Sunday, 28 August 2011

UTMB - Quick Update


Well I guess a few of you will already know how I got on at UTMB.  Yes, a very, very disappointing DNF!  My first ever DNF in an ultra race, and actually the first race I have pulled out of since the Rimutaka Triathlon way back in 1985!!!  So I surpose  I have had a pretty good run for the last 26 years!

What went wrong?  Hard to explain in a quick update, but I will expand within my race report to follow sometime (whenever that will me!)  Too put it simply, I just had 'nothing' on the day.  There was no 'zip', a real lack of positivity, and overabundance of negativity within, which was making ever step a real struggle.  By the time I had reached the Lac Combal checkpoint after nearly nine hours, even with encouragement from Richie Cunningham at the checkpoint, I knew my 'day was done'!

Thanks to all of the people that were out on the course cheering me on, shouting out my name, especially the Alpine-Oasis group.  A pity I wasn't able to put into practice what we talked about.

Thanks to everyone that sent me 'best wishes' for the race.  It is much appreciated, and really does help usually, but just not this time!


Wednesday, 24 August 2011

UTMB - Only Two Days to the Start


The surrounding environment for this post is slightly different to my usual blog posts.  Instead of it being within the peaceful quietness of my dining room late at night, today I am looking out towards some awesome mountains, unfortunately beginning to be covered by grey clouds, after a fantastic hot sunny day!  Yes, I am in France, counting down, I guess like a kid, waiting for Christmas, to receive their presents.  Exactly, 2 days, 48 hours to the start!!! (Now only 47.5 hours!)

Ever since I did the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB) race back in 2009, I knew I would be back, and it is nearly here.  If you get a sense from this blog that I am a tiny bit excited, well that is because I am!  It is not everyday that you get the chance to race against the best ultra trail runners in the World.  And looking at the start list, it is a definite 'who's who'!

I arrived here on Monday afternoon, to a bit of a shock.  Only around 32 degrees!  Then within an hour, I was caught in the most amazing thunder storm, including half inch sized hail stones.  They were huge.  When the weather changes so quickly, and so severe, you do see the logic behind the strictly enforced emergency clothing.

So I am staying in Les Contamines, which is at the 31 kilometre mark of the UTMB course.  I am involved with the Alpine-Oasis Trail Running Camp which is just the most ideal pre-race preparation base.  It is like a runner's paradise, spending time with six ultra keen, ultra enthusiastic endurance runners, living, breathing, talking endurance running.  The camp leader is Andy Mouncey, recent 2nd place finisher at the Montane Lakeland 100 (for the second time), and it is great to see him in action, as a leader/motivator.  There is definitely a really positive buzz within the chalet, and as you are probably aware (if not aware, then read some of my blog posts), ultra trail running performance is all about positivity.  So I am really excited looking forward to Friday, especially with the massive positive top-up I am currently receiving!  The group have gone for a run/hike up from Les Contamines, along the UTMB course, to stay the night at the Refuge de la Croix du Bonholme, at an altitude of 2433 metres. So it is peaceful and quiet within the chalet, hence an opportunity to type up this post.

Last night was the UTMB 'Elite' BBQ Get-together.  Being allocated an elite race number this year, I was invited to the BBQ, and as you would expect, I wasn't going to turn down a free meal!  But no, in terms of this weekend's race performance, I saw attending the Elite BBQ as being quite essential.  For me, this was the first time that I had been invited to something like this at a race, and arriving at the pub, I definitely felt a bit like an outsider.  There were a few TV cameras filming the 'celeb' runners, I could see Kilian Jornet, Scott Jurek, Kristin Moehl, just to name a few!  I felt myself thinking "what am I doing here with the Elite?"!  So it was really important that I reminded myself that it was the race organisers that gave me the Elite classification.  It was the race organisers who invited me to the Elite BBQ, therefore they obviously felt that I was worthy of being amongst the elite.

Anyway, it was your typical friendly type drinks gathering, where those that know people, chat to people they know, and those that don't know anyone, like myself, (apart from recognising people from videos or on magazine covers), feel a bit 'uncomfortable', not sure who to talk to, or who to approach.  So I thought 'stuff this', best to make the most of this opportunity to chat to some of these top runners, so I started introducing myself, and started talking to various other runners.  Runners from all around the world, Hungary, Japan, France, USA, etc.

Not sure if I have mentioned on this blog, but as I finished the 2009 UTMB, Scott Jurek was still at the finish line.  Having just finished reading Born to Run prior to the race, it was great to chat to him briefly about the book.  I remember thinking how good of him it was to stay around the finish line, chatting to other runners, even though he had really struggled over the last 6 or so hours of the race and had performed well below his expectations.  Anyway, as I was picking up a sausage he was getting some food, so I introduced myself, and reminded him of our brief chat two years earlier.  Whether it was the fact that I had brought up and was discussing with him how he really struggled back in 2009 (to join his two previous DNFs for UTMB), I don't know.  But when I wished him all the best for Friday, and then went to depart with a friendly 'hope to see you during the race', the response I got back was quite a shock.  He immediately switched from friendly 'chit chat' mode, to determined 'race focus' mode.  "Definitely not, not a chance, you had your opportunity, I'm ready, I'm prepared, I wont be anywhere near you!", or something along those lines!  Then, the typical friendly ultra running guy he is, he realised what he had just said, and apologised for what he had just said "Sorry, I don't mean to 'belittle' you, but ... and spoke about how determined and focussed he is to finally get it right at UTMB "  So a really interesting interaction.

So how did I take to being 'belittled', to be thought of as a poor performer!  Initially I was a bit angry, how dare he have no respect for me at all.  How did he know whether or not my 22nd place in 2009 was also a massively poor performance, well below my expectations?  He didn't, but the key message I have taken on board is that being the top runner he is, he wasn't going to spend one single moment questioning my capabilities, as he obviously carries out, what I talk about:  "Focus on yourself, do not be distracted by other competitors.  Focus on what you can and will do, not on what others can or are doing".  So it was a good learning experience, observing how the very best prepare for their races.

Jez Bragg was present, so I had a chance to have a brief chat with him.  I thanked him for withdrawing from the GB team for the Worlds in Ireland, due to his Western States commitments, which allowed me into the team.  He didn't miss the opportunity and gave more than a strong hint that a thank you post race beer was therefore expected!  We also spoke about his UTMB race number, yes race number one.  Although he joked about "the added pressure", you could sense that he had it all under control.  He was using race number 1 as a positive and not as a negative, to enhance his performance.  So my race tip for this Friday, keep an eye out for Jez.  It could be another good result for GB at UTMB!  And Jez's response to my same parting friendly "hope to see you during the race on Friday".  An equally friendly sincere "looking forward to seeing you, all the best for the race".  An equally interesting learning experience, on how the very best prepare, and how complete their preparation is.  Who would I put my money on between Scott Jurek and Jez, well based on my two chats, it is totally clear.  For that two way bet, put all your money on Jez, demonstrated by his far superior preparation.  It seems like Scott Jurek is still trying to deal with his UTMB 'demons' from the past!

