body was fine and the mind was strong and clear. The twitches and tremors were just bit of pre-race anxiety that faded at the start. Any signs of tiredness also vanished and my motivation was high and I knew if I had to that I could dig deep and call on characteristics such as persistence, resilience and a positive attitude – collectively known as mental toughness. The perfect weather conditions helped tremendously; could I have remained upbeat in the face of howling gales and torrential rain – I don’t know but I have a feeling one day I might find out.

What’s next?

Watch this space.

Further information:

If you want to know more and want to see some great photos of the event then head over to http://www.ultimatetrails.com/ and hunt them out on facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/UltimateTrails


The war on sugar! And about time too.

The white stuff

The white stuff but not the right stuff

Obesity in the UK is massive (BMI of more than 30) – yes that pun was intentional. By 2050 half the population will be obese according to The National Obesity Forum (1) and it will cost the nation £50 billion a year (2). Currently around 26% of the population of England, Scotland (3) and Wales (4) is classed as obese. In 1978 only about 6% of the UK was classed as obese (5), roughly 3.4million people from a population of just over 56 million. In 2014, with a population of around 63 million that means 16.4 million are now classified as obese (not to mention those termed overweight). By 2050, the UK’s population is estimated to rise to 77million (6) – meaning 33.5 million obese citizens, again not taking into account those verging on obese and deemed overweight.

Currently the average man in England is 5ft 9in (175.3cm) tall and weighs 13.16 stone (83.6kg), for that height obesity kicks in at 14.5 stone (92kg). For the average woman in England, weighing 11 stone (70.2kg) at 5ft 3in (161.6cm) means the obese version is 12 stone (76kg) (7).

To give you some idea of context – an average sumo wrestler weighs 181kg/28 stone and is roughly 6ft tall, that makes him clinically obese. His average daily calorie consumption is 20,000 calories largely comprised of carbohydrates (8). So ask yourself, how many wannabe sumos have you seen on the streets who might look the part but certainly don’t do the training?

Despite the prevalence of health advice – from NHS, from the government, from magazines such as Men’s Health (and now Man V Fat) and a multitude of websites, blogs, podcasts, twitter etc, British men are still piling on the pounds’ so the question is why? Unfortunately the answer is most mainstream information on nutrition is wrong, misguided or in bed with the processed food manufacturers and the biggest culprit is sugar.

Today, the UK promotes an eat well plate (NHS) that is 1/3 carbs, 1/3 fruit and veg and the remaining third is meat, fish, dairy and a tiny proportion is allocated to sugary drinks and fruit juices. But it fails to acknowledge that literally thousands of nutritionally depleted calories can be consumed via beverages. Typically a daily diet consists of refined carbs such as breads, pasta, meat, fish, vegs and grain, sugary drinks, fruit juice, fruit smoothies, low fat yoghurts and snacks. In America, approximately 20 – 40% of daily calories are in the form of sugar (Lustig, 2013), with no nutritional value. As a result obesity and type 2 diabetes, which can have severe health implications and reduce mortality (basically you die a lot sooner), are major threats to the health and wealth of our society.

In 1983 the UK changed its dietary advice (shortly after America in 1977) and introduced national guidelines (9) emphasising carbs – prior to this it was protein and plenty of butter, avoiding sugar! Why the change? Some say intense lobbying from the agricultural industry that had a surplus of grain and was developing new sweeteners (high fructose corn syrup). This change was brought about by big agricultural companies lobbying the government in order to sell more grain and cereal based products. It was at this point that obesity began to grip the nation.

But what has this got to do with sugar, it sounds more like an old conspiracy episode from the X-Files? The fact is that that innocent white substance that permeates every single facet of our edible lives is a toxic substance whose cumulative effect is to disguise the nutritional deficiencies of highly processed foods. Sugar supplants the removal of good calories (fat); which would normally tell your body when it was full, with empty or zero calories where the body gets the hit of sweetness and constantly craves it without getting full.

