Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Nice weather for llamas

Sunday was beautiful. The sun shone, the ground stayed firm, and I was very grateful. I'd agreed to muck-in at a local event, and not knowing what to expect, the boot of my car looked like I'd been prepping for the apocalypse.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Lost and found

On Tuesday evening, having put “Little Adventures” to bed, my wife pointed out I’d spent much of the day pacing like a caged tiger, and insisted I go for a long run. I told her I’d be back in three hours. She said make it two. I said two and a half, and she said if I was five minutes late, she’d call the police.

So off I went, strict instructions in place. As I stepped out the front door, I added that I’d be heading east on the North Downs Way, and within three miles I’d got lost.

Lost is an overstatement, but my unimaginative plan took an unexpected turn, and I decided to run with it (ho ho). In the rare instances I find myself bumbling along with only a rough idea of where I’m going, I do my best to make the most of it. On this occasion I enjoyed discovering some new footpaths and bridleways, a bit of cheeky fairway across Farnham golf club, and an introduction to the greater delights of Crooksbury Common, all unseasonally dry underfoot, and mostly great running.

Route Profile, showing NOT LOST, LOST, NOT LOST and WET
Leaving a small corner of my brain to worry about my general heading, I kept one eye on the time and pace while the rest of me simply enjoyed the new trails. When I finally arrived somewhere familiar, I pointed myself over Puttenham Common to pick up the North Downs Way, and headed towards home. Though it meant a thigh-deep wade through freezing flood-water in its later stages, I reached the front step in exactly two and a half hours, with a satisfying sixteen off-road miles on the clock, and no heat from the rozzers.

*Inov-8 Roclite 315 - in this neck of the woods,
you'd need a good reason not to own a pair.

The following night, an email from Javed mentioned a small group were planning an out-and-back bimble across Caesar’s Camp and onto the North Downs Way. With my 315’s* still damp from a section of their intended route, I considered an alternative, mapped it out, emailed it back, decided it was too good to miss, and set the alarm to join them next morning.

With a light frost underfoot, and acres of blue sky above, I ran the couple of miles across Caesar’s Camp to meet the group, consisting of both two, and four legged ultra-runners. Setting off over Folly Hill, we followed sneaky footpaths across Farnham town centre, and picked up the start of the North Downs Way. Two miles later, we jinked off the National Trail, and up the shady north side of Crooksbury Hill, where we defined new bounds of breathlessness, both from the painfully steep ascent, and the beautiful view from the top. It really was the perfect destination, and some solid running back home rounded off another first class trailrun.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Event horizons

I'm not an "event-motivated" person. I have skills and a focus that make me good at organising events, but they're not traditionally my thing.

Caswell Bay, 1999
I think back through the sports in which I've dabbled, and though there have been notable exceptions, my focus has been less about the start-finish-time-rank of competition, and more about the enjoyment of random, often social, participation.

I consider myself to be a surfer, for example. You can hand me a board and I'll pick a wave, catch it, and ride it. It's not something I do regularly any more, and I've certainly never considered doing so in any kind of competitive event. For me, it was always about taking myself out of the day-to-day and immersing myself in the moment, ideally for hours at a time.

The same is true of other activities I enjoy. Having dragged myself up to a certain level of competence, and got all the kit, sports like sea-kayaking, rock-climbing and cycling can largely be picked up or put down as the mood takes me.

So why enter events at all?

The reality is that quite often, the mood doesn't take me. Time, work, geography and weather can be allowed to get in the way. Like most people, I love the idea of being fitter, healthier, and getting more out of the activities I enjoy; but some days the sofa seems like a better option. The bottom line is that no matter how much you'd like to run a National Trail, or cycle a stage of the Tour de France, on a day-to-day level, you're going to have to work more than just the remote control to make these things happen.

The 2006 Edinburgh Rat Race
This is where events come in. If your goal is to run that National Trail, or cycle that Tour stage, you've got two choices: you can pick a random date and do it for free, or you can pay the money, and participate in an event.

The benefits of the event may be major, or minor. It might mean a prepared map, or waymarking, or marshals. It could mean closed roads, and medical back up. There may at least be a finishers' list, or a medal, or a tshirt, all recording your completion of the challenge. It could simply be the chance to do something you're not normally allowed to do. But most importantly, though most overlooked, is that you're setting in stone an immovable goal, and the terms by which you're going to tackle it.

If that goal is a big one, your preparation will be significant. You'll probably need to break it down into sections, measuring your status at the end of each section. Another perfect opportunity for an event entry or two, and there are obvious benefits in choosing events that align with our personal goals.

Less apparent, but perhaps as valuable to us in hindsight, is that these events give us the focus we need to get out the door for a five mile run on a rainy Tuesday night. Whilst the event itself can be an obvious accolade, their greater benefit may be that they keep us motivated, they ensure we take time out of our lives to be active, and they can play a major part in both creating, and fulfilling our ambitions.

Running on Hadrian's Wall, December 2010
Over Easter 2013 I'm going to run the Viking Way Ultra, 147 miles along a waymarked trail through the East Midlands. It's a significant challenge, and something to get my teeth into.

I'll book a few interim events and build a training plan, and between here and now, these events may constitute 90% of the total cost of my running, for less than 20% of the overall distance. 

Runners are traditionally frugal participants, and some might look at the costs involved and consider these event entries to be an unnecessary expense, particularly when these trails could be run for free at any time. 

