An odyssey comes to an end.

April 10th, Zurich, the end of a journey that has taken just over ten years.

After a marathon breakfast laid on by the hotel I headed down to the start, about 15 minutes walk, lonely at first then getting busier as I approached the start of the race.

With typical Swiss efficiency the race started on time and Gate F started to walk slowly to the start banner. After 5 mins we passed under the banner and the pace began to lift. Gate F runners estimated time was 5 hours to 5:15. The first 10k or so of the race was around the city. Supporters lined the route with the ubiquitous cow bell ringing out. At approx 7k the lead runner of the 10k Swiss champs went running past well in front of his competitors. We went under the banner once more and headed out along the Zurichsee a lovely lake with views of the Alps. There was no wind although the temperature did vary sometimes cold and then warmer but never hot, ideal conditions. The feed stations were well stocked with water, coke, bananas and Powerbar drinks, gels and bars.

I knew I was running well as I left the 5 hour pacers behind the 4:45 pacers came into view and I decided that I would stay with them. Soon the pace seemed to be too easy I was drinking and eating at every station and even managed a live FB broadcast. I could see the 4:30 pacers just ahead and reeled them in nice and easy.

I reached the half way point at about two hours beaming from ear to ear the crowds had thinned but as I turned around and headed for the finish I milked every moment. All of a sudden I could feel a wave of emotion coming over me. My last ever marathon, the Z in my A to Z and what a race to do it in.

As the route neared the city centre again I could see Carol waiting and headed towards her for a sweaty kiss and mumbled “see you at the finish” from me and “you are doing great from her”.

Spurred on with the noise growing from the crowds the route took us in another small loop of the city centre. The K signs were counting down 5, 4, 3, 2 then ONE K left. What an amazing race I had to have a good finish and I did. An aeroplane finish down the straight to cross the line in 4:26:28 my best time in over 3 years.

After a hobble back to the hotel with my wing (wo)man she made sure I was blister free and headed out whilst I had a bath and a nap. Carol has been to a few of my races and supported me all the way through this crazy idea which has been going on as long as we have known each other. My heartfelt thanks go to this crazy lady.

Final marathon looming.

My final marathon is looming, nine days to go. Carol and I get the first of two flights next Friday morning. So where is my Z marathon?

Drum roll Zurich on the 8th April. I entered my Z marathon last year and began a maintenance phase running wise. As the date gets closer I have upped the pace and distance of some of my runs, included speed work and a long run about every two weeks but no longer than 3 hours. Zurich will be my final marathon in my A to Z challenge and my last marathon after 37 years of running marathons and ultras.

The A to Z began in Athens in 2011 and marathons have been my sole focus since then. It has been an amazing experience and one that I recommend to you all. I think somewhere, possibly after Berlin, it became an A to Z of holidays!

My Y marathon.

I headed back down to Milton Keynes and Enigma running for my Y marathon. It was supposed to be the Yorkshireman on the NY moors but with 3000+ ft of climbing and no action on my hernia I decided that it probably was not wise!

Caldecotte Park was slightly cooler this time and conditions were ideal.

The past few months have been a learning experience running with a hernia but with the route being mainly flat and off road I did not envisage any problems other than being slow! That was how it panned out. I had a bit discomfort after 4 hours but that seemed to settle and actually felt quite good at the finish! I finished in 5:14:26. A bit disappointing but happy to get another marathon under my belt leaving 3 to complete my A-Z.

A catch up…

It’s been a while since I just posted a general “this is life in retired land” post so here it is.

Things are going well I have been out a bit more than usual and drinking a bit more than usual and eating a bit more than usual all linked in with this period of time and celebration we call Christmas and Hogmanay!

Carol is on holiday from her work  and she has been busy preparing for Xmas or rather Xmas eve meal at hers which was lovely.  We spent the evening together with her son and daughter eating and opening presents in the continental way.  While she was off we took the chance to visit the European market in Edinburgh and see the Virgin light display which was pretty good.

We went to a carol service with her mother, you don’t always know how things will go when you take Toni out and Carol was on tenterhooks but apart from a slight decline in table manners everything went ok and the carols, my first, were good as well.

 

Rupert the cat AKA as the Roopster seems to have settled in well,  since his little bid for freedom he is never far from my side even when he doesn’t want food.  Of course the penalty he has to pay is that he is constantly rubbed and played with especially with his new Xmas toys! I am led to believe from Carol the cat woman that this is the cause of his grumpy attitude and that if he wants to sleep I should let him.

The weather countrywide has been terrible but Fife seems to have escaped the worst of it so although there are bad spots we have had nothing like the North of England.  Training has continued cycling mainly on the turbo although I have been out on the 29er a few times and as far as running has gone its get wet or don’t go basically!

I have begun to set up a web site for the bike tours I intend guiding in 2016 so watch this space for news of that and if you are reading this and would like to know more about them or have friends that would like to try a guided tour in Scotland get in touch.

