Monthly Archives: January 2014

Review of 2013 and upcoming prospects for 2014

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He who thrives on challenges can accomplish extraordinary things in life.
– Sri Chinmoy.
 
One approach is to think of the hurdles that you face in life.  Another approach is to think of the joy that you will get after crossing over the hurdles.
– Sri Chinmoy.

The year 2013 has been quite a year for me. It was all about seizing opportunities and having new experiences. I’d competed in more ‘big’ races (marathon distance and beyond) than any other year. It was a year of ups and downs, but I’m glad to say certainly more ups than downs. In my work life it was also similar and I was fortunate to be selected to spend three months in Rome which enabled me to compete in the Rome Marathon in March, and then the Florence Marathon in November – happy times.

Race Results 2013

Date Race Terrain Distance Outcome Pace
29/12/2013 Across the Years 72 Hour race mixed 232.01M 72:00:00 18:37
24/11/2013 XXX Firenze Marathon road Mara 03:17:37 07:33
20/10/2013 Eden Marathon mixed Mara 03:41:41 08:28
29/09/2013 Grand Pier Half Marathon road Half 01:34:32 07:13
21/04/2013 Self Transcendence Six Day Race road 380M 144:00:00 22:45
17/03/2013 Rome Marathon road Mara 03:17:52 07:33
24/02/2013 Barry Track 40 track 40M 05:15:31 07:53

I was able to set PBs in the marathon and 40 mile races which I was very pleased about. I’ve still got some speed, but in all the years that I’ve been running has shown that I’m not a fast runner, but my body maybe better adapted for endurance. I also don’t have sufficient pace to get a good mileage in 24 hour races. My best to date is 114 miles (Basel: 114.28 miles; 2012).

Ever since 4 years ago I had a vivid dream that I was running in the 3100 mile race and Sri Chinmoy was present in that dream, I have set my sights on running in this race one day. I’m looking at the possibility of 2016 or 2017. To enable me to be considered I am required to get the qualifying distance of 600+ miles for the 10 day race.

So, this year I took the first step on that journey by running in the Self-Transcendence 6 Day Race in New York in April.

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Despite having a really bad chest infection a week prior and during the race I ran 380 miles, finishing 7th overall.

I was happy with this performance but my body is not yet sufficiently robust enough as I got Achilles tendon problems on the fourth day and really struggled for mileage in the second half of the race.  However, William James’ quote below was very apt and it allowed me to push through and finish the race.

William James quote

I underestimated how much the 6 Day Race took out of me. For 5 weeks afterwards my immune system was severely weakened and I couldn’t shift the chest infection and persistent cough. Eventually it took a course of antibiotics for me to completely recover. I then badly stubbed my big toe on the stairs at home and that knocked my running form for six.  So, it was a struggle to get any consistency in my running, and I was plagued with energy issues – constantly feeling tired and totally exhausted. In October I saw a kinesiologist who identified a number of imbalances affecting my overall health during an initial screening process. In no particular order these were as follows: chemical and metal toxicity toxicity; yeast infection (Candida); nutritional imbalances; structural problem; imbalance related to the type exercise I take and my physiological makeup; chronic dehydration (likely to be cellular based rather than kidney related); food allergy / intolerance; adrenal stress; low cellular energy (energy chemistry in your cell mitochondria not efficient). Other than that I was fine, hahaha! Well, at last I got a diagnosis, more that what my doctor could say, other than it is probably a virus and come back and see me in three months time; not much use to say the least.

From June onwards I began to get a persistent niggle in the inside of the left knee that progressively got worse, to a point it was seizing up and giving way. Both my osteopath and physiotherapist treatments were not alleviating it and then I made the decision to get a MRI scan on it. Thankfully it revealed no abnormalities or any meniscus tears.

Races Review 2013

My race year as always started at the end of February with the Barry 40 miles Track Race and I was in good shape having come through the winter season fairly well. The Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team tends to send a runner each year to this race and it is one we love to support. I targeted 5:15 and finished just outside that with 5:15:31. It was a bitterly cold day and the track can get very windy making running down the back straight a challenge and making runners work hard.

