Category Archives: Equipment

New year, new shoes

Liz, my wife, has had a pair of Vibrams (black ‘flow’ type, I think) which have been getting a bit long in the tooth.

Happy wife, happy dog!
Happy wife, happy dog!

Not surprising really, since they are well over 4 years old, and have seen quite a few trail based miles, along the river Wey and the Downs around Guildford.

I bought her a new pair for Christmas, but alas they were not the right size and with running shoes in general, it is essential to get the right size, but with the all enveloping form of the Vibrams, it is critical that they are snug. So today she managed to find time to pop into our local running store, Fitstuff, and this is the result.

I’m not sure who is happier, Liz or Adastra, to be finally hitting the streets again πŸ™‚

Enjoy ML x

Shoe Update

In one of my previous updates, I gave some details of the work I had had done to my shoes to stitch velcro onto the soles of my trainers in order to attach my gaiters ready to stop the sand getting to my feet where it would cause ‘problems’ in the desert to say the least.

Shoes - After trial and update
Shoes – After trial and update

I went back to Hoxton Shoe Repairs today after contacting them to explain that the initial work they had done had a few problems after my initial trials on the trails! They were more than happy to look into the problem and to rectify the issue. In fairness to them they had not done this sort of thing before so I had taken a chance with them, but having said that I cannot fault their customer service and desire to ensure that the job is correct.

Having explained my concerns regarding the ‘rigours’ of the desert to the cobblers when I arrived, they undertook to repair the trainers immediately, putting extra glue and locking stitching on the areas where the original securing had proved insufficient.

The new repairs seem much better and in the end I was glad that I gave them a trial and then went back for a second bite at the proverbial cherry, as I would not want to get to the desert and start discovering problems.

The guys at the shop have been extremely helpful and have even followed up by contacting me (via my blog!) to ensure I was satisfied with the work they had done – now that is commitment to the needs of the customer above and beyond the call of duty.

I will be getting back to them about their work after the event as they certainly deserve to see how their handiwork faired and I am sure they will be able to use this as testament to future runners who will need similar amendments carrying out to their footwear.

I suspect that their endeavours will last longer than my feet πŸ˜‰

Shoes Sorted…. Nearly

When I get to the desert in about a month, someone mentioned there may be a touch of sand.

Not a problem as such, but sand in your shoes while you are running is a recipe for disaster, with the certainty of blisters ensuing, and with the soft sandy dunes I am likely to be having to run on, the feet easily sink down so that the sand comes up over the top of the feet and the ankles and it is mighty easy for the shoes to fill up very quickly.

Reinforced Raidlight Gaiters
Reinforced Raidlight Gaiters

Desert gaiters are therefore the order of the day.

Last time, I went I used parachute silk in the form of an elasticated ‘tube’ to come up to just below my knees, with the lower end permanently glued onto my shoes. Not exactly a stunning fashion statement, but it did the job well enough. A few repairs were required towards the end of the event to fix rips and holes to the material where the slipping through dry river beds of gravel, clambering up cliffs and sliding down the sheer faces of dunes, had finally taken their toll. Liz used similar accessories in 2011 when she had her own foray to the desert and they worked well for her too.

Things have moved on a bit in the intervening years though.

RaceKit Gaiters
RaceKit Gaiters

Velcro attached gaiters were relatively new in 2008, but 5 years later there are plenty from which to choose and I have a couple of pairs to take with me from Raidlight and RaceKit. Both are similar design, but different material, the RaceKit items being made from ripstop and the Raidlight variety from a lightweight Lycra but with a reinforced panel at the front. The idea is that the gaiters are slipped over the feet in much the same manner as socks (with no soles!) would be, then the shoes can be put on and laced normally, which is not an advantage you get with those that are permanently stuck in position and finally, the outside gaiter material can be pulled down and the mating parts of the Velcro joined to provide a sand-proof seal. That’s the theory.

Velcro attached
Velcro attached

I’ve had the Velcro glued and stitched onto my new trainers, which I wore for the first time (without the gaiters) on Sunday. No blisters from new shoes and with two pairs of socks there is a little room for expansion when my feet swell in the heat. The stitching seems strong enough and I’m going to be putting a lot of trust in the cobblers that did the work – Hoxton Shoe Repairs, since any failure could be catastrophic for not only my feet, but also my race and many years of planning and training. No wonder there are so many discussions on the forums surrounding this singular subject, since the ingress of sand to the shoes is the one thing to avoid at all costs.