But, hey, I hear you shouting, why are you focusing about others, what about yourself.  Who are you backing,  Jez, Scott, or Stuart Mills???  Well, sorry to disappoint you, but I'm trying to put into practice for race day, "Self focus, ignore the others, focus on what I can do".  So I do not have any specific placing targets, instead, after very detailed analysis of the course and my 24 checkpoint race split times from 2009 over the last few weeks, I have specific time targets.  The formulation of these time targets are a key component of my TOTAL preparation.  It is during this analysis, planning time that the demands of the UTMB race, go into the deep sub-concious level.  It is when the body and mind as one, are preparing, are getting ready for the forthcoming challenges, and within a sub-concious level, strategies to ensure positivity remains evident throughout the race are being formulated.

So come race day, I do not know these split times, they were only important for the preparation phase.  I do not let them influence me on the day, by getting worried about whether ahead or behind schedule.  On the day, I will be running to feel.  Running to the excitement.  Running to the enjoyment.  Not running to the schedule!!!

However, for those of you who are planning to follow some of my progress available live, through the 24 timing checkpoints on the following link here are a few planned checkpoint arrival times:
Saint Gervais 2:05, so 8:35pm French Time
Les Contamines 3:10, 9:40pm
Courmayeur 10:05, 4:35am
Champex Lac 16:45, 11:15am

May you enjoy following the race online.

Time to sign off as I hear the start of a thunder storm!  A quote from one of my very first few blog posts, from April last year:  "It's journeys that bring us happiness, not the destination."  Dan Millman, from the movie Peaceful Warrior.

May you all enjoy your journeys,


Sunday, 21 August 2011

Training for Ultras - What's It All About?


Not sure how this post will develop.  I will just type and see how things go!  My aim tonight is to hopefully 'tie up a few loose ends'!  Hopefully I will clarify for me, some structure to a 'jumble' of thoughts from a number of my blog posts during the last year or so. And within my clarification, you the reader will hopefully gain some benefit from me trying to organise my thoughts. 


Way back in January I typed up a reply to a follower's question which came all the way from Istanbul, Turkey.  But somehow I 'lost' my reply before it got published.  Well tonight hopefully I will go some way towards answering Aykut 's question which was:
"When training for a road marathon, how much do you think doing some of the runs in the trails help? I'm asking it because for this last marathon, I did about 10 runs of 20K to 32K in the trails. (never trained in the trails for my first 3 marathons). And I think they contribute a lot to my performance as I believe they made me physically stronger and probably mentally tougher."

Aykut had recently raced a marathon and "finished in 3:27. Not a significant time for most experienced runners but a  HUGE personal best for me. Whenever negative thoughts emerged during the race, I'd remind myself about your thinking positive approach and it worked well."  (Maybe Aykut has answered his own question within the e-mail he sent me.  Hopefully it will become clearer during tonight's post.)
In addition Thomas left the following comment at the end of my IAU World Trail Champs Quick Update: "You provide a lot of details regarding the mental aspect of race preparation in your blog but I would die for getting some more 'physical' insight in your training: In particular training distance, peaking, sharpening and tapering etc."

Also Johny left the following comment at the end of the Worlds race report: "I have a query though and have been mulling over this one for a while now; When one has an inferior VO2 max but is always highly positive and determined, how do they overcome that inherent weakness?"

So all three of these readers are interested in, and wanting to know more about my views on physical training for marathons and ultras.  However, sorry, I hope to not disappoint them, but to start my response tonight I will firstly refer back to November last year, at the end of my Beachy Head Marathon race report , I wrote the following:  "Too often, the improved performance is credited to the increased physical training people may have carried out prior to the event. Marathon running performance, and even more for Ultra running performance is largely determined by self expectation. I believe it is the heightened self expectation following a good bout of training that leads to the improved performance, not the actual training per se! So only indirectly has the increased physical training lead to the improved performance."

And then I signed off with the following quote; "There was a time, not so long ago, when we really did know everything about human physiology. After all, it was all so very simple. ...... But the more compelling challenge for the traditional model (of fatigue) is that it simply cannot explain the obvious." Tim Noakes (2007) From the foreword for the book: Brain Training for Runners, by Matt Fitzgerald. I'll come back to the author Matt Fitzgerald later on. 
Finally, within the comments of the following post titled Developing Positive Self Expectations - Part 1 (Yes, I know!  I never wrote Part 2!), also last November.  I quote Tim Noakes again as he writes about fatigue in terms of a Central Governor in his book Lore Of Running. He writes on page 19 (fourth edition):  "At the same time, information is sent from the controller to the emotional and other centers in the brain. These influence the level of discomfort that is felt, the emotional response, and the self-talk and self-doubt that are additional but poorly understood features of the fatigue that develops during exercise."

The key words within his quote are the "poorly understood features of the fatigue that develops during exercise."  Yes, the understanding of fatigue is really limited  Not much is actually known regarding the causes of fatigue during endurance events!.  So therefore if this isn't really known, then how does one know how best to reduce the fatigue!!!  So this is why it is so hard for me to really comment on what physical training is best in order to improve performance, i.e. reduce fatigue, during marathons and ultra runs. 

Just before I do however attempt to try to do this, I will refer to one final previous post, to help set the scene.  In February, within the Plans for 2011 - How to Adjust My Self Expectations? post I was discussing why I slowed down so much during the 2010 Montane Lakeland 100:  "So, why did I slow down?  Those of you that have read my post from last May titled "What Determines Performance in Ultra Running? - Part Two" will know that I believe ultra trail running performance is all about "the ability to remain within a 'positive state of being, a positive state of mind', while all of the many negative states from various sources are being initiated."  Looking at my list of potential negative sources, I seemed to have missed one.  Well I'm not really sure if it is actually a negative source.  It is as if the 'mind' gets fatigued. ....  It was as if the mind was no longer able to maintain that 'Within the now focus', .... It is as if the mind has decided that after so many hours of race focus, it has had enough."  ....  So the secret is to develop 'race focus' endurance."

So FINALLY to summarise, where I am actually at, taking the key aspects I have raised in previous posts, it gets down to the following:. 
(i) Nobody knows what causes fatigue during endurance running.
(ii) The mind plays an EXTREMELY LARGE role in resisting/delaying fatigue. (Remember the mind and body are not separate identities, they are all as ONE!)
(iii) Remaining within a positive state of mind, is the KEY ASPECT to endurance running performance, as highlighted in my signing off quote from my Highland Fling Preview post"Ultra trail running performance is dependent upon the preparation that has taken place prior to the event.  The preparation must be TOTAL and not just the physical, as the preparation must ensure one remains in a positive state throughout the entire event." 
(iv)  Remaining within a positive state of mind is determined by one's 'Race focus endurance'.  Race focus endurance, was introduced within the Montane Highland Fling race report, as being "largely related to how difficult it is whilst racing to maintain a positive race focus. The greater the sources of negativity, the greater the difficulty in remaining focused and keeping positive."
(v)  So finally, yes physical training does have a role to play with endurance running performance, but not directly due to resisting physiological fatigue, but solely in terms of making it easier to maintain a race focus, i.e. to maintain positive, to stop the MIND from fatiguing!!!
(vi) Sorry, (v) was meant to be the final reference to a previous post, but this one (vi) definitely is! The signing off quote from the Montane Lakeland 100 Preview post was:  "The way we perform is the result of the way we see ourselves. To alter our performance we need to alter or change ourselves and it is that changing that's difficult". Gary Elliott (1983), coach to the great New Zealand women marathon runner, Alison Roe. Hence the need for the TOTAL preparation that I keep on going on about!
Therefore: (vi) Fatigue during endurance running is largely determined by how one perceives oneself, in terms of their running capabilities.

