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This blog is my professional view and opinions on anything related to massage and fitness. This may range from new therapies, training modes, interesting aspects of massage or fitness, to food, recovery and other aspects to remain in good overall health.

 

By Lee Weston, May 29 2019 02:34PM

These are just a few brief reviews of the last couple of running events I have done in March and May. The pros, cons and bits you can’t figure out from event websites.


The Jurassic Coast Challenge 22nd -24th March 2019


A multi day event held down in the beautiful Jurassic coast line of Dorset hence the name, and the objective being to run, jog or walk a marathon a day 3 days in a row. This event is superbly organised and a really good multiday event with people signing up for either 1, 2 or all 3 days. The operation has been refined over the many years its been put on by VO two Ltd which reflects in the very professional and smooth running of the event.


I signed up to this for getting some high mileage in over a few consecutive days whilst my wife was away on a Hen do. The draw being the navigation being easier than most on self nav trail running events as it was a coastal route and lots of provisions in the terms of aid stations and transport to and from the start/ end points each day. The idea of camping and packing all my own provisions for 3 days isn’t my idea of dipping my toe in the water of multiday events. The biggest draw was the location, not having been to Dorset nor seeing any of the famous coast line, I thought it would kill two birds with one stone.


The accommodation for a single participant couldn’t have been easier with it being very affordable and only a mile away from the Race HQ in Chesil Vista Holiday Park. This was in a new static caravan with 2 other participants, very spacious and all the mod cons required. The site even had a restaurant, bar, swimming pool and sauna free to use. The HQ was a great set up too, utilizing the Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy with food being on offer for breakfast and dinner, event shop, registration and massages available.


The course itself was A to B, B to C, C to D in nature being mini bused out to the start each day and collected at the finish to come back to the HQ. All was well run with two groups, essentially fast and slow, being dropped off and set off at different timings allowing the slow group participants longer to complete. With very generous cut off times, allowing people to walk it, it’s a great event to enter as a first timer on a trail marathon or a multi-day event as it offers you the reassurance you can finish even if a lot of things don’t go your way on the day.


The course normally goes, day one Charmouth to Portland, day two Portland to West Lulworth, day 3 West Lulworth to Studland Beach. However there was a clash with another event along the same section of coast so it went in the order or day 2 then 1 and then 3. The course itself was overall really good providing great scenery, varied under foot (beach, shingle, paths, fields, steps, tarmac) and not too technical all the time. Personally, I enjoyed the end of Portland to West Lulworth as it got hiller and more scenic on the first day and also the whole of West Lulworth to Studland Beach, day 3. This for me was my favorite day as it had great scenery, challenging hills, flat runnable pavement at times to make up ground and time and a good long beach section to finish on. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the last 2 thirds of from Charmouth to Portland as it was behind Chesil beach, with sections on the shingle, unable to see the sea and mentally challenging meandering around the farm land behind the beach clocking up more mileage with the feeling of not getting anywhere.


Over all my mileage and elevation were as below:


Day 1- Portland to West Lulworth – 27.2 miles 1118 meters

Day 2- Charmouth to Portland – 28.6 miles 1092 meters

Day 3- West Lulworth to Studland Beach – 28.1 miles 1330 meters


Overall, I really enjoyed this race with the ability to sign up to as much as you wanted and still being about to achieve it within generous cut off times. Well organised with plenty of time to recover in good accommodation and services (food & massage) provided. Shame the accommodation wasn’t on site but this is only minor disadvantage but there was free car parking at both sites. A great event to do as an individual with lots of friendly people running but also fantastic one to do with friends, all in an area of outstanding beauty.




Cornish Imerys Trail Marathon 19th May 2019


My latest race back in my home county of Cornwall getting the chance to sight see around St Austell’s China Clay works, new and old. This was a great opportunity to run a trail marathon on a route which is not normally open to the public, with some spectacular views over the south coast and of the Luna-esk quarry’s of which the region is famous for.


The event was run by St Austell running club in partnership with Imerys and staged in the grounds of Cornwall college, which was idea, holding a fun run, half and full marathon. There was a really nice and friendly atmosphere and good provisions on site for parking, food and bag drop. The number pick up was held up as you had to find your number prior to picking it up which wasn’t communicated clearly when entering. With collecting your number you received a very good technical running T shirt, much better than the normal you get. The route was well marshaled with great signage and ample water stations throughout the course.


The course itself was a very runnable trail marathon, not being too steep on the gradients so if you were able to you could keep churning out the miles without stopping. I may have walked 4-6 times briefly which isn’t too bad for me. The trails were the same for the half and full until mile 8 when the full split off for a 13-mile loop to rejoin again at the same point to finish the last 5 miles into the finish. The weather was good so some really good views and the paths not being technical at all so you didn’t have to watch your foot placement all the time. This led to a more relaxed run and being on some very wide-open quarry roads made it unique. However, if the weather had been different the course is very exposed to the elements so could have been a totally different story. In total I made the elevation and mileage as: 917m 26.1 miles.