And they will be. Between now and Easter, trails all over the UK will feel the regular footfall of many, many runners, all enjoying the freedom they offer, and most of whom will be training for an event. Those that don't have an event on the horizon are more likely to be found on the sofa.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Jetskiing in Surrey

Okay, not really jetskiing, but at times, it looked pretty much like jetskiing.

I've started riding my mountainbike again. Quite a bit, in fact. Not a lot, but quite a bit is quite a lot more than I have been over the last twelve months.

I've been doing much more coaching, which I love. Whether they're fresh-out-the-box or old-dogs-learning-new-tricks mountainbikers, it's great to be with people when they realise that doing "Thing A" at the same time as "Thing B" is all it takes to execute the perfect "Thing C", and you can almost see the lightbulb appear above their head.

Wet, wet, wet, wet... and muddy*
(*wet mud)
But I've also been getting to know my local trails again. A lot can change in a few years, and while I've been route-finding for events up and down the country, the Surrey Hills have become the most comprehensive biking destination in the south. For the fast-track to the... (er...) fastest tracks, I've been joining Danielle and Jess from www.singletrackschool.co.uk, on their regular "Love2Ride" evening sessions.

Tonight was one of those rides, and was apocalyptically wet. Technical uphill sections had become wet staircases of shiny roots and leaf litter, and on the fast downhills we were charging hard to stay in the wheeltracks of the rider in front, down the torrents and waterfalls that are normally stony singletrack.

Short, but sweet, and phenomenal fun. I expect to have grit in my teeth for a day or two yet.

The ride is on Strava, by the way. Feel free to look me up for all my local adventures.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Getting back off track

I understand that some bears eat just about anything. They're omnivorous with a capital "O". With a massive stomach to fill, they're driven to be resourceful, versatile, and opportunistic.

I wonder whether a bear would be content to live next to a constant food source. I'm sure they'd be ecstatic the first time they found it, but if they came to rely upon it would they become fat and unhappy? Would they notice the diminishing of their foraging skills? Would they care? 

Who knows.

Three years ago I started working for a company that organises adventure-sports events. Trail runs, obstacle runs, multisport stuff etc. I knew their product from having taken part in some of their earlier offerings, and this seemed like a good fit.

Over the years, my resourcefulness has served the events well, and they've put food on the table. Previous experience borne from a constant hunger for local adventures produced some great work. But as the work/resource balance has incrementally shifted, the opportunities and impetus to exercise these skills outside the workplace has evaporated.

I became a bear at a buffet. I had a nagging sense of having been more active, more capable, more creative, more social, and in a good way, challenged.

So I left.

I don't have another buffet in the pipeline just yet. There's an immediate challenge to take stock, point myself in the right direction and see which new skills I need to develop. In the meantime, I'm starting as I mean to go on, by remembering how to run, to ride, to look at a map and forge a path, and to enjoy some time with my friends and family.

In the spirit of adventure, I'll try and note some of these things down once in a while.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

January 32nd

Not running feels goooooood.

A dozen miles on the foldie bike went down very well indeed.

Good night!

Todays: 0 miles run. Sweet.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

This is madness!

As the man with the red bed sheet round his neck said:

"No retreat, no surrender. That is Janathon Law. And by Janathon law, we will jog, and log... and blog. A new age has begun: an age of freedom! And all will know thaT 300 miles gave their last breath to defend it!


This... is... JANATHON!"

With just forty eight hours to go before the end of Janathon, Fletchea (he of an eight month uninterrupted runstreak), Beanoutrunning (my partner in many crimes, for many years) and myself reached a gentlemen's agreement  to all finish as close as we could to 300 miles, effectively placing joint-second, behind Auswomble's impressive win (and new "course" record), with Jenks not far behind in third.

I hadn't expected to be knocking on the door of three hundred miles this month. The newest family member was an unknown factor, as was the dreaded lurghy that joined me on almost a third of my runs. But with the constant encouragement of knowing that my mileage was being watched, and my blogs were being read, suddenly the big 300 seemed do-able.

I thought that crossing the finish line-abreast was a sterling idea, and a fitting way to finish a month, where all three of us had held second place at one time or another. I'd had a reasonable Sunday run with Beany, and we were sitting on 282 and 287 respectively. I'd have loved to smash the last day with some heavy mileage, but month-end meetings ramp up the workload, and going all-out for second place may have been a hollow victory. Beany, who'd already run the furthest had to sleep on the idea, having mulled over pushing on for a very attainable 310 to give himself a ten mile daily average, but he too had his reasons to laying up, and I'm glad it came together.

Tonight's run took some working out, using slices of various road loops to reach the magic 4.4 miles as close to home as possible. In the end, I made it in sight of my house, and the final total couldn't have been closer to 300, without a risk of finishing short.

Thanks once again to Cathy for throwing it all together, and keeping the hordes entertained by playing the "Organiser's Privilege" at every turn. All is forgiven.

Congratulations on everyone that managed to jog, log and blog every day. There are always dozens of reasons not to, and yet only one that gets us out the door.

Tomorrow, we rest.

Janathon Day 31. 4.40miles, 34:44mins, 7:53/mile avg pace, 315ft ascent, 623cals
Janathon Totals: 300.03miles, 34:38hrs, 40,812cals, 10lbs net body mass.

Thank you, and good night.