That’s all for the mo my next post will be just after Hogmanay a round up of 2015 and a look forward to 2016.

Last Post

It has been two weeks since I ran Zurich. I have ran twice since then and been cycled over 200 miles in preparation for my After Marathon phase of my sporting life.

This will be the last post in my A to Z blog.

If you have followed it for the last ten years I hope you have enjoyed it and perhaps been encouraged to try your own running challenge.

A week on from Croydon

A week today since the marathon. What have I done since then? Not a lot is the answer!

I had not suffered any injuries or blisters nor did I feel any great stiffness which, as I have slowed down, has become normal for me.

Training wise I did some stretches, ran 8 miles and biked just over 50. I have had a really easy week an idle week, a week for a lot of thinking. One of those thoughts was about actually putting in some decent training for Zurich, 35 weeks away, after all it will be my final marathon and the end of my A to Z going out with a decent time appeals.

Watch this space is all I will say.

The Vanguard Way (my penultimate marathon)

My V marathon was on a long distance walking route known as the Vanguard way. The full route stretched 107km from Croydon to Newhaven. Fortunately the race was only the standard marathon distance of 42K an out and back of 21Km. The route also took in some of the North Downs way and at one stage crossed the M25 on a footbridge.

I travelled down by rail on Saturday. Race instructions had said to get on a tram for 3 stops so I had booked a hotel as close as I could to the station/tramstops. Voila the race start was literally at the tram stop.

I registered, had a coffee at the cafe and generally soaked up the race vibe. restrictions had been relaxed but there was still an underlying tension and masks, though not required, were in evidence.

North Downs way.

The race got underway right on time. A leisurely start. There were a few manned road and tram crossings and then we were out in the country following candy stripe tape for the bulk of the route. Early on I found myself running with two men who had run the race several times before but still managed to go off course. I decided then that I should just keep my eyes open and take in as much detail as I could for the return.

Despite the race organisers saying that trail shoes were the recc mode of footwear I had elected to go with road shoes due to comfort and although the course was slippy and very muddy in places I am glad I stuck to road shoes as I had very little bother and managed to stay upright the whole 42K. I did however witness some bad falls, one on the tarmac before we had even gone off road the other two involving stiles and nettles!

There was a half marathon as well as the full and they turned around at the first drinks point, navigation now became a bit more difficult as the field thinned out.

The weather was warm and humid but the forecast rain did not make an appearance it was obvious however from the state of some of the trails that rain had fallen pretty recently and between mud, overgrown narrow trails and route finding it was a slow day at the office.

There was aid stations approx every 6 miles with water, lemonade, coke, sweets, bananas and biscuits. On the way back I found myself behind a runner who disappeared, I thought nothing off it till the same runner shouted from behind and caught me up a slight navigation error!

Not a race I would think suitable for a first marathon. As well as the mud, narrow overgrown trails and a degree of nvigating you also have to factor in almost 3000ft of climbing!

Mud and more mud.

Time 5:16:14 3rd O60.

Happy face.

Wrath of Poseidon.

Wrath of Poseidon by Phoenix running is a lapped event along the Thames.  Eight laps for the marathon with a cut off time of seven hours.

I travelled down by train the day before the race and spent a restless night in a hot stuffy b n b worrying about missing my 05:30 alarm.  A quick breakfast of my standard oat so simple and I was ready. A taxi took me to the Excel centre near the start and I wandered down to the Phoenix race HQ.

Race HQ.

A socially distanced temp check prior to start was ok and I lined up at the start. Runners were set off in groups of six every five mins.  A half, full and fifty k was on the menu today.  One feed station supplied water, Freddos and Clif bloks.  Before picking anything up you were required to use the foot operated sanitizer station.

My start  time was 07:30 which was good as I was hoping to avoid the forecasted high temps.  The route is mainly hard packed earth with some tarmac, part of National Cycle Network 4 and heavily used by walkers and cyclists.  It was a pleasant morning and I set off at an easy pace just enjoying the event.  There was 140 entrants over the three races and with staggered starts, different distances and no numbers it was impossible to keep track of any positions. Many of the entrants walked from the start with the odd ones Jeffing. The plan was to take it easy for the whole event and see how my repaired hernia reacted.  Luckily the forecasted highs never materialised and although it was warm and muggy a couple of short shower helped keep conditions manageable. Everything was going fine I was maintaining a forward motion at a nice easy pace with no adverse effects on my hernia. It is good when a plan comes together. I had been stopping for water every lap, a 330ml bottle which was finished by the turn point and as the day got warmer and more humid the water was getting finished earlier and earlier.  I had food with me which I ate on laps 2, 4 and 6.

As is customary I rang the bell at the end of lap 8. W marathon complete. 5:33:10.¹

Ten day Paranoia

Ten days to go and I begin to wrap myself up in cotton wool!