Sugar cubed

Sounds great – you get a hit and no calories, win-win. Unfortunately it does not work like that. In his ground breaking book Fat Chance, and subsequent YouTube presentation Sugar – The Bitter Truth, Dr Robert Lustig explains how the body processes sugar (sucrose, 1 part glucose and 1 part fructose), through the liver. All well and good as the whole body and brain needs glucose but it only needs some as it can make glucose from protein and fat. But only the liver process fructose and too much gets stored as visceral fat (not good) and suppresses the on/off for insulin production (pancreatic hormone that regulates energy storage) – so you keep producing it, and it also suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin, which tells you when you are full and leptin that also regulates energy storage but is affected by insulin.  And unfortunately this combination is not good, you eat more sugar, you get fatter but your body will not tell you are full and your hormone’s go into overdrive (not to mention stress hormone cortisol).

The interesting point Lustig makes is that fat does not get processed in quite the same way as it is easily broken down and used for energy by the body  – but only when the body is not fed by sugar.

He also looks at the different levels of sweetness in sugar and then its derivatives, used in processed food, which are many times sweeter, a list of which are included in the following table, where sucrose (table sugar) is rated as 100 and other sweeteners/sugars are either lower in sweetness, or much much higher.

Until fairly recently this message was not getting heard by mainstream media. It looks like there is a growing groundswell of opinion that this is something to be concerned about particularly for a nation that thinks it healthy to give fruit juice and cereal to children for breakfast. Examples include several recent articles in the The Mail, a mainstream book, I Quit Sugar, Sarah Wilson, 2014, on beating sugar addiction and the likes of Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans who stokes the flames every now and then (08/05/2014 – 8:15am on iPlayer)

So what can we do? Here’s a potential five step plan.

1) Educate yourself; have a look at the work some of the experts and leading players in the fight against sugar have done in exposing the risks sugar poses. Read/watch and then decide for yourself.

Professor Robert Lustig, Sugar The Bitter Truth

Gary Taubes – Why We Get Fat (2011)

John Yudkin, Pure White & Deadly (Penguin – pdf available online, just have a look) and you can read an obituary of him from 1995 here

Fed Up – a film that exposes the American sugar industry, just watch the trailer and try not to be concerned!

Action on Sugar – specialists trying to persuade government to do something about the public’s addiction to sugar

2) Familiarise yourself with terms for sugar and its sweetener derivatives, look at each label when you buy any product that isn’t from the veg section of your supermarket.  There is a detailed list on the following blog liveto110

3) Understand that the food industry is an industry, it lobbies the government to be able to sell food with the least regulation possible and does not always have a person’s health at heart because the individual company will not see its individual products as being harmful (after all they are legal). It is when all these individual products are habitually and addictively eaten that a problem occurs – but that is no one company’s fault! So it is up to you.

Examples include:

2012 Olympics’ main sponsors, MacDonalds, Coke, Cadburys

And Zoe Harcombe produced a reasoned argument against such sponsorship in this article.

Have a look at Authority Nutrition to see some of the tactics (similar to the tobacco industry in years gone past) the sugar industry uses to package and market the substance.

4) Understand that the diet industry uses ignorance of what constitutes food as a way of selling highly processed low calorie foods that are stuffed with sugar in order to replace fat – which is where the taste is and which would normally make you feel full! Don’t believe me, look at food labels as you buy.  If you need a science degree to read it then is it really food?

5) Start to cut back straight away:

1 – Ditch sugar from tea and coffee, cut down then phase out.

2 – Drop all fizzy drinks on their own and with your alcohol – to help you, when you feel like a glass of cola pour the equivalent size glass of water. Add 10 teaspoons of sugar to the water. Try to drink it. Then, if you still want the cola go for it but at least you can’t say you don’t know what you are doing

3 – Drop or severely cut back on fruit juices, each glass contains around 8 teaspoons of sugar and most don’t even have any nutritional value as the fibre is removed.

(Basically don’t drink sugar, Lustig estimates 33% of sugar consumption is via a drink of some sort – we will look at alcohol in future)

Pile on the pounds

Pile on the pounds

4 – Track the sweets and snacks you eat. Look at the ingredients then decide whether to eat or not, even a moment’s hesitation will help you to build up the nerve to stop.