So the six points above sort of summarise where I am at in understanding what factors influence performance/fatigue during endurance running. 

I just need to clarify a bit of my background first before I continue.  Although the above six points are my personal views, I do actually have an academic background in Sport and Exercise Science, and work as a Principal Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science. I started out as predominantly an exercise physiologist, but over the last ten years I have diversified into a technique/performance analysis.  I therefore will admit that my reading of the latest physiological research is therefore a wee bit lacking!  And as to reading psychological literature, well totally non-existent!  I rely on my own personal research, with a sample size of one, yes (n = 1) ME!.  So you may not actually find much scientific research to support my personal views, apart from Professor Tim Noakes from South Africa.  Although he is at times criticised within the sports science community for 'thinking too much outside the box", without sufficiently strong research to support his ideas!  I see this characteristic as his strength.  Like I was probably around ten years back, when I moved away from physiology, Tim is well aware that the simplistic current theories to explain fatigue within endurance sport, are just that, too simplistic.  I still haven't read much on his Central Govenor Theory, but the brief bits I have seen, I do tend to agree with.

Therefore when I was recommended last year Matt Fitzgerald's Brain Training for Runners book to read. After reading the Noakes' foreword, I thought great, finally some published material to support my beliefs on running.  However, apart from some good material in chapters 1 and 2, the remainder of the book was very disappointing. It just didn't develop onwards  from these two chapters.  So when I saw that Matt Fitzgerald had recently released a newer book, I was a bit cautious.  But I have just read the first 23 pages, and so far it is really, really good.  He even acknowledges that his Brain Training book was " a sort of rough draft", as an example where he has since discovered errors in his previous beliefs!  However, before reading any of this book further, I thought I would try to clarify/summarise what I have struggled with, discovered, tried to express, over the last year or two, in order for me to be in a better state to be able to take on board Matt Fitzgerald's latest ideas.  Hence tonight's post!  In addition, all of this thinking about fatigue, endurance performance, is a key component of my TOTAL preparation for UTMB next week.  I see this form of preparation as far more important that any hill session, or long mileage run!  And typing my thoughts up on this blog is just the final aspect of this part of my preparation.  So excuse me, if this post is lengthy.  I guess it relates a bit to specificity of training.  UTMB is a pretty lengthy race!

Over the last three years since I have got into ultra trail running, I have developed many ideas, based on my own personal experiences, but these ideas have also been developed from material I have read, watched or listened to.  I am a keen reader of auto-biographer books by sports people.  I try to get a 'deep' understanding of what 'made them tick'.  The great thing about using this blog to clarify my thoughts is that I often get positive feedback, (yes, also feedback to tell me my ideas are stupid), but often feedback from people in agreement.  So reading the first 23 pages of Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel, Matt Fitzgerald seems to be in total agreement with me.  Although, I guess I should really express this as, I seem to be in total agreement with him, that is unless he has been reading my blog, or was at my presentation at the Lakeland 100/50 recce weekend back in June!

During my recce weekend presentation, I asked the audience to give some thought, and then share with the group, what a typical weeks mileage would be in order for them to achieve their goal during the upcoming Lakeland 100/50.  We had a massive variety of mileages, ranging from 30 - 110 miles per week.  The take home message I presented to the audience in response to the question; What weekly mileage is required in order to achieve your goals, was simply being, the weekly mileage that YOU BELIEVE is necessary.  If you believe 30 miles is sufficient, then it is.  If you believe that 100 miles is needed, then you need to do 100 miles.  It all comes down to what you believe is required.  What does Matt Fitzgerald state?  On page 23, "If it does nothing else, a runner's training must make him (or her) feel prepared, because if he (or she) feels prepared, he is prepared, and if he doesn't, he isn't."  Just prior to this on page 22 he states:  "The primary objective of training for every competitive runner should be to develop confidence in her (or his) ability to achieve her (or his) race goals.  Well don't these statements sound a bit like some of the material highlighted above, a bit like Gary Elliot's ideas (Alison Roe's coach) from 30 years ago!  Talk about someone being ahead of their time!

So this EVENTUALLY leads me on to FINALLY trying to answer some of the questions above!  What physical training is best?  Are hills useful?  What did I do physically in order to be the first GB finisher, in 15th place, at the IAU World championships?

Well as much as you may read in running magazines, there is absolutely no scientific evidence that one form of training is better at developing VO2max, lactate threshold, or running economy, than other types of training!  It is total speculation.  So stating that threshold training will improve your lactate threshold has simply not been demonstrated by scientific research, similarly for the other physiological measures that supposedly determine running endurance performance!  So, in relation to Johny's question, having a low VO2 max, this being an "inherent weakness".  VO2 max has very little to do with endurance performance.  If I am correct in my reading from the past, Derek Clayton, a 2:08 marathon runner, back in the sixties, only had a VO2max of around 69 ml/kg/min!  Nothing special.  Many of this blog's readers will have higher values, but unable to run a 2:08 marathon!

So, returning back to Fitzgerald's statement from page 23 of his latest book, to put it simply, it doesn't really matter what physical training you do, as long as you believe that it is sufficient for you to be able to achieve your goals.  Back in 2009, my 20 week build-up average weekly mileage for the UTMB was 34.5 miles per week.  This for the majority of the runs was easy running, on pretty flat footpaths and bridleways.  With the biggest hill being pretty well 150 metres to the top of Beachy Head within the South Downs National Park.  Would I do repetitions of the hill climb,  DEFINITELY NOT!!!  Why run to the top, to simply turn around to go down, and run back up to the top again!  I run to enjoy myself, the scenery, the variety.  If I wanted to run over the same ground again and again, I would be a track runner!  The secret to my physical training, which now no longer appears to be a secret, is for running to be enjoyable, to feel comfortable, to run by feel at a pace, for a duration, over the terrain and gradients, that feel right for me, to maximise my enjoyment!  As simple as that!  It will be interesting whether Matt Fitzgerald within his latest book has similar views.  From the title, you would think so.  But then the title Brain Training was a bit of a fraud!