Photos at Barry 40 – 2013 (copyright Paul Stillman) (I’m number 282)

Photos below from Barry 40, 2013  Copyright All rights reserved by Les Stills

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I was very pleased with my performance and I’m hoping to run in the race again this year (9th March) and would hope to get as close to 5 hours as possible. In a way in depends how quickly I can recover from ATY and resume back to full training within the next few weeks.

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As I was out in Rome for the whole of March with work commitments I decided it was a great opportunity to run in the Roma Marathon. It was a beautiful way to see the city and I finished up with a new PB.

Lido di Ostia on the beach 22 March 2013

As I mentioned April was a leap into unknown territory with the  Self-Transcendence 6 Day Race. I am so grateful and indebted to the advice and knowledge imparted to me from my good friend Abichal (6 times finisher of the 3100 mile race!).

With the energy issues and constant niggles it was rather ambitious to try and target the Self-Transcendence 24 Hour Track Race in London in September. I decided to give this race a miss as I had made a commitment to run in the Eden Marathon down in Cornwall in October for the charity People and Gardens.

I tested out my fitness and the knee my running in the Grand Pier Half Marathon down in Weston-Super-Mare three weeks prior to the Eden Marathon. It wasn’t a brilliant performance and I lacked any pace, going off too fast in the first half and struggled to hang on in the second half of the race. But it was a good run out under race conditions.

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The Eden Marathon was a challenging course as about three quarters of it is off road and on trails, but I was more than happy to run on behalf of People and Gardens to raise much needed funds.

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The course was rather muddy and during the race there were torrential downpours with thunder and lightning.  I thoroughly enjoyed the race and it was great to finish in the grounds of the Eden Project with my family and Ken and Lorraine Radford (from People and Gardens) waiting for me at the finish.

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Again I was out in Rome in November for work and the Florence Marathon beckoned. Florence is such a beautiful city and has a wonderful Italian ambience. An amazing coincidence occurred. I met a wonderful Italian guy at the start of the Rome Marathon in March, and whilst I was warming up at the start of the Florence Marathon we bumped into each other again. The Italians are so warm, friendly and affectionate. We had perfect weather for the race, bathed in autumnal sunshine and slightly cool. The support on the course was amazing and it was a better atmosphere than the Rome Marathon. It’s a fast course and I paced it just right to get a new PB by 15 seconds. I didn’t want to run this race hard as I was conscious I wanted to recover quickly for ATY 72 Hour Race.

And well, ATY was a special way to end 2013 and begin 2014 – see my earlier post on this.

Goals and Aims for 2014

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Man’s time is unimaginably precious and unbelievably limited.
– Sri Chinmoy

I had such an awesome 2013 it is going to be difficult to better it. I did more travelling in 2013 than any other year, but this requires financing. I was indebted to my parents for assisting me with the trips to America. So, I’m hoping to win the lottery, hahahaha! Competing in multiday races is not cheap and there are always on going costs with kit, osteopath and physio treatments, food supplements, sports massages, etc, etc. I had intended to run the Self-Transcendence 6 Day Race in New York again, but due to difficulties getting time off work and the cost of flying over to America I’m targeting the following races:

Proposed Race Calendar
March Barry 40 Track Race; Self-Transcendence London to Brighton (50 miles) (Sri Chinmoy AC run)
May EMU 6 Day Race, Hungary
July / August 2 or 3 marathons (yet to decide) or participate in the Peace Run North America (13 June – 18 July)
September Adelaide 6 Day Race (?)
December ATY 72 Hour Race

This race schedule is in an ideal scenario and I haven’t really thought about how I would pay for all of this. But, I will take each race as it comes. The key for me is to stay fit and healthy and I need to put in place plans for my training, injury prevention and health. And more importantly it is about getting the right work / life balance. I don’t know what will happen with my work situation as I’m awaiting the outcome of a job promotion in my civil service department. Achieving this would be give the increase in salary to pay to attend these planned races. But will I be granted the time off work to enable me to attend these races? Who knows – that is out of my hands. I hope events will unfold in a fortuitous manner.

