Wednesday 14 November 2012

Also available in white

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but I've signed up for the Montane Lakeland 100 in July 2013.  I will have mentioned before that I have zero navigational skills and a like to recce courses that require such skills.  One less (major) thing to worry about on race day.  Plus, I think if you get lost in a ultra race, you've only got yourself to blame.

My lovely sponsor the sent me a pair of Drymax Maximum Protection Running socks to try, so I thought I'd put them to a proper test and saved them for my first Lakeland 100 training run.  As you will see from the before and after pictures, I certainly put them through the wringer!  See below for the science bit and my thoughts.

Lakeland 100 training Episode one:  The GM an I were going to join the organised recce run that was planned for Saturday afternoon.  I would have liked to have met up for fellow race runners, but we decided against because 1) The main priority of the trip was to learn the route 2) I would have blindly followed the runners in front, therefore not concentrating on the track 3) The organised run was leaving later in the afternoon, with the aim of giving runners experience of night running  4) So, we would need to go back and run the sections in daylight 5) If you're running in the dark, you could be anywhere and I wanted to experience the views 6) With a fairly lengthy journey either side of the run, it would be midnight by the time we got home. All reasons to go at it alone.

After much debating, we decided on the sections from Braithwaite to Dalemain.  Estimated mileage 26.  Our total mileage? 29. Of course there was always going to be a few detours. We left Glasgow at 6am and arrived at Dalemain House just before 8am and took a taxi back the 19 road miles to Braithwaite. The biggest shocker of the day was the £60 taxi fare! But hey, we were at the start of the section and we HAD to run the course to get back to the car.  We packed emergency taxi money just in case though!

I did carry a map, but to be honest if could have been a map for the Inca Trail for all I knew.  Thankfully, the route descriptions - the step-by-step guide - which are downloadable from the race website are top-notch.   Prior to the trip I watched JK's Lakeland videos, which I must say were invaluable.  Not for directions, but for reassurance we were on the right route.  Although I was fairly disappointed not to see the caretaker from Dave's school ;-)

The weather forecast was for heavy rain - all day - and it did not disappoint. It tipped.  And after a few hours the initial euphoria wore off and we were left soaking and shivering.  My hands wouldn't work, my brain became defunct and we became pretty lackadaisical about following the route description.

AVOID Gowbarrow Fell!
On the last section - from Dockray to Dalemain - we saw the sign for Gowbarrow Fell.  Recalling the name from the route sheets we started stomping up the steep hill.  It's funny how when you're not quite sure that you're going in the right direction, you look for signs to make things fit.  Like a kid trying to squeeze together jigsaw pieces.  It just didn't seem right.  And when I saw the Cairn at the top, I knew it was just a hill walk, not part of the route.

Of couse backtracking on the description, it clearly states: "AVOID left permissive path to Gowbarrow Fell". Lesson learned.  Although best make mistakes on a training run, and not in the race. 

Back down the hill and back on track.  Thankfully the route took us through some gorgeous woods and contoured around Gowbarrow with the most amazing views over Ullswater - which certainly lightened the mood. It's truly magical.  Even in the rain and mist.  I think the backdrop, coupled with recognising the (reassuring) points from JK's videos - certainly perked us up a bit. When we hit the old ruins and made the required right turn, I ran down to Swinburn’s Park with the same excitement as my number being called in Argos. I never thought simply going to the right way could feel so amazing!

The adventure wasn't quite over though, as we had to negotiate a few shoe-sucking muddy fields and then got lost in Dacre trying to find the route passed the castle. 

Eventually we made it back to Dalemain House in a total time of 5:48.  That wasn't too bad considering we had to follow a map into the unknown and take a few detours. I absolutely loved the route and even now, I'm still on a bit of a high from the run.

I think it took us longer to get changed into dry clothes that it did to drive back to Glasgow. I'm sure the passing tradesmen were slightly suspicious of steamed-up Mini in an empty carpark with wet clothes being disgarded out the windows and doors!

I'll be honest, I not sure I would fork out £22 for a pair of socks.  It's right up there with £60 taxi fares!  However I do think - with most things in life - you get what you pay for.   I've made no secret that my feet have been causing me problems this year.  There's not been a race where my feet haven't let me down, so I'm willing to try anything.  Any pay anything!

Here's the science bit...Maximum Protection Running socks are made using the patented Blister Guard® system. This system incorporates Friction Free® Profilen® fibers throughout the entire foot area of the sock. Profilen’s chemical name is Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). PTFE has the lowest Coefficient of Friction of any solid material.