Was, 34.5 miles per week of easy, flattish running sufficient to achieve my goals for the 2009 UTMB?  NO!  Although I finished in 22nd place overall (from 2300 starters), in 26 hours and 29 minutes.  I did not achieve the goals I had set.  So yes, this year I have needed to increase my weekly mileage slightly, in order for me to "feel prepared".  Have I changed the gradient of my runs to try to replicate the huge elevation ascent demands of UTMB.  No!  Why?  Because hill training doesn't specifically make you a better hill runner.  Believing that you are a good hill runner, makes you a better hill runner.  Yes, by doing lots of hill training will help you to develop this belief, but if you understand that belief is actually all you need in order to be a better hill runner, then you actually don't need to bother with the actual physical hill training.  The benefits of hill training are not actually physical!  Referring back to some of the above six points, one needs to be reminded that: endurance performance isn't physiologically determined, it is determined by the mind, by one's self expectations, one's enjoyment whilst running. 

Have I any evidence for this statement immediately above?  Well surprisingly , or perhaps not that surprising, there is actually some published research which seems to back up this believe/expectation/enjoyment theory on endurance performance.  Fitzgerald refers to some published work by Marcora.  Currently being on holiday, I am too busy! (building fences, fixing guttering, repairing bikes etc.) to read the literature, although I have had a quick scan of one of Marcora's articles from 2009 relating to "race focus endurance".  They got cyclists to repeat a cycling task to exhaustion twice, with the only difference being that they exposed the cyclists to a mentally demanding task for 90 minutes prior to the cycling exercise.  And yes, as one would expect, understanding that it is the mind that determines endurance performance, when the mind gets tired, physical performance is statistically and significantly decreased!  Absolutely rubbish though if you are a believer of the dated idea that physiology determines performance!  However, these results are published within the scientific literature!

So trying to get back to the reader's questions regarding physical training.  One of the key attributes to the physical training that it is hoping to improve, is that for during the endurance race, your mind doesn't become tired.  How though does physical training specifically improve your mind?  Well although within this post above, including the reader's questions, and pretty well within everything you read on running, in magazines, books, published scientific literature, absolutely everywhere, it is pretty well always separated into physical and mental training.  After believing this idea for 30 years, I guess around three years ago I realised that this view is just totally flawed.  I guess a bit like, when people finally realised that the earth wasn't flat!  Why did it take so long to accept this,when the answer was so obvious, i.e the moon.  Also why does everyone seems to think the mind and body are different identities when they are totally the same???  Does, your body determine how you mentally feel?  Yes, of course!  But then ask the opposing question, does your mind determine how you physically perform?  Again yes!  So, obvious really, totally inseparable!  So when you are physically training, you are also mentally training, and similarly, when mentally training, you will improve your physical performance.  Hence, why I go on about TOTAL preparation.

So now in trying to respond to the above questions, one must refer to TOTAL preparation, not physical preparation.  So that is the purpose of training?  No, not to increase VO2max, or lactate threshold or running economy, but to increase the enjoyment and the positivity in order to prevent race focus fatigue, when your mind and body together as one begin to get tired, resulting in your pace slowing.  The following are some of the principles related to the necessary training.

(i) Have a good understanding of what the endurance race will entail, in terms of duration, terrain, elevation, temperature, company, loneliness, darkness, etc.  By having a good understanding of the demands/characteristics of the race, your mind and body are better prepared in terms of having positive self expectations that you are capable of achieving your goals.

(ii) Be aware that you do not have to have actually carried out the demands of the event, in order to be confident of 'handling'/achieving the race demands.  Remember, success in terms of achieving realistic goals, is largely determined by self expectation, self belief that you can achieve, simply your confidence.

(iii) Understand, that as long as you have a positive attitude, and are enjoying the 'journey', i.e. enjoying the present, the 'here and now'.  Then you will be able to achieve much, much, more that you have ever achieved before.  You don't need to have run 100 miles in training in order to run 100 miles in a race, as long as you believe this.  If you believe you 'have to', and you haven't completed the 'required' 100 miles training, then, according to your expectations, your performance will be poor, due to poor preparation.
(iv) Remind yourself, that performance is not simply about physical attributes.  Therefore do not expect a low performance due to your well accepted assessment of your physical attributes in that you 'are no Kenyan athlete'!  Reassure yourself, with the appropriate TOTAL preparation, that you can be fully prepared to achieve your realistic goal.

You will note that I have used the term "realistic goal".  This is extremely important, because if your goal is not realistic, then there is no way that you can deeply, deeply down within yourself, truly believe that you can achieve your goal.  And without this belief, success is not possible.  So to put it simply, don't have a goal of being an Olympic champion if you haven't got any evidence to provide some 'substance' to help you develop this belief.

(v)  Your TOTAL preparation is all about collating evidence, obtaining 'substance', that you are capable of being able to respond to the anticipated demands of the event.  Obviously it firstly gets down to knowing what these demands of the event are.  Secondly, it is totally acceptable to compare yourself to others, to help gauge how others have responded to the event demands, if you are a newcomer to the event.  Although, whilst racing you should focus on yourself, and not be distracted by others.  During your preparation, it is a good strategy to compare yourself to others who have completed the event you are preparing for, and you have some knowledge of their total person, not just their physical attributes.

(vi)  Within your preparation, give the event plenty of thought.  Consider, whilst running on your own, and at other times while on your own, how you will respond to the demands.  One of the key benefits of running miles, is the time that becomes available while running, to consider, to think about, to visualise, how you will respond when it comes to the actual event.  Ensure your response is positive.  Be excited about the upcoming event.  Reflect on why you are doing it.  What is it that you enjoy about it so much.  Look forward to it, knowing that you are carrying out the necessary TOTAL preparation.  Simply, giving the event some positive thinking time, is improving your performance.  The more miles you run, the more thinking time, hence the improved performance.  It is therefore not actually as a result of the miles, improved physical/physiological attributes as most runners probably believe that are responsible for the improved performance.  Although there is also the increased feeling of being fully prepared when people have put 'more miles in the bank'.  Again, it is the confidence, not the physiology that improves performance.

(vii) Learn to remain positive, confident during training.  Learn to counter the negative arguments that will develop within during the actual event.  One way to do this is to think in advance what these negative arguments could be.  Maybe think of it as preparing to talk to a 'stroppy' teenager!  You prepare for this situation by being ready with an appropriate response to whatever irrational argument they may 'hit you with'.  Be prepared with some evidence from your TOTAL training to counter the arguments.  Maybe some examples here to illustrate may be useful. 

You are half way through a 100 mile race, and feeling tired.  Argument being presented within your head: you have to walk, your training hasn't been sufficient, your weekly mileage has been too low to handle a 100 mile event.  You need to have ready someone you know who has performed during a similar event, doing similar mileage to you, e.g. that UltraStupid guy Stuart Mills, ran 26hours at UTMB on only 34.5 miles a week of easy running. 

Another example.  It is a hot day during the event.  Argument being presented within your head: you must slow down as it is far too hot to perform at your usual pace.  Well during your TOTAL preparation, you hopefully gave the likely weather conditions some thought, and you appreciated that there was some chance that it would be hot.  You therefore did some running in the heat, not for your body to physiologically acclimatise.  No, but for you to gather some evidence, to counter the argument, so you could reply; remember back to those hot runs I did it the heat, yes it was hot, but I was able to continue running along at a good pace then.  A bit like hill training earlier.  The actual running in the heat has nothing to do with physiology, it is all about raising your self expectations, your self belief that you will be able to respond to the likely demands of the event. 