5 – Avoid cold turkey (not the meat, the process of suddenly stopping) but work on breaking old habits (sweets at the cinema, munching on front of TV)

Sound easy and straightforward? It is not, it is difficult and will take resolve, effort and a few headaches but it can be done and afterwards you will feel better for it. No one says there can’t be sweet treats in your life but don’t let them rule or ruin your life (I am currently 85-90% sugar free, another intentional pun).

Final thought, obese men cannot see their toes or their tackle and in some cases end up needing help to wipe their backsides. Is that where you want to end up?

Ditch the sugar dish and break the sugar habit.

Ps. Not all the issues around sugar have been addressed in this piece but look at the experts mentioned above and you will see the full range of the argument. If you have questions or comments feel free to post them – unless you are part of the sugar industry!

Some sources of further information

(1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-25708278

(2) http://www.noaw.org.uk/news/new-report-treat-obesity-like-smoking-face-obesity-costs-exceeding-50-billion-2050/

(3) http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Health/TrendObesity

(4) http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/alarm-wales-soaring-obesity-figures-6279443

(5) http://www.noo.org.uk/NOO_about_obesity/trends

(6) http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/interactive/uk-national-population-projections—dvc3/index.html

(7) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11534042

(8) http://blog.lingualift.com/what-sumo-eat-wrestlers-diet/

(9) National Advisory Committee on Nutrition Education (1983) A Discussion Paper on Proposals for Nutritional Guidelines for Health Education in Britain. London: Health Education Council

Dukeries Ultra – 40mile mixed terrain ultra-marathon through Sherwood Forest and Clumber Park

Getting ready to go go go!

Getting ready to go go go!

After a fair few marathons and one failed attempt at an ultra marathon (Osmotherly Pheonix, 2011 – too hot too hilly and too fat then) I thought it was time to give it another go, which is when I came across the Dukeries Ultra (Nottinghamshire) as a viable introduction.

It is 40 miles and although there is a 30 mile option, I wasn’t getting up at 5.30am to drive to Robin Hood’s hangout for anything less than full value for money.  As distances greater than the marathon go it is relatively benign terrain, or so I thought until I saw that amongst the compulsory kit was 3 pages of route description and 7 pages of map!

Training consisted of running two hard marathons in April and then some wishful thinking, reflecting on my training I would have to say the second marathon (Stratford, 27 April 2014) should have been more of a training run in order to ensure peak fitness. I wasn’t so much concerned about the physical aspect as I was about getting lost in the woods and doing double the distance. Many seconds were frittered away on FB and twitter in conversation with the race directors, who were extremely reassuring (basically said stop panicking, it will be fine and in daylight).

As it was I found myself setting off to Sherwood on a wet and grey Sunday morning, being diverted in the centre of Leeds at 6am because of the half marathon taking place that day, then on the M1 I endured 50mph continuously, as it seems all motorways heading south are being dug up at once. At the race HQ there was the obligatory briefing, a sudden huge downpour, a line up and then yep – the hares were off and us tortoises were at the back – it wa soly a small field of runners, roughly 100 in total.

It seems the law of the starter’s order is always to go like the clappers, even when you know it’s a long long way home – and 40 miles is a long way when it is your own two feet covering the distance. Sensibly I had set a pace for myself of around 10 mins to 10.30 minute miles and naively estimated a time of between 7.50-8hrs hours. For the first 13 or so miles I was running with a lovely lady called Rachel from London and we were able to swap marathon stories and various running related anecdotes, including how her husband had completed a 100mile race by running the last 20miles on a fractured leg (and he was there supporting, on crutches, being driven round by parents).

This was the first real pleasant difference in running an ultra compared to a marathon, being able to run at a pace that allowed conversation and being able to hold that conversation for 2 hours. This allowed plenty of time to get into our stride and settle into the event. The first checkpoint, Hazel Gap, was roughly 8.5 miles in and allowed for a jaffa cake and hello before setting off again. We trundled through Sherwood Forest and I stopped to take a picture of the Great Oak (Robin Hood’s former HQ) and to be honest I was a little underwhelmed. I was therefore relieved when a bit further on I realised I had the wrong tree and in fact the Great Oak is – great! And fully supported as its ancient branches reach out like something out of Hogwarts.

Couldn't find Maid Marion anywhere.