That was as clear as mud to me too.  Just skip the rest and watch the video at the bottom.
Why we get blisters: Feet get hot and perspire, causing socks to become wet. Moisture significantly increases friction (stickiness) between socks and skin. The higher the friction, the greater the chance of getting blisters. Higher friction limits skin surface movement, yet still allows inner tissue movement causing a shearing effect. This physically separates the two layers which fill with fluid, forming a blister.

Their Blister Guard® System:  Drymax Maximum Protection Running socks were designed to prevent blisters during triathlons, marathons and ultra-long distance runs. In addition, they will help people who are just prone to getting blisters.   Profilen and Drymax fibers blended together provide Maximum Protection for your feet. This scientific approach keeps feet dry and the friction between the skin and sock low. Runners who wear Maximum Protection Running socks will have cooler, drier, more comfortable feet, while significantly lowering the chance of getting blisters. They possess top mesh air panels which release heat and sweat vapor out of the top of the sock and shoe.

The proof  of the pudding...After nearly six hours in the pouring rain, I can report that my feet were comfortable the whole day.  No hot spots and no blisters.  So yeah, you get what you pay for.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Marcothon 2012

It's that time again, folks!  The 4th Marcothon is underway.

The rules are simply, you must run every day in DECEMBER. Minimum of three miles or 25 minutes – which ever comes first. The challenge starts on December 1 and finishes on December 31. And yes, that includes Christmas Day. See website for full details.

A bit of history: This all started in 2009, when Marco challenged himself to run every day in November. I decided to follow suit and run every day in December. I posted the challenge – and dubbed it the Marcothon - on my blog and before I knew it there was a group of runners equally eager to embrace the winter conditions of December 2009. In 2010, the group was added to Facebook and attracted over 500 runners from across the globe. Last year, we nearly hit 1000!

It's not a competition. Just a personal challenge or an incentive to burn off some beer and turkey dinners. So, who’s up for it the Marcothon 2012?  Sign up on Facebook.

Thursday 1 November 2012

The Wooden Spoon in the Toon

As I write this, I'm regretting the fact that I posted about my Newcastle Town Moor Marathon adventure - then I wouldn't feel obliged to report back on it.

I'll keep it brief.  I didn't quite go to plan, but I still got a PB.  Granted I haven't done a marathon for nearly five years, but when I set my previous best in London 2008 I had a really good run and was elated to finish in 3:31:00.

The race is 5 x 5+ mile lapped course on - not surprisingly - Newcastle's Town Moor.  I started out at 7:30m/m pace, which I was fairly confident of maintaining.  Unfortunately - as with all races - external factors can play a major part.  I didn't really mind the muck or and nasty grassy hill section, but the wind was really frustrating.  The Moor must be the windiest place in the earth.  I had read that on quite a few of the race reviews, so I knew it was quite an exposed course.

No toilet mishaps this time - honest!
I wanted to chuck it after the second lap - and that was before I dropped pace.  My heart just wasn't in it. I couldn't shake the negative thoughts and the devil my shoulder was telling me stop. My mojo has hitched a ride with the wind, but after some TTFU self-chat I decided just to go for the finish and forget time. I think lapping the chap who was pushing his disabled son in a jogging buggy gave me the royal kick up the butt I needed.  Plus after bullying and training (from scratch!) two of my friends at work to do the Loch Ness Marathon a few weeks earlier, I could hardly go back and tell them I DNF-d because I couldn't be ar&ed!

At the end of the forth lap I was half-expecting Sonic to go tearing passed me, so was quite relieved to make it without getting lapped.

I stopped to drink some Coke and then left to start my final lap.  I was trying to find out from the supporters who was leading the race, but was met by a head shakes and blank expressions. Then I saw Sonic standing in his civvies, as he'd pulled out because of his hamstring injury - or sense!  Then I REALLY wanted to pull up, but forced myself to keep going - even with the voices in my head saying: "Stop. Turn back.  You could be heading home now..."

Anyway, the voices lost and I finished 4th lady (1st vet) and 20th overall in 3:28Full results here.  Sonic is really kicking himself, as when he pulled up he was in third position and the guy in fourth went on to win it!

Although it has its challenges, it's a great race.  Really friendly.  And the marshals on the course were fantastic - all five times that I saw them.  I was glad I was running and not standing out there though!

1st 2.54.34 Steve Middleton M35 Thirsk & Sowerby Harriers

2nd 2.55.08 Richard Parker M45 Tynedale Harriers
3rd 2.59.34 Steven Prentice M35 North East Marathon Club

13th 3.14.51 Ann Hood FSNR UK Netrunner
18th  3.24.21 Andrea Dennison F45 Bingley Harriers
19th 3.25.17 Pauline Aitchson F40 Wooler Running Club