One final example, somehow, you are running way quicker than you ever thought possible.  The argument being presented within your head: you have started far too fast, you will 'blow-up', you must slow down before it is too late.  Perhaps you are running quicker than you thought possible due to you being much further up the field than your fellow training partner.  Remember, it is okay to compare to others during the preparation, but not good during the actual event.  Argument response, remind yourself that performance is determined by TOTAL preparation, not just physical attributes.  You have carried out the necessary TOTAL preparation, you have developed high self expectations, high self belief.  Don't let your training partner's lesser performance cause you to doubt yours.  Your have no idea what their TOTAL preparation has been like.  Simply, belief in yourself.  If you are enjoying the 'journey', i.e. enjoying the present moment, and all is going fine and you are positive, then don't let this doubt that wants you to slow down, to allow any negative thoughts to develop.  You are what you believe.  If you believe that you have gone to fast and you will suffer for it, then you will suffer.  As simply as that! 

I could go on and on providing examples.  But maybe your endurance training in terms of reading blog posts doesn't quite match, my preparation in terms of typing them up.  Remember my motives for typing such lengthy posts.  It is all to do with my TOTAL preparation.  The thoughts involved in typing this post, is as important at developing race focus endurance, as the same time involved as running across the South Downs.  To put it simply, 3 hours of typing is as beneficial, NO, probably more beneficial with regards to ultra endurance performance than a 3 hour training run!  Hence why I only needed 34.5 miles per week back in 2009.  I probably did equivalent mileage, reading, thinking, visualising.  The improvement in my ultra running performances over the last 18 months since starting the blog, I think is largely a result of the extra training time I have put in thinking about and typing up these posts.  On paper I may only be a 40 mile a week runner, but in reality, taking into account my TOTAL preparation, I am probably more like a 150 mile a week runner.  Remember the key message. ultra running performance is not physiologically determined!!!!

To finish this post of with, is just a quick two examples to help illustrate more. just how endurance running performance isn't physiologically determined.  The first is to do with Mo Farah and his rapid improvement over the last year or so.  If you haven't come across the Marathon talk podcasts, then they are worthy of a listen, especially the interviews with various runners.  Mo Farah was recently interviewed on Marathontalk.  If you have a few spare moments, take a listen.  Also if you have even more spare time, remember, you can include this listening as part of your TOTAL training for the week, listen to the interviews with Tim Noakes, Liz Hawker, Jez Bragg.  There are loads of great interviews.  But don't miss the David Hemmery interview, an Olympic gold medalist for the 400m hurdles from 1968.  Some really good words of wisdom here!  Listen to what Mo Farah says about the influence of Alberto Salazar, his new coach.  Nothing physically training wise has really changed, but agrees that "Salazar gives his athletes an incredible belief to achieve things that perhaps they thought they weren't able to do". 

The second quick example is concerning Haile Gebrselassie and his final eleven days of run training prior to winning the 10,000 metre gold at the Athens 1996 Olympics.  Within the book titled "The Greatest" by Jim Dennison, it is reported that apart from running the semi-final three days before his victory in the final, for eleven days before the final Gebrselassie was totally unable to run, due to his left foot becoming severly infected.  Meanwhile, his great opponent Paul Tergat "had completed a perfect run-up" to the final.  Interestingly within the first 23 pages of Fitzgerald's latest book. both Alberto Salavar and Haile Gebrselassie are repeatedly referred to as examples of best practice!

Well, I did warn you at the start, that I didn't really know what would happen once I started typing tonight's post.  I have really started a huge topic, that will take me years to understand, if ever!  Hopefully my "mutterings" above have been of some benefit to you reading it.  I know for sure that for me, thinking about the whole area, and typing up my current thoughts on the topic has definitely been hugely beneficial to me.  How beneficial, maybe next week at UTMB, we will see.  Time now to start my TOTAL preparation tapering.  So don't expect any more lengthy posts to after UTMB.

Sorry, but I am suffering a  wee bit from 'race focus fatigue', so the sign off quote will be short.

"You are, what you believe!"  Stuart Mills, 2011.

All the best with your TOTAL training.  Don't forget to log one hour plus as TOTAL training within your training diary, if you have managed to get this far through the post.  Hey, why not read it again, and double your training for the day!


Saturday, 6 August 2011

Montane Lakeland 100 - Observations from a Spectator


Last weekend I had a thoroughly enjoyable time in the Lake District watching the Montane Lakeland 100 Ultra Trail race, as well as enjoying the fabulous weather and scenery with the family, including successfully climbing Scafell Pike.  So tonight is a brief (?) race report on  my experience as a spectator.

It was around 2:00pm on the Friday afternoon when we, i.e. me, my wife Frances, and our two boys, Robert and Chris, arrived at the school in Coniston.  Immediately, I felt the tremendous supportive atmosphere I remembered from last year.  There was a real buzz about the place as tents were being set up, and the 100 mile runners were checking in, and sorting out there gear and themselves, ready for the 5:30pm start.  As I walked around I recognised many faces from previous races, and the recce weekend back in June.  Although the Lakeland 100 was due to start at 5:30pm, I had already started my ultra event for the weekend, that being 24 hours+ of non-stop talking!!!

As 5:30pm neared it really became apparent just how much the event had grown, just from last year.  The school field was nearly full with cars and tents, and there was literally hundreds of runners everywhere.  As I spoke to many runners, I was abused and nearly punched on a number of occasions by people I had named as potential top performers in my pre-race blog post, for putting added pressure on them to perform.  It was in all good fun (I hope!)

Running legend Joss Naylor starts the race, and the 224 starters make their way off on their journey of the 105 mile circuit of the Lake District.  As I watch the last of the runners walk off, I can't believe my eyes, here at the very back off the field is Andy Mouncey, last year's 2nd place finisher, and one of my named runners to look out for as a definite top placed finisher!  Was he injured, what was he up to???

Click the image above to view a poor quality video of the race start that I have just posted on YouTube

Once the runners have departed, we quickly jump into the car and drive the one mile up to the start of Walna Scar Road, to watch the runners go past, which for them is at around the 2.5 mile mark, after a short sharp climb up by the Coppermines Youth Hostel, before descending down to the gravel/dirt road.

As the runners approach there is a lead bunch of three, closely followed by another nine runners.  The lead three are Terry Conway, Paul Tierney, and Ian Bishop.  I have raced Ian on a number of occasions, and he is a very capable ultra runner, so although he wasn't named in my top seven runners expected to perform, (I failed to see his name within the entry list), it wasn't a surprise to see him at the front.

Terry on the left of the photo, Ian in the middle, Paul in blue on the right.

We watch all of the runners go past, as they start their first big climb of the race, up to around 650 metres of height, along Walna Scar Road.  If you click on the following link it will take you to my Flickr album with photos of quite a few of the runners at the start of Walna Scar Road.