I was planning to report that everything was happy in the marriage between shoes and gaiters, but unfortunately, having worn them a couple of times durning the week, they do not appear to have put nearly enough glue on them and although secure, the single line of stitching at the upper edge is not really sufficient to stop the Velcro flapping up.

I’m therefore going to be having to take them back for a second attempt at implementing the double line of stitching which they promised, but did not deliver on after the first visit. Watch this space for more details.

Post Update here

Obsessing over Weight

I am not normally one to obsess over my weight, but recently it has been foremost in my mind.

It is not my weight I have been overly concerned about, although this has not totally escaped my attention, but rather the weight of my backpack and the supplies I ‘might’ be taking for my week in the desert in under 5 weeks time.

Calories vs. weight
Calories vs. weight

Last time I was in the desert, I must’ve arrived with at least 11-12kg in my pack, much of which was carried along for the ride in a fundamental, but common first-time MdS participant error related to the terror of being self-sufficient for a week. My pack in 2008 included cameras, chargers, spare batteries, food, snacks, extra food, extra snacks, changes of clothes, extra clothes, trekking poles, flags, hydration tablets, isotonic powders, plus all the normal compulsory kit. With a backpack resembling a Rio Carnival float which was stuffed tighter than a haggis on Burns night, I still had to add the organiser supplied mandatory equipment, in the shape of a rather large emergency flare to pack, to which access was required at all times, so no squirrelling away inside the pack.

I can look back and laugh πŸ˜† about my error now, but as a result have paid my debt to the Gods of experience and will therefore be returning to the desert with more knowledge of the appropriate levels of equipment and food required.

Balance of Weight
Balance of Weight

Nevertheless, I am still obsessing over weight, pouring over the smallest details, agonising over the merest grams of mass that I can shave out of my pack. Do I need that knife with ALL those blades? Can I manage without all that hydration fluid in the Sahara? Do I really need toilet roll, or will sand (which gets everywhere anyway) suffice? Surely, when the organisers say self-sufficient, they don’t really mean it? Surely!

The bulk of the changing weight clearly goes into food, although the organisers insist on a strict bare minimum of 2000kcal per day, remaining at the end of the day’s stage, i.e. 14,000 at technical checks, 12,000 at end of first stage, etc. Needless to say, 2000 calories for an adult male, using (conservatively) 2,500 kcal per marathon, of which there will be about 6, on top of a normal day’s energy expenditure, will leave a fairly substantial and hungry deficit by the end of the week. So here is where the compromises start, but each little extra food on a daily basis adds to the weight to be carried and since my experience is of having too much food, I don’t think this is going to be too much of a compromise.

Interestingly, post-race reviews have indicated that the Brits take excessive food and equipment while the French (the largest contingent) are prepared to accept a lot less in the way of what might be considered ‘luxury’ items.

Anyway, my daily pack weight currently looks like this, including the anticipated organiser supplied flare, etc.

StageFood (g)Stage weight (kg)

Stage 1 2721 7.0
Stage 2 2243 6.5
Stage 3 1806 6.1
Stage 4 1368 5.7
Stage 5 521 4.8
Stage 6 103 4.4

– this is based on the fact that my ‘static’ equipment weight is 4.3kg (including backpack, sleeping bag, Thermarest, headlamp, compass and the rest of the paraphernalia, but excluding water)

I will be trying to reduce my body fat content (BMI) from its current comfortably quiesent state of 11% down to a more functional 9-10%, which won’t leave me much contingency by the last day, but then as Marshall Ulrich said in “Running on Empty”, the story of his run across America, most people have enough body fat to get them most of the way across the continent! Given that he was eating enough for 4 people on his average 58 miles per day run across the States, I am a little dubious about his comment πŸ™‚ but then he is a legend!

So, after a little more tweaking I’ll be ready, and at the end of the day, a few grams here or there won’t make that much difference.

Or will it? πŸ™‚

Okay, I’m off to my spreadsheet….

Yurbuds – Earphone review

I’m certainly trying out a lot of different equipment at the moment in preparation for a year of running, or perhaps it’s just that I haven’t replaced anything for such a long time, that it’s all starting to break at once. Either way, backpacks, torches and earphones, are just some of the items I don’t want to find broken just after I’ve handed my bag back to the organisers in the middle of the Moroccan desert.

The latest, Yurbuds, are earphones which have sensibly be designed ‘by athletes for athletes’ as the marketing goes. Call me cynical, but it’ll take a bit more than that to convince me of a product’s virtues.