I really begin to feel paranoid. What if I get caught in the rain and catch pneumonia? Hill run? No thanks I might trip and injure myself. Early to bed with a long lie if possible. Eat and drink well. No matter that I have completed an uncounted amount of marathons and ultras and many shorter runs any race that is significant triggers this irrational attack!

Almost every disaster known to man goes through my grey matter as race day comes inexorably closer.

Physically I know I am nowhere near the fitness I was in March 2019 when Covid struck, mentally I know that I can do this I will cover the distance, I will make the cut off and in the end I will enjoy it.

The day before the race will be spent travelling by train, over 9 hours due to works at Kings Cross, more reason for my paranoia. Hopefully a problem and stress free journey as the train takes the strain. I do not expect to sleep much, I never do in a strange bed the night before a race hence my “stocking up” of sleep hours in the nights before the race. Stay hydtated. Eat carbs. Remember protein.

JUST RUN THE DAMN RACE!!!

Travel-log

I have booked my rooms and my travel for this years two marathons and I had just pressed the purchase button for my final rail tickets when my mind wandered to my travels in this self imposed quest. Here are some of those journeys.

My A-Z has taken me all over the UK, Canada, China and the European mainland. Unfortunately I have not kept a record of miles travelled. I have driven, flown, ferried and cycled to get to races. Possibly the most memorable trip and one that I have done several times since, was the trip to Islay three train journeys, three ferry trips and three cycles through some of the best scenery Scotland has to offer. This trip is now the Island Adventure Tour on offer from Scottish Bike Touring.

In 2014 I travelled to the south coast of UK for a ferry to Jersey where I cycle camped for a few days before heading on another ferry to France and a night near Mont St Michel. French railways took me to Bayeux for a look at the famous tapestry. I then cycled along the Normandy coast visiting the invasion beaches, museums and cemeteries finally arriving at Caen the day before the race. An amazing trip.

2015 saw me head East, East and further East flying to Beijing for the Great Wall Marathon. This is the only race I have used a company for travel as you cannot enter as an individual because of restrictions by the Govt. Due to this you are herded in and out of coaches at strange times of the day. I did manage however to spend four days alone wandering around Beijing and visited the zoo to gaze at the pandas, Mao’s mausoleum and the Olympic Park among others.

2018 and I was headed West to run in the Quebec marathon. Carol and I spent an amazing 19 days, some of them with a very dear friend, travelling around the East of Canada ending up at Niagara Falls.

I have blogged about all of my trips so if you want more of the details have a look in the archive and they will be there.

Miles travelled: Unknown.

Money spent: Unknown.

Countries visited: Seven.

Six weeks to “W”

Today, 25th April, I did my first double digit run since November. No planned route other than trails and grass to lessen the impact, slopes to test my legs and lungs and the objective to run for 2 hours or 12 miles which ever took the longest. Happily I made my objective it wasn’t pretty nor was it fast but this run was all about building confidence, testing legs and lungs and making sure that a marathon 6 weeks from now is doable.

So what is the plan until the marathon? Well it WILL be done. I know the route. I WILL make it. With that in mind my longest run before the race will be 3 hours or 18 miles whichever takes the longest. I will be running 3 or 4 times a week with cycling, yoga and weights integrated into my training. The runs will be one long, one easy and one rep or hill session. When I move up to four a week then I will be introducing more effort work to get me through and reducing my time in the saddle but increasing the yoga time to aid recovery.

In six weeks and 1 day I SHALL be here blogging about my race and with a picture of the Wrath of Poseidon medal at the top of the page.

It’s been a while….

Wow what a time we are living through. Since my last post I have had my hernia operation and as I write this, 8th April, I am in the 5th week of recovery. The operation was a complete success. I was in the hospital for 0830 and collected by Carol at approx 1700 and taken home. Suffice to say I am really happy with the way recovery has gone. I am back to cycling and running and my first marathon, covid permitting, will be in eight weeks!

I have two marathons planned for this year the Wrath of Poseidon, Walton upon Thames on the 6th June and the Vanguard way on 1st August. Really looking forward to these two partly because it means I have one left to complete my A-Z marathon travels. Hopefully I will get my Z (Zurich) marathon booked this week and run the 2022 edition of the race.

Here in Scotland we have been confined to our local area since boxing day and restrictions now are only just being lifted. Travel will not be allowed outside local area until almost the end of April. Carol and I already have our first tour planned and rooms booked. A tour of Perthshire looking for some of Carols ancestors graves and locations. I gave her a DNA test for her Christmas and that is what kicked things off. I have looked at my family tree twice before and have also picked it up again.

We have both had our first injections with no ill effects other than a sore arm. Luckily neither of us have had any covid infections either although we both know people who have and in my case I had an Aunt die of “covid” related illness in a care home.

Wherever you are reading this I hope you are well, mentally and physically. Goodbye for now and I promise I will not leave it so long till the next post.