Having travelled all the way up from East Sussex, I had decided that I would follow the race, where possible, during the early stages of the night.  I therefore drive across two very steep passes, along an amazing road to arrive at Checkpoint 2 at Boot, shortly before the arrival of the lead runners, after 2 hours 26 minutes of running.  There is still a lead group of six runners with a small gap of one minute to a following group of three.  The lead group now consists of Barry Murray, Paul Teirney, Terry Conway, John Tims, Ian Bishop, and Adam Perry.  Being the competitive runner as I am, I just so happen to have a copy of my race splits from 2010 with me!  I look at my splits from last year, they are 10 minutes slower than my arrival time at Boot, which doesn't surprise me considering that I took off at an extremely fast pace last year.  If you have a spare 30 minutes or so click: for my race report from last year, which describes my fast start.

Barry leading, closely followed by Paul, John (wearing tights), Terry, Ian, and Adam just out of picture, approaching Boot pub. 

Exactly ten minutes later Andy Mouncey arrives in 17th place, aha, I think I know what his plan is!  Last year his race plan was similar to mine, go hard at the start, get out in front, so therefore able to run his own race without being distracted by other runners. See   for Andy's race report from last year.  Only problem for him last year was that I had the same plan, hence why I had to go so fast last year to get ahead of him!  So it seems apparent that again he wants to run his own race, without focusing on what the lead runners are doing, hence walking at the back of the field at the start.  In essence giving the leaders a ten minute head start.  Not sure about his approach, a brave approach, but clearly illustrating total confidence in his race plan, which is essential for a good performance. 

Next stop is checkpoint 4 at Buttermere, this is at the 26 mile mark.  As I wait outside the village hall checkpoint, the night is extremely dark, but amazingly warm, and not a breath of wind.  Perfect running conditions.  Race time of 4 hours and 54 minutes passes, (my arrival time last year), and I wonder how soon will the leaders arrive.  I expect very shortly, as due to the quality of the field, and the dryness underfoot, I am expecting the winner this year to finish in under 22 hours.  Only six minutes later, out of the darkness appears a lone runner, Terry.  He is pretty busy as he fuels up, but still able to chat and tell me that he left the other runners behind leaving checkpoint three. 

Terry at Checkpoint 4, Buttermere.

Just before Terry departs, Paul and Adam arrive, less than 3 minutes behind.  They probably also spend around 3 - 4 minutes re-fuelling before heading back off into the dark.  There is then a 12 minute wait before Barry and John arrive together, refuel and depart, before Andy Mouncey arrives now in 6th place, five minutes behind Barry and John, but 20 minutes behind Terry.  Then the checkpoint becomes very busy, as a large group of around eight runners all arrive within a minute or two, all extremely positive and buzzing, except Ian Bishop.  Ian explains to me that he thought he had got over an illness he had 2 weeks back, but unfortunately his body is telling him it has not completely recovered.  So Ian makes the difficult, but wise, decision to withdraw.  He is extremely disappointed.  He had prepared extensively for the race, coming up to the Lake District on many occasions with Terry Conway, doing 50 mile runs over the course.  Sometimes things just don't go to plan.  The important thing is to accept that things happen for a reason, and learn from it.  No doubt Ian will be back next year, fitter and wiser.

Paul and Adam arriving at Checkpoint 4.

John and Barry leaving Checkpoint 4.

The large group fuelling up at Checkpoint 4.

The group leaving Checkpoint 4, into the dark.

Next stop is checkpoint 5 at Braithwaite, the 33 mile mark.  Terry arrives on his own, with there now being a 14 minute gap to Paul and Adam running together.  All three of the runners look really good, full of positivity and appearing to be really enjoying the experience.  Although it is pretty hectic at the checkpoints, they are still able to briefly chat.  Adam jokes about his Dad also running the 100 mile race, stating something like "Yeah, he goes pretty well for an old man".  I think to myself typical cheeky youngster, I bet his Dad is around my age (he is actually only one year older than me), and reflect on how great the activity of ultra trail running is, in that it is suitable for all ages, with age definitely not being a barrier, in fact being a bonus!

There is a bit of a surprise as next to arrive is Andy Mouncey, 14 minutes after Paul and Adam, but significant in that he had moved ahead of Barry and John, who arrive together 3 minutes later.  There is then a 18 minute wait until the large group from the previous checkpoint arrive.  I recognise most of the faces, but not all of their names.  All are in high spirits, although Jeff McQueen, the "Comrades King" who I had met during the June recce weekend, was struggling a bit with consuming food.  Already he was finding fuelling difficult.

Stuart Walker (in red), and Jeff McQueen trying to eat some creamed rice at Checkpoint 5.

As I make enquires regarding each runner's identity, I discover my 'Dark Horse' Simon Deakin is within this group.  He comments that he was surprised, but complimented by my 'Dark Horse' label, but with this being his first 100 miler, he wasn't promising a high finishing position.  Click the link to read my Lakeland 100 race preview post, where seven lead men are identified.  I chat to Oliver Jeffcote, 14th place finisher in 2010, really buzzing due to being over 45 minutes quicker at Braithwaite than last year.  I mention that I had chatted to his Mum back at the pub in Boot.  He apologises for his Mum, and is surprised that I was able to get away from her talking!  Yes, at checkpoint 5, there is a real sense of camaraderie amongst the runners, and having run the race last year, so totally aware of what they are experiencing, I feel welcomed into their group.  Looking at the results I see that unfortunately it appears that Oli DNFed at checkpoint 9.  No doubt, he like Ian, will learn from the disappointment and return to take on the truly demanding challenge of the Montane Lakeland 100.

Oli all smiles as he leaves Checkpoint 5.

With the time now being 1:00am in the morning, I decide that it is time to go back to the tent at Coniston to get some sleep.  Not that I am tired, I am buzzing as much as the runners, but I know that it is an early start tomorrow morning, as Frances and the boys are doing a three hour high ropes course in the morning, which just by coincidence is only two miles away from checkpoint 5 at Newlands Activity Centre.  I have the company of Ian Bishop as I drive back to Coniston, and we chat non stop about ultra trail running, so the longish drive back doesn't seem to take long at all.

As I try to sleep, I am thinking about all of the runners out there running through the night.  Amazingly there isn't one bit of me wishing that I was out there running the race.  I made the decision at the end of last year that the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc was going to be my focus race for 2011, so I am totally comfortable in not racing.  In fact, to my surprise I have found watching the race during the night probably equally enjoyable!!!

Saturday morning is time to spend with the family, without the distraction of the race, although I do get a quick update on the race positions from the computer screen in the school hall before we head off.  The leaders have past through checkpoint 9 at Howtown, the 66 mile mark.  Terry has extended his lead over Adam and Paul, still running together, to 1 hour 25 minutes.  His time at Howtown is 12 hours 40 minutes, and as expected, he is now 43 minutes ahead of my time from 2010 at the same checkpoint.  Knowing how much I slowed down over the last six legs, I roughly calculate that Terry should finish pretty close to 22 hours.  The race for first is now pretty well over, it would have to take something pretty drastic for Terry to lose that much time.  Andy Mouncey is still in 4th position, but now only 4 minutes behind.  To find out what happens next in the battle between Adam, Paul and Andy, I recommend that you click on the link  to take you to Andy's excellent 2011 race report, where he describes the tactics of leg10 in some detail.