Yurbuds Inspire
Yurbuds Inspire

Still, I have two problems with earphones; firstly, I don’t really like the outside ear type which most of the ‘sports’ earphones tend to end up being because of the second problem, which is that the in-ear bud type fall out when sweaty, or they have round the ear lobe fixings which after a short time become uncomfortable. Although great at noise isolating on a packed tube, I find that I am constantly pushing my current set back into my ears every minute or so when I am training and, since they are not waterproof, after a couple of hours of listening one of them tends to stop working anyway, through sweat ingress into the wire joints.

So, for some time, I’ve been looking for earphones which meet the following criteria.

  1. In-ear, or similar to isolate external noise a bit (not completely)
  2. To provide a comfortable fit for hours of potential use
  3. to definitely never, ever fall out
  4. designed for sports, i.e. waterproof and sweat proof

Not much to ask I didn’t think, but given the lack of in-ear sport headphones on the market, it was clearly more of a technical challenge than I had anticipated. Suffice it to say that despite my searching, I had been unable to find earphones which suited my needs.

Until a few months back.

Just before Christmas I saw a writeup on Yurbuds and thought that they would be perfect, but since they do them in different sizes, depending upon the size of your aural cavity, and I was unsure about size selection I then forgot about it, until a couple of weeks back when window shopping in the local Runner’s Need shop (how sad is that on Β a recovery day!) and found that they had a ‘fitting service’ for Yurbuds.

So, with my appropriately sized devices, I walked away with my purchase, pleased as punch.

They have lived up to their promise as well.

Does what it says on the tin!
Does what it says on the tin!

They are not completely in-ear, but the soft rubber shell around the body of each headphone is sculpted in a cone shape to direct the sound more effectively, so although the type I bought, the Inspires, Β don’t isolate noise or include any expensive noise reduction, they are an excellent compromise. In fact on my recent race, I forgot I was wearing them, while chatting to fellow runners, so the balance between external noise and selected music is practically perfect. My one complaint would be that in high winds the external noise increases significantly, possibly due to the external profile of the device.

The rubber surround and locking feature also makes them surprisingly comfortable for long periods, although to date I have only worn them non-stop for up to 3 hours, but there are no signs of impending ear duct fatigue or rubbing on lobes, etc, common with other headphones.

They are definitely designed never to fall out, with a twist motion required to lock them into the ear in the first place. So far I’ve not trialled them in any situation except a contrived tugging to initially check I’ve inserted them correctly and although complicated to describe it is surprisingly easy when you understand what you are attempting to achieve. They certainly won’t be falling out because of any sweating from my ears. In fact the only situation I can envisage where they might come out would be if the wires become entangled in branches of trees, which sounds odd but has happened to me in the past.

The sound quality is relatively good, especially for a Β£30 pair of headphones, although they will not give you the crush your skull bass or bleeding ear treble you might expect from higher end phones, but they are more than acceptable as a sport headphone, where one listens to one’s body as well πŸ™‚ I believe the rubber casings are actually designed to be transferrable to other similar, but potentially higher quality headphones, so it is actually possible that that is really what you are paying for, at least on the ‘base’ model I purchased.

Having been designed by a triathlete, they are also very lightweight to go with all their other positive attributes, which is clearly important for distance event.

All round impression then is good and I’m confident they will perform well in the desert, but I’ll obviously let you know along with everything else I shall be taking with me, but certainly my current view is that I would recommend them to anyone enjoys listening to music and whose training extends over longer periods of time, for endurance events.

Starting to Get Real (and Exciting)

This is where it starts to get real for me.

With just over two months to go to the starting line of the Marathon des Sables, I have been going through a spurt of preparation recently. This is probably because I am also focused on my race on Saturday, the Thames Trot.

Henley-on-Thames
Henley-on-Thames

Five years ago (as scary as that now seems) I was toeing the start line of a similar race, the Thames Meander, which followed the path of the Thames from Reading, through Henley to Maidenhead, Chertsey, Walton and East Molesey. The Thames Trot is organised by a different group and takes in a different route as well, but the sentiment is the same from the point of view of myself and many of the other people who will be doing it – it is a trial for the long day of the MdS, or as close as you can get to the distance, given that rural England in Winter is significantly ‘cooler’ (to put it mildly) than Morocco in Spring.