Couldn’t find Maid Marion anywhere.

Four miles further on Rachel and I said goodbye as I pushed on through the woods along the Robin Hood Way and found myself lost in thought on solid trail. The weather was in parts wet, windy and later very sunny. Checkpoint two was 18 miles in and was – Hazel Gap, a big circle to get back to the checkpoint I had run through earlier. So the motto for ultra running might in fact be – it is not the destination it is the miles, otherwise you have just done a big loop of nothing (maybe that’s how people who do 24 hour track runs justify it to themselves, otherwise it could all be pointless!).

Just before passing through the village of Norton there was a torrential downpour so on with the waterproof for a few miles before entering a beautiful little village called Holbeck Woodhouse where I ran past a stunning little church set in a tree lined road. The sun was out by now and I took a moment to take a picture and to re-organise, a luxury ultras seem to provide that marathons don’t.

At Holbeck Woodhouse

At Holbeck Woodhouse

Checkpoint 3 was Creswell crags at mile 24. An amazing gorge with rocks that look a bit like a smaller version of Mount Rushmore in America. Time for another jaffa cake, met a fellow runner who was coping with cramp and then set off on my way.

There followed some fantastic fields of rape seed to wade through, a sandstone lined steep, muddy gorge, a few lost runners (who strangely actually spent the whole day being lost and literally finished minutes in front of me) and a few solitary soles plodding on.

Mount Rushmore of Nottinghamshire!

Mount Rushmore of Nottinghamshire!

At mile 25 my Garmin had died on me; which was slightly annoying as I wanted to mark the 30 mile spot with a little jig as it would have been the furthest I’d ever run up to that point and first time out of the 20s zone. It was somewhere around mile 29-30 I began the ascent (it felt steeper than it was I am sure) of Lime Tree Avenue, after just having run through someone else’s 10k race (I declined the medal they were giving out but I did get a clap and a cheer as I ran through). The avenue borders Clumber Park and is as impressive as it is long so it was a bit of relief to finally arrive at checkpoint 4 at the 33 mile mark.

Long and impressive

Long and impressive

By this stage it was fair to say I was starting to feel the tiredness in my legs but at no point was I disheartened or demotivated, just the realisation that the left knee was hurting (likely IT band as it was the outside) and I also had some stomach issues which necessitated not one but two stops in the woods! At the 4th checkpoint was an American who had apparently got lost and had requested a lift back  – I’m sure he was catching a flight or something and he was very polite in that way that some American’s seem to be. Topped up I set off, said goodbye to the marshalls and the race director who had turned up to pick up the American. The sun was out, I was hobbling a bit and set off down the road, only for the race director to whiz up behind me in the car to enquire if I was still racing, I said yes and she advised me that I better turn around then and go in the opposite direction as I was heading the wrong way. Thankfully it was my first and only navigation error but it doesn’t bear thinking about if it hadn’t been corrected.

The next few miles were slow and basically a power walk, I bumped into a few runners, a chap who was heading off to Scotland that night (after doing the 30 miler) and a couple of runners who had spent all day running but often in circles. Finally at about mile 36 Roy, from checkpoint 3, had caught up to me and we marched – yes no running by this stage, the last few miles in discussing all things running. With half a mile to go the lost runner from earlier passed us (not too happy) and then another lost runner from earlier passed us (slightly happier) but we all finished with a round of applause from a few spectators and a much appreciated smile from the race director.

After 40 miles, and probably because of walking the last few miles, my stomach was fine and more importantly my calfs were fine as I still had a 2 hour drive home. After running a marathon I would typically feel a bit nauseous and dizzy (blood pressure drop) but this time everything was great. I declined the solid food (steak pie/chicken pie and peas if you wanted it) and opted for black coffee with 3 sugars (as I don’t take sugar during races, the odd jaffa cake excluded, this is something my body seems to crave straight after) and I settled down to take the weight off my feet.

A short while later I heard other runners being welcomed in and there was Rachel, my running companion form many hours earlier, we hugged, gave congratulations and both had big grins on our faces. It had been a first ultra for both of us and although it was a long long day, if you can finish it with a smile then it is a good day.