In the meantime these are some of my plans and objectives for 2014:

Injury prevention
– biomechanics assessment to address recurring muscle imbalances
– work on improving running form
– Yoga
– do more core strength training
 
Health and Well-being
– address the candida
– further kinesiology tests to be done
– meditate more
– to live more in the moment
 
Training
– incorporate weighted vest training
– review other running shoes to use for multidays (Brooks Transcendence out in March)
– Yoga for Sport weekly sessions.
 
Long term targets
– April 2015: Self-Transcendence 10 Day Race
– 2016: Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race
 
 Achieve something great outwardly. Many on earth will admire you and even adore you for what you have done. Achieve something good inwardly. Countless people will get a tremendous inner uplift from your very presence on earth.
– Sri Chinmoy

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Across the Years 2013-14 72 Hour Race

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I do not compete with the rest of the world. I compete only with myself, for my progress is my true victory – Sri Chinmoy.

1455102_265248656963304_75952632_n (2)It’s been a whole week since I’ve arrived back in the UK from Phoenix, after such an exhilarating trip, and I now have had time to reflect on my adventures. The memories of the wonderful sunlit and tinged blue, red and orange horizons of the sunsets and sunrises will stay with me for a long time. I have been procrastinating about writing something down as I’m not the most eloquent of writers and I find it hard at times to put into words what I wish to convey. I suppose like any skill or behaviour it is just practise and repetition, and then one gets better – a bit like ultrarunning and meditation really.

Scroll back to April of 2013 when I was running the Self-Transcendence 6 Day Race in New York. It was my first attempt at this multiday and I was laid face down on the treatment table as I was being treated for my Achilles tendon problems on the fourth day. My friend Arpan mentioned, that as I had done so well in the first three days, I should contemplate running the Across the Years 72 Hour Race. Immediately my interest was aroused and as he started to talk about it I somehow knew that I would run it. It seems it was my destiny and events throughout the year made the trip possible – down to being given the time off work to the love and generosity of my parents for paying my airfare and my good friend Mark Dorion kindly paying my hotel accommodation in Glendale. I am just so full of gratitude to Mark and my father for financially supporting me in this trip.

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The run up (excuse the pun) to the race had not been great. My body had never fully settled down after April’s 6 Day Race and my biomechanics had altered so much that the body was over-compensating and I was experiencing other overuse injuries and niggles and struggled to gain any flow to my running. I was struggling to do any long runs, but due to circumstances and commitments I ran in the Florence Marathon in November and the Eden Project Marathon in October to raise funds for People and Gardens project. Since June I had been experiencing problems with the inside of the left knee and so much so I opted to get a MRI scan which thankfully did not reveal any serious damage. If was just a rather infuriating niggle that prevented me from increasing the intensity of my training. It did get to a stage where I considered cancelling my trip and pulling out of the race. It seemed it was to abruptly end even before it had begun. However, sometimes I suppose one has to accept things as they are and be patient and believe it will all turn out good and for a purpose. Time began running out and my physiotherapist and osteopath worked on addressing some of the muscle imbalance issues. I had to go with I got, so to speak, and hope my base endurance would be enough. I gauged I was only 75% – 80% ready for the race.

I had the luxury of flying in to LA on the 21st December where I spent Christmas with an old university friend and his family who I hadn’t seen since we had graduated in 1995. It was good just to relax and take in the lovely winter sunshine – it was so rejuvenating. Back at home in the UK the weather was horrendous with torrential rain, high winds and flooding. It seemed even more than ever I had made the right decision to come over. I mean, yes, I missed not spending Christmas with my family, but for a few years I had wanted to do something different and coming over to run ATY provided that opportune moment.

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I haven’t even started talking about the race yet, hahahaha! In a way, what happened in those months in the lead up to the race were key to what unfolded during the race. Maybe not physically, but psychologically and spiritually I was in a far better space. My enthusiasm, cheerfulness and optimism remained and the fact of the teachings of my spiritual master, Sri Chinmoy were always in my heart and soul.

Your Master’s voice
Is inside your heart,
For your soul and your Master
Are always together
– Sri Chinmoy

Prior to leaving for Phoenix my good friend in LA treated me to a delicious Chinese meal and at the end of the meal inside the fortune cooker I had this:

“A great day lies ahead in the not too distant future”

Funny, I had a similar good fortune message prior to running the 6 Day Race in April. I had this inner feeling that things were going to turn out fine and I would be well protected by my Guru, Sri Chinmoy.