The computer screen also shows that at checkpoint 9 Howton, "Dark Horse" Simon Deakin is now in 5th place, "Old Man" Kevin Perry is in 6th place, and "New Comer" Barry Murray is in 7th place.  I think wow, I am in the wrong profession, I should be a professional gambler, as for the seven runners I identified as potential top ten finishers, all of them that started the race (Duncan Harris didn't start, so I presume he is still recovering from his injury) are currently in the top seven positions. 

The high ropes course at Newlands Activity Centre just out from Keswick is excellent.  The instructor is fantastic, as she guides Frances and the boys around nine different high rope activities, such as tarzan swing, leap of faith, bell tower, etc. I am on camera duty.

Chris and Robert on the giant rope ladder.

As we drive back to Coniston we take a quick detour to checkpoint 13, Chapel Stile at 94 miles, to see how many runners have passed through.  We are informed that Terry is long gone.  As we have lunch outside the pub at Langdale a rather tired looking Andy Mouncey walk/jogs past.  It reminds me of how I felt at the same stage last year, tired but still enjoying the journey.  Andy gives a brief friendly acknowledgement, but he is quickly back into his own personal zone.  He has still around 3 hours to go.  He looks tired within his eyes, but you can also see his deep determination.  Unfortunately I miss Paul and Andy run past as I was off course searching for an ice cream for Robert and Chris, so we, well actually I decide to head straight to Coniston to see if we can catch Terry crossing the finish line, and their ice cream will have to wait until later!

Andy shortly before Checkpoint 13, Chapel Stile.

We are too late, Terry has already finished in an impressive time of 21 hours 58 minutes and 19 seconds.  He hasn't been finished for long, as he still doesn't quite look normal.  As he stands up from his chair to walk across the hall, he immediately faints and collapses to the floor.  Fortunately a medic is immediately at his side, arouses him, places him in the recovery position and assesses what the problem is.  It appears that it was simply an issue of low blood pressure, so it isn't long before Terry is all smiles and begins to appreciate his amazing accomplishment, smashing the previous record of Andy Rankin's from 2009 by 48 minutes.

Terry not long after he fainted!
Outside, it is a beautiful sunny day, with not a cloud in the sky.  Not having run earlier in the day, I have a great idea.  Saturday night we are staying in a flash 4 star hotel at Ambleside, courtesy of Montane, one of my prizes for winning the 2010 race.  So I decide to watch the race as I run the 16 miles back to Ambleside over the course.  What a fantastic run, I get to see all of the lead runners running in the opposite direction as they are nearing completion of their 105 miles, and then later on in the run, I also meet the leading 50 mile runners.

Andy Mouncey is the first runner I meet, climbing up from checkpoint 14 at Tilberthwaite at 101 miles!  This time he is totally within his own personal zone, although there is still a brief raising of his eyes, to acknowledge my presence.

Andy climbing up from Checkpoint 14, Tilberthwaite.

At checkpoint 14 I stop and chat to various people I know who are waiting for their runners to shortly arrive, and it isn't long before Paul and Adam arrive at the checkpoint.  It feels like Andy is only around 10 minutes ahead, so there is optimism within their supporters that it is possible to catch Andy.  They have a quick load up of water, as it is pretty hot, being around 5pm in the afternoon, and they on their way, hoping to chase down Andy.  Although they do manage to pull back 8 minutes during the final 3.5 mile leg, the gap was actually 15 minutes, so they finish together in 3rd equal place in a time of 24:34:47.

Paul and Adam approaching Checkpoint 14.

I then continue on my run to Ambleside and next meet Kevin Perry, Adam's Dad the "Old Man" in 5th place, then "Comrades King" Jeff McQueen in 6th place, David White 7th, and Stuart Walker 8th.  These runners were sufficiently far enough apart that they remained within these places to the finish.  I next meet "Dark Horse" Simon Deakin, closely followed by "New Comer" Barry Murray.  Barry is looking the slightly quicker, and does manage to overtake Simon to finish 9th, although at around the 99 mile mark, neither of them are really moving at great speed!  Simon finishes in 10th place in a time of 25:56:04, six seconds faster than the 2010 3rd place finisher Duncan Harris.  Yes, the standard of running has definitely improved this year!

Kevin not far from Checkpoint 14.

Jeff a little bit further away from Checkpoint 14, enjoying being in 6th place.

David in 7th place.

Stuart in 8th place.

Simon currently 9th, but finishes in 10th place.

Barry currently 10th, but finishes in 9th place.

After what seems quite a break between runners I meet John Tims around halfway duing leg 14.  John was one of the "Mr Positivity Banter" guys from the June recce weekend.  It comments that he has been struggling since leg 10, although he still appears to be enjoying the experience.  What I love about John's attitude was his just 'give it heaps' and not be concerned that he was way up the front with the leaders, most likely beyond his own expectations.  Yes, one of the secrets of success in ultra trail running is to have 'no fear'.  Not to limit yourself with doubt!  What caused John to struggle during the later stages of the race, I don't know.  But I doubt it was due to him starting out too fast. 

John, currently 11th, but finishes in 14th place.

I continue to enjoy my run, and manage to take photos of all of the runners running towards me.  Click the following link to view the photos on Flickr: Somehow though I manage to miss getting a photo of the winning women, Gaynor Prior.  Gaynor finishes in 15th place overall in an very quick time of 28:24:12, absolutely smashing the record by nearly 4 hours!!!  It isn't much later when I come across the first 50 mile runner.  The difference in speed is hugh!  Craig Stewart greets me with a very relaxed "Hello, Stuart". We were Great Britain team mates at the IAU World Champs earlier in the month at Connemara.  Prior to the race I had a feeling that Craig would run a strong race here at the Lakeland 50, and he was definitely doing that today.  He was too quick for me to get a photo before he had run past, so I had to sprint hard to get ahead of him again, in order to take the following snap!

Craig Stewart, winner of the Lakeland 50.

As I get nearer to Ambleside the runners from the 50 and the 100 miles races are now totally intermixed, although it is very easy to identify which race they are in, as the 100 mile runners are all showing signs of the previous 90 miles!  I come across Sue Sleath, she was one of the runners who was going to punch me prior to the start for naming her on my preview post!  I had no need to worry about being punched by her at this moment in time, as she was really struggling, as she commented that she was feeling rather sick and hence unable to take on any fuel.  At this point in the race, climbing out of Ambleside, she was in 4th place.  Chatting to her the next morning I discover that shortly after meeting me in the race, she was fortunate to be sick, which made her feel heaps better.  She was then able to increase her pace, and managed to overtake two women ahead of her to finish second women in 30:07:17, only narrowly beating Kirsty Hewitson, who finished two minutes behind in 30:09:18.

Sue Sleath, 2nd women Lakeland 100.