It took me a little over 9 hours to complete, I ate 3 jaffa cakes, some salted peanuts, had half a 33shake gel and consumed 1ltre of water (some of which had some blackcurrant juice in which I think triggered the stomach issues); this reinforces my ongoing low carb high fat approach – and the jaffa cakes were just for fun as they were at the checkpoint. At no point was I hungry, dehydrated or suffering any form of energy depletion.

I ran it well for the first 33 miles and then mostly resorted to walking. I am happy I completed it, I’d have dearly loved to have run it all but now I have a benchmark to build on. Some of the navigation was tricky but with care and thought the route maps and description were enough to get you through (mostly). Terrain was mostly good, solid underfoot and suitable for trail shoes or road shoes if particularly dry; where it got really muddy it wouldn’t have mattered what you wore as it was just slippy. The organisation of the event was great, friendly and low key. For a marathon runner, it provides an ideal platform to tackle an ultra, whether 30 or 40miles, in beautiful countryside. It doesn’t throw mountains at you, although there was one footbridge that had to be straddled to get onto which was not good for the old quads, but it will challenge you mentally and physically.

So if you are looking for that first ultra, or a long training run for perhaps something bigger, then the Dukeries Ultra 2015 could be just the thing.


Blackpool Marathon 2014 – a long way to go for fish and chips!

Time – 3:45:07, 6 April 2014 – fastest time by 10 mins

 Blackpool 2014 marathon results

Another to add to the collection

Another to add to the collection


What a marathon, what a day. Setting off at 6.30am from the good side of Leeds I was lucky enough to see the sun shine over the north west before the clouds rolled in and as I played my usual game of first to spot the Blackpool Tower (even though I was on my own in the car) I was suddenly confronted by a beautiful field of golden yellow rape seed, blue sky and the Tower standing proud on the horizon; for a moment it was surreally beautiful.

The start of the marathon is at the Hilton up past North Pier and as I waited for the start I heard 2 amusing things – 1) a woman asking if there was a queue for the loo, well of course and 2) a Glaswegian saying to his pal, you looking for a place to have a pee??? It just reminded me that there is one thing that unites all marathon runners – the pre-race nervous loo stop.

The race started on time, once the ambulance blocking the start had been encouraged to move and then we were off. As marathon’s go it was quite a small field with just 393 marathons completing the course; ranging in times from 2:34:52 to 6:46:22.

The course runs down to South Shore, just past the Pleasure Beach, then turns around back up past the Hilton, on past Bispham and further on before turning round back down to South shore up again and then back for the final time.

Weather was cloudy, slightly warm but extremely windy when running downwards, initially this was not an issue and for 22 miles I was running (for me) an exceptional marathon, I was tuned in and keeping an avid eye on my pace, varying little from 8.12 to 8.30. But those last 4 miles on the final turn around, running down (south) the lower prom were some of the hardest miles I have run. The wind added an extra 2 mins per mile and I have to admit at this point I was wishing it was over as it felt like a battle all the way but I fought on and thankfully never stopped, never wavered, focused in on the task and there was some great support around mile 24 where people were stood in the wind and rain cheering everyone on. The final half mile involved a climb over a cobbled road but then miraculously after the final turn I was pointed north and the wind disappeared leaving a nice view of the finish in the distance. The last few hundred metres were a joy and I attempted a sprint finish as someone appeared on my shoulders but I felt my calfs scream IDIOT so I let him have his victory and I rolled in mere seconds afterwards and my sense of achievement was palpable. I was on my own, I was knackered and I had run my best ever marathon at 3:45:47 (in the top 50% of finishers)

During the marathon I used 33Shake endurance gel – a non carb non sugar organic gel that has a great vanilla kick and based on chia seeds. For breakfast I had natural yoghurt, chopped apple followed by 2 boiled eggs as I am following a low carb high fat diet which has switched my fuel burning to fat burning from carbs. The results have been dramatic (2 stone weight loss), sustained and now proven in the marathon.

After completing the marathon I managed to make it back to the car, get changed in one of those fancy pay loos where I also managed to press the alarm button instead of the flush as I had taken my glasses off and had a mild panic as I thought the doors were about to burst open! This was then followed by a little trip to Bispham for fish and chips from my favourite Blackpool chippy and whilst it was a bit blustery to indulge on a bench overlooking the sea I did have a look out to sea with what must have looked like a stupid grin on my face.