At the finish there were a number of supporters, family, friends and club supporters, which made for a nice atmosphere when your token medal, water and banana for your efforts. Food, drinks and ice cream were available for everyone to enjoy and support the remainder of the participants coming in whilst sitting in the sun.


Overall a great event and course which is well organised, marshalled and well suited for anyone who is going into trail running for the first time or for those wanting some different scenery on their trail events.



By Lee Weston, Jul 15 2018 07:09PM

Ultra-running has kind of become my thing over the last year, more through organic growth rather than an intension, and with the hills getting bigger and distances getting longer I wondered what all these people around me were doing with poles!? So running with poles is a thing and although you may write them off as cheating or gaining an unfair advantage, don’t knock it until you have tried it. I am now a massive fan and convert after recently trying them in the Mozart 100, a 103km ultra in the Austrian mountains, with 4500m of elevation. Without them it would have been an ugly affair. Also, if it’s allowed in the rules and regs of the race, which it is in most mountainous ultras, why not use the kit allowed to gain the most benefit within the race.


After a bit of research into the potential benefits, reading blogs and articles about how they are like Marmite, you love them or hate them, I thought it was worth a try. I have always known of the benefits of hiking with poles. They keep you more upright, therefore reducing the load on the quads and calves giving you more power from the glutes as well as off-loading the lower body and utilising the upper body. Some articles claimed a 40% increase in upper body use whilst using poles which is a huge aid to the lower body.


When my friend who I ran the Mozart 100 with was suffering from a knee issue leading into the race it seemed to make sense to use poles a bit earlier than intended. I had planned to practice running with them leading up to the Arc50, a 50 mile ultra in Feb when ground conditions would be treacherous and very hilly on the Cornish coast path. I decided to invest in a pair, not lightly though as they come at a cost! Made from carbon fiber or aluminum they are designed to fold up smaller for ease of packing away and also to save weight when running/carrying them. This makes them expensive £80+.


I bought a pair of Mountain King Trail Blaze Skyrunner Trail Poles off eBay but not long before realising I couldn’t take them on the plane in my hand luggage. So, I ended using normal light weight trekking poles borrowed from a client’s client who lived in Salzburg. Amazingly they do give you a lot of extra go, even on the level. They definitely take some getting used to but my friend wouldn’t have made it around the 103km without them and I would have been in a lot of pain! I found on the flats you could use them in an alternating swing pattern, and the same on ascents however you could double pole to give a big power uphill walking or running. I found the double pole most beneficial downhill to help reduce the load and impact also stabilising yourself on uneven/slippery descents. They definitely take some getting used to and wouldn’t be for everyone, but I was sold on them in 5-10minutes of using them, and that was just a normal light weight walking pole, not even a specific running pole. However, they do throw up a few logistical things to consider like where to carry them, feeding on the go etc.



Potential gains:

1. Offloads the legs and aids in the mechanics of ascents, descents and flats.

2. Increase upper body work out and opening up of the chest by being upright making it easier to get your breath when working hard.

3. Reduces the risk of injury / falls as helps stabilise yourself on your feet.

4. Reduces the likelihood of early fatigue.


Potential problems:


1. Your hands aren’t free to eat, drink or perform other tasks which can be annoying but just takes some time to get used to.

2. They aren’t permitted on airplanes in hand luggage so can be a pain if traveling light.

3. Consideration has to be given to where you store them on yourself when not using them as running holding them can be arduous.

4. They can be an expensive bit of kit if you don’t like running with them / utilise them enough within races.



Top tips if your considering using running poles:

1. Try before you buy, even if it’s with a trekking pole. You will soon find out a rhythm or whether it is for you or not.

2. Practice makes perfect. This is something I didn’t have the luxury of and had to play with it on race day (not ideal) but it will make you far more proficient and economic with your energy.

3. Think about how you will store them whist running that is easy to access and perform whilst fatigued.

4. Read reviews before you buy as there are pros and cons relating to the brands, material they are constructed from, wrist straps and the construction of them (Z folding or telescopic).

5. Make sure you get the right size too as most aren’t adjustable to save weight. A rough guide is multiplying your height by 0.7 or a pole length allowing your elbow to be at 90 degrees whilst you are holding the grip and the tip on the floor.


Hopefully this gives you a brief overview of a few things I experienced in researching, buying and using poles in the last month or so within my silly Ultras. For me it will be an essential bit of kit, first to be packed in my bag alongside my toilet roll, whistle and phone.



