Sunday Sep 28, 2008

1st Ultra

Following on from last weekend crash course in dehydration prevention, this weekends fun was the Pumlumon Challenge. At 27 miles, it is just classed as an Ultra by these people which is good enough for me. The 5,500 feet of ascent(and decent) makes it feel a lot further. The route was a combination of high rough moorland tracks, forestry tracks, rough bog trotting and open heather hillside. It include about 100 meters in total of tarmac road as 4 were crossed during the race.

The start is only about 2 miles from home, so it would have been rude not to do it.

Saturday was a clear and warm day with stunning views over the mid-Wales hills and down to the sea. Unfortunately, some concentration was required on the sections of boggy tussock to avoid ankle twisting, so admiration of the view had to take 2nd place. The walkers set off 90 minute before the runners and there were a number of control points making sure walkers and runners were accounted for. Some control points had water, one even provided tea and waffles.

In contrast to last week, I got the pacing and getting enough fluid down my neck pretty well right. I was 4 minute outside my target time of 6 hours and finished 18th out of 40 runners who started, so quite happy overall.

Sunday Sep 21, 2008

Nant Peris Horseshoe

The Nant Peris Horseshoe starts in Llanberis, takes in the summits of Elidir, Y Garm, Glyder Fawr, Lliwedd, Snowdon and Moel Cynghorion. It is considered by many runners to be the hardest fell race in the Welsh calender at 17.5 miles and 8500ft of ascent. I did not do at all well. Despite my best attempts to get water down my neck, I did become quite dehydrated by the summit of Lliwedd and the decent and then ascent to Snowdon was painful. A load more water and I recovered enough to run the final section at a reasonable pace. I was over an hour behind my target time, but learned more about running long mountain races yesterday than in the other 10 or so races I have done this year.

A minute silence was held before the start of the race to remember Jill Harris, who set the over 50's female record for the race in 2007 and who died earlier this year from Ovarian Cancer.

Organisation was perfect and very well marshalled. The team lead by Mike Blake (who holds the descent record for the summit of Tryfan to the A5 in a mind boggling 8 minutes) got it just right for this type of race. The weather was warm, but not too hot and the views were stunning.

I am already looking forward to next year's race (something I was not saying to myself yesterday on 6th ascent of the day) and putting in a time which I consider respectable.

Next weekend is the Pumlumon Challenge.

Monday Jul 28, 2008

Snowdon Race

The temp gauge in our car read 27 degree's which is tropical for Wales. So heat was the theme of this years Snowdon Race with many of the competitors finishing up to 10 minutes down on last years time. Apart, of course, from the winner Andi Jones who runs like a machine and was only 30 seconds down on his time for the previous year. I came in 45 minutes after Andi and I don't think I could have run any harder given the heat.

The race also doubles as the Llanberis St John's Ambulance training day. I have never seen so many customers for their services at a race:- heat exhustion, blisters and bleeding legs and heads. The medical tent was full to overflowing. At least 1 runner who ran for Wales was helicoptered off, I do he is OK now.

So it was a tough race for those not used to running in heat, I doubt few personal bests were set(unless like me it was your 1st). While Snowdon has a railway running to its summit, it is still a serious mountain which needs considerable respect if you choose to use your feet at any speed or in any weather.

Much credit to the marshalls and organisers and also to the 1000's of people who turned out to cheers everyone on, not just the winners or their friends.

Friday Jul 11, 2008

Survival of the Fittest

Assisted by extra reading time made available by a round trip to south Africa, I have just finished reading Survival of the Fittest by Mike Stroud. This is not a typical physical adventures read, though parts of the book are hard to put down. It a book written by a medical doctor with a serious interest in what extremes the human body can be taken to and quite a lot of practical experience of doing just that.

He uses both of own experienence of doing extreme events such as crossing the Antarctic, running 7 marathons in 7 days and the various Eco-challanges in teams ages from 30 to 74. For example, he explains how the body controls extremes of heat and why it may malfunction.

In short its a very practical read if you are interested in pushing your own physical limts or just living a better quality of life into your more senior years.

Sunday Jun 22, 2008

Red Kite

The race this weekend was Red Kite Weekend and came in just under my target time of 1:45 was quite pleasing. I don't think the local knowledge helped much, but it was a fun race.

The race very much lived up to its name. Just after I finished was Red Kite feeding time and to see around 100 of these birds of prey flocking was amazing. For the rights and wrongs of feeding and I guess many of these birds are dependent on being feed, when I was a child 30 years ago in the same part of Wales, it was special to see a Red Kite at all. Now a Red Kite is probably more common than a Crow which is I think a worthwhile tradeoff in the big scheme of things. I shall have to make it to Nant-y-Arian with the video camera at feeding time, the Red Kite is a spectacular bird.

I am going to have a break from races for a few months, get some more concentrated hill training in the bag over the summar, do family holidays etc and return to a couple of intesting races in late September.

Sunday Jun 15, 2008

Clive v horse!