I arrived in Phoenix on the Friday 27th and this gave me time to go over to Camelback Ranch to register and prepare my kit and tent for the race. The weather was perfect – blue skies and warm sunshine, but as the sun was setting a chill descended to remind me that this was a desert environment.

I went back over to the course on the Saturday and was excited to see the start of the 6 Day Race with Yiannis Kouros and Joe Fejes looking so focused and determined. It turned out this was going to be one battle of a race.

On the Friday evening I went to an Italian restaurant where I met a lovely native American Indian couple, Terry Sanchez and Raymond Johnson who were so sweet and friendly. When I told them that I was running ATY race they just said you will do well and they promised to say a prayer for me. They were so kind and really touched my heart. Raymond was a runner himself and told me that a coming of age ritual / tradition in his tribe was for the young women to run as far as they can and then turn around and run back to their tribal lands followed my all the family members who cannot intervene. They did this run for three consecutive days, and on the third day the young women would run as far as they could go and then when they felt they could run no more, would stop and turnaround and run back home. I was so enamoured by this ritual. Maybe one day I can return to Arizona and observe this.  When we said our farewells Raymond said, “We are destined to meet again”. His loving smile spoke volumes. Terry commented that she makes jewellery and would send me a present. I look forward to receiving that generous gift. I said they would be in my thoughts and their prayers would be blown on the wind to me. I somehow knew that inwardly they would be running with me.

The day of the race was now upon me. Mark Dorion kindly gave me a lift from the hotel to the race course and I was set. It was cold and there was a layer of hard frost on my table, so I knew the temperature range was going to be pretty large. As I stood on that start line, I realised this was the time, this was the moment that I had been working towards and the momentum since April had propelled me to this exact spot. And so at 9:00 am on 29th December the 72 Hour Race commenced.

With so much adrenaline and excitement pumping through my body, predictably as always I went off at a fast pace – perhaps too fast. It was great to be running freely and have a sense of flow in my running. The problem knee was taped up with KT tape and it seemed stable and was working fine. It was early days and I just wanted to think about nothing else other than staying relaxed and living in the moment. There was to be no past or future, just the now.

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I tend to break the race up into manageable junks – generally 3 or 4 hour blocks. Despite wearing gaiters, with the type of surface of grit and dust, I decided to stop every 3 hours to change my socks, clean my feet and re-lubricate them. Despite losing about 15 or 20 minutes every time I stopped I think for me this was a wise investment as subsequently I only got one really bad blister on the right big toe. Later I found out that most runners were getting foot problems and even those experienced runners that didn’t normally get blisters. Because of the surface the feet tended to move a lot in the shoe and grit got through one’s shoes and socks created hotspots.

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It is very hard to recall what happens in the multidays and one’s memory becomes fuzzy, tinged by fatigue and sleep deprivation, and hours and days seem to merge into one. One always wants to have a good first day and build a good base. It is a time to get into a routine and build a race rhythm. That first day is also about meeting your fellow runners and it was nice to meet so many inspiring people with a good energy and to share one’s hopes and goals for this race. Although I went into the race with no expectations I did set a goal of trying to achieve on average 70 miles per day, so the 72 hour total target was 210 miles. I thought that was achievable.

Perfect happiness is
Enthusiasm minus
Expectation.
– Sri Chinmoy

Up to the end of the second day I didn’t look at the race positions or my mileage. It was only when I was having a challenging time in the early hours of the second day, curiosity got the better of me and I decided it was time to look. By the end of 48 hours I had reached 150 miles. It was only after the race I found out that my first day split was 85 miles, followed by a weaker second day of 65 miles. I had tried to go without sleep for the first 24 hours, but by around 3:00 am I was feeling sick and overtired and started to considerably slow down, even walking was very difficult. At which point I decided to get some sleep. I think I didn’t really sleep that deeply, but just the fact of lying down for 90 minutes certainly refreshed me.