The last runner I see, running through the park ar Ambleside, appears to be the women's leader of the Lakeland 50 race, Poppy Lenton.  She is looking strong and goes on to win in a time of 11:04:33, in 22nd place overall.

Poppy, winner Lakeland 50, running through Ambleside.

Looking at the race results for the Lakeland 100, which are available on the Lakeland 100 website, it shows that out of the 224 starters, only 116 managed to complete the 105 mile circuit of the Lake District, this being only a 52% finish rate, which is lower than the typical 58% finish rate for the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB).  It just goes to show that although the Lakeland 100 doesn't have the difficulty of altitude, and less overall climbing than the UTMB, the at times difficult underfoot condition, such as rocks, gravel, occasional boulders, occasional mud and bog and the need to self navigate does appear to make the course as equally challenging.  I guess the added heat of this year may have also led to the high drop out rate.  To all of you runners that completed the Lakeland 100, well done, a great achievement.  To those of you who unfortunately had to drop out, hopefully you will learn from the experience, and be back next year to achieve success and the satisfaction of finishing this very demanding course.

I eventually finish my run at the flash hotel, and feel rather shattered.  (It definitely feels a lot longer duration of time watching the race, than actually running it.)  Not shattered enough though to prevent me from searching out Paul at the Ambleside YHA, to celebrate his great 3rd place run with a well deserved pint!

The next morning we briefly pass through Coniston, time for quick few chats with various runners, before embarking on the challenge for the day of summitting Scafell Pike.  Not via the direct route, no but a more demanding route from Wasdale Head Inn, up around to the left following Lingmell Beck.  After exactly 3 hours we reach the checkpoint, opps I mean the summit!  Unfortunately during the climb the clouds had come in, so the view was non existent!  A quick descent down along the Brown Tongue and we complete our circuit in 5 hours 5 minutes.

Robert, me and Chris at the summit of Scafell Pike.

To finish of this post, firstly I would like to thank Marc, Terry and their massive team of helpers.  Without the time and effort all of these helpers put in, the Montane Lakeland 100 and 50 would not happen.  The Montane Lakeland 100 has truly established itself as the number one premier ultra trail race in the UK.  I for sure, will be back next year to enjoy the absolutely fantastic community atmosphere of this great event.  Throughout the whole weekend everybody you meet is just so friendly and full of positive energy.  Yes, the real enjoyment from ultra trail running is sharing the unique experiences of like minded people as they challenge themselves within the natural beauty of the countryside.

Secondly, I just want to make a quick observation regarding fuelling for the race.  Now, I am not a nutritionist, so there isn't any science/research supporting my comments, go to 9th place finisher Barry's impressive website to get the science behind the ideal ultra race nutrition.  But I have a simple belief that the body and mind are pretty clever, it knows what is best.  So if the messages you are receiving as you try to force feed loads more sugarier, sickly fuel into your body, are telling you it isn't pleasant, it can't stomach it, then listen to your body.  Basically your body will burn either fat or carbohydrate to get you through an ultra trail race.  The lower the intensity the greater the proportion of fat that is used.  Knowing from my own experiences, and watching the Lakeland 100 runners towards the end of last weekend's race, during the second half of an ultra race the intensity is so low that you just do not need much carbohydrate, so why force feed it!  I spoke to a number of runners last weekend who had nutrition problems, feeling sick, which could possibly be contributed to trying to consume too much carbohydrate! 

August last year I wrote a post regarding the nutrition I used during the 2010 Lakeland 100:  I think the key message from the post is a comment left by Andy Cole which I feel is well worth considering.  Remember, science is not always correct!  Remember the 'old science' regarding hydration: "Drink as much as you can, because if you wait until you are thirsy it is too late, your performance will have already deteriorated".  Wow, wasn't that message a wee bit wrong!  I will sign off tonight with the quote from Andy Cole. (Click the following link: for his excellent  race report of the Montane Lakeland 100, experienced a wee bit further down the field).

"My general takeout from all this now is that one shouldn't worry too much about forcing down food as "fuel", natural hunger should give you enough. I think modern thinking on hydration is "drink when you're thirsty", so maybe you could add to this "eat when you're hungry." Andy Cole (2010).
Once again, a big thank you to everyone involved last weekend, for making our family trip to the Lake District so enjoyable.  See you all at Coniston, July 2012!


PS  I received a special request from an ultra runner in the United States who asked me to promote a worthwhile charity she is involved in.  So any runners out there in the United States, please click on the following link  to see if you are able to help the charity in any way.  Thanks.

PPS  Two days ago the total number of hits to my blog passed twentyfive thousand!  Quite amazing really, in less than 18 months.  It is nice to know that people come back to my blog to read more.  They definitely must have too much time on their hands!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Montane Lakeland 100 / 50 - Race Photos


If you have come to my UltraStu blog for photos from last weekend's Montane Lakeland 100, then welcome.  Please take a look around my blog at my previous posts, mainly on ultra trail running, so maybe of interest to you.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of watching the Lakeland 100 race and also a few of the front runners of the Lakeland 50.  Whilst watching I had my rather dated camera out snapping loads on photos.  Although the camera is around six years old it still managed to take a few good shots of the race, so I thought I would try to put them on Flickr for people to download. 

You are welcome to download as many photos as you want.  If you feel that the photos are worthy of paying for, then please click the link to go to the Fix the Fells website, where it is possible to donate some money for your photo to this worthwhile cause.  Can I suggest a donation of £4 for one photo downloaded, and £6 for two or more photos downloaded.  Although you can donate more if you so wish.  It appears that you can either donate via their JustGiving account in the name of Nuture Lakeland or directly via the Fix the Fells website.  Look for the links on the right hand side of the Fix the Fells website home page.

I haven't used Flickr before but I think I have got it sorted. There are two lots of photos.  Click the following links to access the two lots of photos:

The first lot of photos is taken at the start of Walnar Scar Road at around the 2.5mile mark.  There are then just a few taken as the leaders approach, and at Checkpoint 2 at Boot.  The next few are of the leaders at checkpoint four, Buttermere, and checkpoint five Braithwaite.
The second lot of photos is firstly two shots of Andy Mouncey in 2nd place near checkpoint 13, then of the winner, Terry Conway, shortly after finishing in the school hall at Coniston.  The majority of the photos in this lot then consists of all of the runners that I came across as I ran from the finish at Coniston back to Ambleside.  I pretty well managed to take a photo of all of the runners except there were I think two runners that I missed. (Apologies if I missed you!).  This last lot of photos has both Lakeland 100 and Lakeland 50 runners, where the other  lot consists of only Lakeland 100 runners.

I hope you enjoy the photos that I took.  If there are any problems with downloading the photos send me an e-mail and I will try to sort it out or e-mail the photo to you directly.

Overall the whole weekend was great.  I had such a good time watching the race for a change, so much that there should be a Montane Lakeland 100 Race Report, from the perspective of a spectator for a change, published here on UltraStu within the next few days.

Well done to all of the runners in both events. Hopefully you achieved what you set out to achieve.