By Lee Weston, Jun 17 2016 03:11PM

6 miles from the end
6 miles from the end
Happy to be standing still at the finish
Happy to be standing still at the finish

So you are happy with half marathons and done the odd marathon but you find that road running is boring? As my friend and colleague said, “why not try this 40 mile coastal ultra-marathon?” An ultra-marathon is defined as anything over the distance of 26.2miles.


Having just finished my first marathon quicker than my expected goal I signed up without knowing the first thing about ultras, or the event. You expect it to be hard physically because it is longer in distance, so you prepare physically.


This started with short 60 min weekly run with my unwilling friends who also signed up to the race about 12 weeks prior to the event. These built up to 120 min run 2 weeks prior to the event. I was happy to do this as I knew I needed to get some miles under the belt and would do my own “long” run on the weekends. This would get progressively longer and then match the same hilly terrain as the event. The aim was to reach a 30 mile long run and an accumulated 40+ miles in a week, in the 2-3 weeks prior to the event.


This is where it all changed in my expectations. It went from being physically prepared to focusing on how to be mentally prepared. After running 26 miles relatively comfortable on easy terrain I decided to try to hit 30 miles over the North Cornwall / North Devon coast path. I reached 27 miles. 3 miles off my training target and 13 miles off the event distance. I couldn’t go any further. Limiting factors were being too fast (not having enough rest), being ill equipped (not enough electrolytes) and having the wrong strategy/ mind set. I knew I had got it all wrong when I mentally gave in and accepted 27 miles. I had underestimated it mentally, the speed I expected to run 30 miles, how I expected to feel ok physically after 30 miles, the factor of running by myself with no one to talk to for 6.5 hours. It made the last 3 miles too much.


So having missed one of my training targets I refocused. I managed to hit an accumulated 40 miles with a marathon and a 14 mile run in a week, 2 weeks prior to the event. But more importantly it was setting levels of goals that would allow me not to fail and know how to approach the event successfully.


The event: 40 miles. Hardest thing I have ever done, mentally. Not physically! Reaching 17 miles in at 3 hours 54 mins in with my back starting to cramp, wet, and the person in front dropping out it was all in the head! The hardest 11.5 miles I’ve ever done was after that, to reach the check point at mile 28 with the two biggest hills to come. Thankfully I had support waiting for me at the turn point and a fellow competitor to chat to on the final 11.5 miles which made them pass quickly. With single figures in distance remaining I only got faster. So much so my family missed me finishes the race!


Would I run that race again: no way! Would I do another race of similar distance- yes. It all comes down to my reasons for doing the race: 1. To finish 2. See a new part of the coast line in North Cornwall 3. Finish under ten hours (originally my goal was 8! That changed after my training runs) 4. Prove to myself I am capable, mentally and physically. 5. share the accomplishment of finishing with my friends



Top tips if you are thinking about running any distance, especially longer distances:


Physical training


1. Training: what works for you? Around your lifestyle, commitments, physical limitations and training preferences. Make it social, train with a friend. Schedule when to train at the best times for you. Train in the format that your body most likes, for me it was one long and one shorter run a week, both off road.


2. Eating: practice makes perfect. When training play with types (liquid or solid) and amounts of food. Don’t try something new on race day and see what agrees with your body/gut.


3. Kit: make sure you are prepared: trainers, sun cream & cap, layers, running pack. Ensure you leave nothing to chance as it can cause great discomfort. Best investment was my Hoka speedgoat trainers and Salomon S-Lab race pack.


Mental training


1. Set goals in levels: Make sure you have a goal you will always achieve and ones that you aspire to. For me it was to see the coast line, whether I finish or not that would have happened. Another was to finish, not a given but likely. The desired was to finish in a time. You will always come away from an event having learnt and achieved something if you set the right goals. If you don’t then you are likely to feel like you have failed.


2. What is your focus? Why are you doing this?: If your answer doesn’t have a deep desire and motivation you won’t do the training, you won’t get up at 6 am to run 20 miles before a day out with your family. You are setting yourself up to fail.


3. Mental strategy: Never think of the event as a whole, it will destroy you. Break it down in to manageable chunks. The first 10 miles. Then the following 10, then your over half way. Only 2 hours left, into single figures until the finish. I set my mile lap times in miles but total distance and speed in Km so I have to use mental arithmetic to keep myself busy trying to figure out predicted times to set points.



If you have any questions regarding how to train for a half, full or ultra-marathon then please contact me. Resistance training is also another important part to the equation. However it is mind over matter! If you want to know more about the things they don’t tell you about ultra-running then follow the link below- it is all very true!


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/active/10956220/10-things-no-one-tells-you-before-you-run-an-ultra-marathon.html




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