Many of the other 350 competitors are also running the Marathon des Sables and so will, as with myself, be loading up their backpacks with ballast to simulate race conditions and gain further familiarity with the hardships of the long day of the MdS specifically, albeit without the heat, sand, and having completed 3 marathons on the preceding 3 days 😯 For us, the race will not be our fastest, but the psychological benefit to be gained from completing the distance, probably in the dark and cold, will definitely be worth while.

The Thames Trot, or ‘Boat Race’ as it is know, starts from a good 30 miles further back towards the source of the Thames in Oxford, or Iffley to be exact, and then snakes its way through Abingdon, Wallingford, Mapledurham, Reading, Caversham, Sonning and finally Henley, 50 miles later.

Freeze dried culinary delights
Freeze dried culinary delights

Today I also received my order of freeze-dried food from the Expedition foods team. These high calorie, low weight packs are perfect for the type of multi-stage event where ‘self-sufficiency’ is something which needs to be taken as a matter of course, since there are many other things to worry about which one would have little control over, including the environment and importantly, its effect on your feet, the heat and dehydration effects, etc. Having the right balance of food / weight is crucial to success.

I’ve decided on a variety of flavours for the evenings, and have even plumped for savoury breakfasts as well, after Liz’s reminiscing over forcing down porridge with strawberries on the last day reminded me of the contempt with which everyone regarded that particular dish by the end of the week. It has probably something to do with the body’s lack of salt, and over-reliance on sweetened snacks. Either way, the feeling seems universal.

So, my MdS menu will consist of something like the following: –

  • Chicken Korma with Rice x 2
  • Chicken Tikka with Rice x 2
  • Spaghetti Bolognese x 1
  • Sweet and Sour Chicken with Rice x 1

And then for breakfasts I’ll have these delights to look forward to every morning: –

  • Scrambled Egg, Potatoes and mixed peppers x 3
  • Porridge with Mango x 2
  • Porridge with Strawberries x 1 – for old times sake πŸ™‚

Just add water!

My memory last time is that the savoury food was a lot more palatable than the sweet stuff, because of the snack bars, sweetened isotonic drinks, jelly beans and gels which I took during the races themselves. Still, as they say, ‘Hunger is the best chef’.

In addition to food, I’ve also order gaiters for sticking onto my shoes; essential to stop sand ‘ingress’ which would have a profoundly negative affect on the feet, and the progress of blisters. There are also many things on the ‘compulsory’ list which I am ensuring I have, such as the disinfectant ‘Tincture of Benzoin’ which I ordered from Bristol Botanicals yesterday, so with much of the kit I used last time (hat, compass, sleeping mat / bag, etc) and my new torch, I’m getting to the stage where it is all starting to get rather real. In fact, the plane from Gatwick Airport to Ouarzazate will be leaving in just over 9 weeks.

For now though, my focus is the weekend, and my extended ‘training run’ along the Thames! πŸ˜‰

Snowy Run – Revisited

When you are training for a big race, consistency is a prime requirement – so today, snow didn’t stop play.

There is also a much used phrase which goes something like ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad equipment’ and today I was going to put this to the test.

GoMotion Waist Light Kit - Ready to go
GoMotion Waist Light Kit – Ready to go

I had prepared everything the previous night, hoping to get out about 5:30am so I stood a chance of getting at least 20 miles done in the conditions, and this included three tops, two of which were long sleeved, one wicking, shorts and longs with compression socks over injinji toe socks, a buff around my neck and a beanie to top things off – I’m sure I looked a real sight, but at that time in the morning, with the route I had planned and in this weather, I didn’t really care!

I figured the roads would be ok, but the pavements might be icy and some of the side roads I normally use could also be in and indeterminate state, from the point of view of whether the gritters had managed to get to them or not. No, I thought the best bet would be the trails since the snow would be relatively uncompacted and fresh where I was planning. I was half right.

I had my hated backpack (I must get into the ‘my backpack is my friend, it holds my food’ mindset for the MdS!) with its ballast of 6kg, along with my waist torch and today I thought I would try this in tandem with a head torch to see if this made things any better when looking ‘off-track’. Other than my normal juice and a snack in case of emergency and my phone, I was ready to go by 5:45.

I set off up the hill and immediately realised I had made the right choice. The road up Pewley Hill was very icy where the cars over the last 24 hours had compacted the snow and it was a veritable ice rink in places. The pavements were not too icy, but even so I felt the trails would still be a better bet and this was confirmed as soon as I levelled out across Pewley down. The snow was perfect; still soft, dry, not too deep and it reflected my torch so well I could see for miles πŸ˜‰ The two foxes I saw crossing my path seemed relaxed and happy enough so I reckon they agreed!