On Saturday I joined around 500 runners and 40+ horses to take part in one of the more curious events in the running calendar : The Man vs Horse Marathon. This years event was won by a horse (a relay team did finish 1st, but they are not counted in this respect) 10 seconds ahead of the 1st man which must have been some finish to watch.

Its the 1st time I have run that sort of distance (22 miles, 3000ft ascent), so I was pleased to be just outside my target time at 3:35:13 and managed to finish before quite a few horses and about 1/2 way down the field of runners. I found the last 4 miles really hard.

About 60 relay teams entered, each member doing a leg of around 7 miles. I was past by Andy Croft, an Engagement Architect in Sun UK, at about mile 18 who was running the final leg for his team which was a bit of a surreal moment.

One feature of this race which should be compulsory for any marathon is a river crossing a few 100 meters from the finish to help induce leg cramp.

I did manage a spurt of speed in the last 100m as the thundering hoofs of a horse named Socks approached from behind. Funny how the thought of beating just one more horse can help you find energy you wished you had 3 miles back.

This is a race I will do again! Very well organized and marshaled. Horses did not constitute a significant risk of trampling. The course was a mixture of forestry tracks, open moorland, rivers, mud, foot paths and some tarmac (< 20%).

Think I will give the Bog Snorkeling a miss which also takes place in Llanwrtyd Wells, I don't quite have the features for it.

Next weekend is The Red Kite Challange where the course passes within less than a mile of where I live, so it would be rude not to do it!

Monday May 19, 2008

Sarn Helen

This weekends race was in Lampeter put on by the Sarn Helen club. The route was just over 16 miles and 3000ft and was about 1/3 fields and tracks and 2/3 road. I am not a big fan of running on roads. Part of the route followed the old Sarn Helen Roman road.

1st time I have run this type of distance, so after about 13 miles my legs were not happy. However, the views were quite stunning both looking north and south from the higher elevations of the race and the rest was on very minor and quiet roads.

Next race is Ras Cader Idris on Saturaday the 24th.

Thursday May 15, 2008

An excuse to visit Church Stretton

and what a nice place Church Stretton is. Set in the Shropshire countryside with moorland on either side. Well worth spending a day walking around and lots of potential for pleasent walks.

The hills east and west of Church Stretton are not large by the standards of north Wales or the Lake District, but they do present a number of steep hills which make for some cracking fell races.

Just over 120 souls set out last night on the Caradoc Classic race, 880ft and 3 miles. Bit less mud than I am used to on the races in north Wales where waste deep bog trotting is not considered unusual. However, the lack of mud did make the course quite fast. A perfect early summer evening and a stunning view(sorry, left my camera behind) from the top of Caer Caradoc which few of the runners took time to soak up.

Pleased with my placing, but the race times have not yet been posted.

Sarn Helen race near Lampeter on Sunday which is a much longer and harder proposition.

Monday Apr 21, 2008

An excuse to visit the Moelwyn range after 20 years

Ran in the Ras Y Moelwyn (the Moelwyn Race) race on Saturday over the three peaks of Moelwyn Mawr, Moelwyn Bach and Moel yr Hydd in north Wales. At 10 miles and 2500ft of up it was the next step up in difficulty being a "proper mountain race", to my previous 2 races. Still, pleased with my time and place, but significant scope for improvement.

In contrast to my other 2 races in previous months which were organized by Fell Runners for Fell Runners, this was organized by the community of Blaenau Ffestiniog and the race is in its 26th year. The organization and marshaling was spot on with a very significant commitment from the local people. Navigation involved following either very well defined paths or on the open mountain running from one marshal in a fluorescent jacket to the next a few 100 meters away. The whole vibe of the race means I will be back for sure next year.

I am spending this week in Prague teaching SGRT to the Software Systems Test Group. I think I am now the longest serving/suffering active SGRT Program Leader in Sun, but if you know different please add a comment. Many of the people trained in SGRT over the years have moved to senior management positions and are now not active in training and delivery of troubleshooting. However, they still use the Rational Process in their new roles, even outside the context of direct customer problem troubleshooting. This demonstrates to me that SGRT has served them well as a tool to develop their careers as New Rational Managers.

Me, I will stick to technical problem solving and the lunacy involved in running down hills as fast as my little legs will carry me.

Monday Apr 14, 2008

Llantysillo Mountain Race

There are lots of bits of Wales I have yet to explore and on Saturday I got an excuse to run round an area north east of Llangollen at Rhewl. Just over a 100 runner, some rain, some wind and some sun. The race was an AM (6.2 miles and 2100 feet). I had been off running for the preceding week due to a stomach bug, but suffered no problems on the day and was pleased with my time and position in the race.

The learning for the day was I need to do a bit more work on my lower legs to cope better with walking the really steep sections, but a pleasing outing.

Meeting a PhD student from the Sports Sciences department at Aberystwyth University tomorrow to see if we can introduce a little science in my running. Should be interesting.

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