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On the second night I slept for about a hour. My energy levels were good, but by the end of the second day my biomechanics were letting me down and my left Achilles was tightening up and the I started to get a pain in the instep of my left foot, which made putting any pressure on it painful. I was barely able to walk let alone run and I was getting a stabbing pain in my left shoulder. Thankfully Holly Miller gave me a massage and I took time out to plunge the foot in ice cold water. I initially thought I’ll lie down in the shade and raise the foot and get some rest, but I always remembered what Sri Chinmoy said about shin splints, that it was best to keep moving, keep putting one foot in front of the other. It was New Year’s Eve and I wanted to end the 2013 on a high. This was the last day, so in my mind I needed to keep moving, and let my body respond.

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It was the right decision. After walking a lap I slowly began to jog and in the later afternoon heat I began making progress again. As in the 6 Day Race, when all seemed lost and I was struggling, things tend to turn around – I had this inner belief that this was a blip and things would improve. As the warmth from the afternoon sun began to dip my focus was on putting in a sustained effort through the night. It seems providence stepped in as the evening meal was pizza.  Perhaps over the last 48 hour I hadn’t been consuming enough calories, but my body loved the pizza and as I changed into my night gear the body was pumped to go. From nowhere I was getting this surge of energy and as I was running down the straight sections of the course I was in awe of the glowing sunset and I heard one runner comment, that these were the last sunrays of the year. It seemed to put everything into perspective and in that moment I was so grateful I was having this amazing experience. It was as if it was divine intervention and I could feel the presence of Sri Chinmoy sending his New Year’s blessings upon me. It was as if my heart was bursting with joy and I was swimming in this sea of love and eternal gratitude. I don’t know what happened but I ran solidly for the next 7 hours at a good pace. It was as if I wasn’t running, but as if someone else was. In previous long races I have experienced this where running is effortless and there is a sense of flow and timelessness. It is the most beautiful feeling and I appreciated it so much on this last night.

Myself and William Sichel

Myself and William Sichel

The coolness of the night suited be more than the dry and dustiness heat of the day, something that I shared with William Sichel, who was running in the 6 Day Race. It was comforting to share these moments with such an experienced ultra-runner. William and his trainer have kindly assisted me with their experience and knowledge over the past 18 months and it was the first time I have run sharing the same course as William. I am grateful for him and every runner at ATY who took the time to talk to me, to assist me and to offer words of encouragement and support. If I may not have acknowledged you at the time, they inspired me to run to my full potential.

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In the early hours at around 3:00am I took a final 30 minute nap and afterwards I was rearing to go again for the final 6 hour push. Sadly Annabel Hepworth, the Australian runner who was having such a strong race on her debut, had to pull out at 233 miles with shin splints. I was now chasing third spot. I couldn’t be caught in fourth, but I ran to the edge of my limits to finish with a flourish and try to get that third spot. However, time simply ran out for me, and I guess it wasn’t meant to be. I was pleased to finish so strongly and with such a spring in my step and my final total on my ATY 72 hour debut was 232 miles (Across the Years 72 hour race results).

Finishing strongly

Finishing strongly

I had well and truly exceeded my expectations and the race was a complete joy. The people you meet and the experiences one has, I believe you have for a reason. In essence the emotions and tribulations that I had in the lead up of the race crystallised themselves in such a positive light as if I was bathed in this protective bubble and whose energy helped me. Wherever I went and whoever I met their good wishes and smiles I carried inside my heart and soul. It wasn’t only me that was running in that race. It was all the hopes and aspirations of many, many people. I felt a sense of humility and gratitude. It all seems so surreal now. How do we define our reality?

Receiving my trophy for 2nd place male.

Receiving my trophy for 2nd place male.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a very special way to end 2013 and begin 2014.

The fullness of life
Lies in dreaming
And manifesting
The impossible dreams
– Sri Chinmoy

At this moment as I sit here writing, I’m reminded of a poignant comment made by Joe Lancaster quoted in Bill Jones’ The Ghost Runner.  Joe wrote of the mysterious joy of running, with its

“freedom of action, mind and soul … that expression of power, of well-being, the competitive spirit, disappointments, triumphs, aches, loves, that is LIFE. Why should this, our way of life, be denied to anyone who wishes to share it?” (p.155).

It was a joy to share these moments in the race with so many special people.