Will I do it again, you bet, did I enjoy it, yes it went like clockwork and it is a low key no stress affair which is a world away from the likes of London. It has plenty of PB potential and if you live in the north it is pretty easy to get to and from. OK so it is in Blackpool but if you run fast you don’t have to linger!

My results

My results

Some great motivational quotes

Sometimes motivational quotes can be a tad on the cheesey side but often or not there is a kernel of truth in many of them. One of my favourites is:

Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the lion or it will not survive. Every morning a lion wakes up and it knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve. It doesn’t matter if you are the lion or the gazelle, when the sun comes up, you better be running. – African proverb.


The American motivational speaker Denis Waitley, author of The Psychology of Winning (1995) amongst many other books, made a few excellent observations:

“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.” 

“Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” 

“Mistakes are painful when they happen, but years later a collection of mistakes is what is called experience.” 

“Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.” 

“..time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you’ve wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow.”


If you come across a saying or a phrase that resonates with you, that spurs you to think about your current situation in a positive way, then consider adopting it as part of your own motivational armour, write it down, pin it on the board, post it on your social media – and use it as your call to action.


Potential gel bag for my 33Shakes?

2 dry gels into one foldable bottle.

2 dry gels into one foldable bottle.

I was trying to figure out how to take my chia energy gels (33Shake) with me on my marathon – without having to wear a belt of any sort as this often causes issues around the stomach area; which is very much reduced these days but still it doesn’t like a belt tight round it for marathon distance. My shorts back pocket allow for 2 made up gels to be stored but then you have 2 tops to twist off and have to throw the packaging (not so bad on a marathon where there are marshals but not good in the countryside).

I could have poured the dry contents into a 500ml wide rimmed disposable water bottle but if i did this it would be like running the first have with a maraca until I added water after the halfway point; also you are left clutching a bottle for the whole distance.

After a brilliant suggestion on twitter, I found a 480ml foldable bottle from Trespass, purchased at Nevis Sports (on offer at £2.50). I tested it the other day by pouring 2 sachets in and seeing how it fared on a 10 mile run. It was easy to use and once I had finished with the gels (I would not normally take anything for 10 miles but this was an experiment) I folded the bottle up into the back pocket! It was relatively easy to hold and obviously got smaller as the run went on.

I shall try it out in anger on Sunday at the Blackpool Marathon (I don’t know why but I like it) – the only thing I will do is add 4 gels and extra water to ensure it is a bit more watery as this will aid the ingestion – I can retop it up at water stops to make it last the whole second half. I do have to remove the sports cap and drink through the wide rim as the seeds do not flow through a sports cap.Still,  it’s a cheap solution to avoiding carrying excess baggage and should be great on long trail runs. Roll on Sunday.

You can find the bottles on Amazon. And here is a link to the rather tasty, effective and healthy 33Shake chia gels


Obesity viewed as normal?

Obese male


There was a disturbing piece of news today which was that England’s Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies was concerned that people considered being obese as normal.


At the moment in the UK approximately two thirds of the population are overweight and this can bring with it a lot of health  issues

Dame Sally made two important points:

Most adults in England are overweight or obese. As a society, we are in danger of ‘normalising’ being overweight, which is not good for our health. We should be striving to popularise healthy weight as ‘normal’.

Active travel (walking and cycling) is good for our health, and more should be done to make it even safer, which will encourage more people to travel this way.

You can read what The Independent had to say about the report here:


The full report, based on a 2012 study can be downloaded here.

Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer: Surveillance Volume, 2012: On the State of the Public’s Health

The point this raises is if being overweight is now normalised (in the US it is classed as a disease – does that mean you can catch it?), then that means a large proportion of health workers and our politicians and other people responsible for policy implementation and health issues (eg GPs); as well as our educators – are likely to be overweight.

So lets be honest and upfront – there are dangers and limitations to being overweight but if the majority of the population is in that state then where are the role models and educators?

I will write a detailed piece on this shortly but definitely food for thought.