The trail ahead
The trail ahead

As I carried on towards Newland’s I started to think about where I should go after this – down to the Chantries? St Martha’s? Even around Guildford?

Running to Newland’s Corner involves a couple of sections of running across a slope, with the higher ground to my left and the valley below. On occasions where the mud is particularly fluid, yet sticky, some of these slight slopes can be a nightmare to run through, risking sliding helplessly down the slope as you continued to traverse it. Often the only thing to do is simply to stop and pussy foot along. I was expecting this to be a difficult section today, but as luck would have it, the snow and frozen surface seemed to have combined into a firmer surface and this area was not a problem.

That fun was still to come.

I had seen lots of sledging tracks as I traversed the face of the slope about half way down it and thought what fun people must’ve been having yesterday. It was on what I reached the next corner,and the top of one of the slopes that the ghosts of yesterday’s fun came to haunt me. The top of the slope is, naturally, the starting point for all of the sledging activities which had clearly occurred within the previous twenty-four hours and the slope I was on now was like the top of an olympic ski jump, only I was trying to run across it, without skis on 😯 My trainers with their sticky rugged tread made no impression on the surface and I may as well have been wearing plimsolls. My pace for this section was down on average!

Beauty, Tranquility, Peace and Quiet - Who could ask for more?
Beauty, Tranquility, Peace and Quiet – Who could ask for more?

After reaching the top of Newland’s and crossing the road, I carried on along the North Downs, having decided the snowy trails and nothing to do with roads and hills was the best bet and I soon settled into a rhythm.

The trails along the top of the ridge are often quite muddy and there was some visual evidence of his today, as my torch picked out the darker patches and the tops of frozen puddles, but they were easily spotted and the easily avoided. There were large stretches where walkers, runners and cyclists had created ruts all following the same path through the snow; the path of least resistance.

Eventually I found my way to the top of Staple lane after the West Hangar car park and after a brief detour along the road looking for the continuation of the trail which joins through to Coombe Lane, which happened to be right opposite, but in the dark I missed it – duh! I continued down a brief section of road to the horse riding stables at Hollister Farm. The horses were still sleeping, but their presence was evident from the smell! The rough unmaintained surface had clearly been compacted by the journey’s of many parent’s 4x4s the previous day and I slipped suddenly as I realised the state of things. Thankfully straw had been spread around to reduce the slipperyness of the farm drive.

Leaving behind the only signs of ‘life’ I had so far encountered, I rejoined the North Downs trail on the way to Ranmore Common.

Snowy Trails Ahead
Snowy Trails Ahead

I have done this route occasionally, but never as far as I have been today, and never in the dark, and certainly never in the snow.

Up to this point, about 13km into the run, the Sun had not shown any evidence of honouring the world wth its presence, and if it had the tree covered canopies I was negotiating were effectively blocking any light, but about now I started to see the first signs; the slightly lighter sky, the silhouettes of the branches, more evidence of objects outside the tunnel of my torch, which correspondingly seemed dimmer. There wasn’t going to be a glorious and dramatic sunrise, but the additional light was welcome nonetheless.

I very quickly passed the point to which I have run previously and now started to keep an eye out for the new terrain and wondered what was up ahead.

I have a bit of a confession in fact, I think I probably wondered off the North Downs around this point, as the route split a couple of times and with the limited light I could not see the markings. Better planning next time I think.

Still after another few km of slipping and sliding around on what seemed to be a track frequented by motor vehicles I found myself on a road, which, after the icy uneven surface of the trail was like running on a carpet! However, road running was not the order of the day so at the next opportunity I ducked back to what I hope would take me to ‘better’ terrain.

Nearly Home Now
Nearly Home Now

The first spur I chanced on, took me over the edge of the Downs and through a patch of soft mud covered by soft snow. Slipping and sliding about I quickly turned round, not wanting to lose my shoe in the mud with 10 snowy miles still left to go. The second spur was similarly muddy and since I was about half way at this stage I turned back and started on my way home.

The dawn had well and truly broken by the time I started on my return journey and it was interesting to see where I had run in a different light, making an out and back run far more interesting than it might otherwise have been.

The icy patches still caught me on tired legs though and several times I slipped heavily, once outside the stables even knowing the conditions were bad. The two deer that I saw bounding majestically past me after Newland’s Corner didn’t seem to be having any such problems πŸ˜‰

Even with 6km to go, by the time I got to Newland’s I felt I was on the home straight. There is a lovely long downhill to the Merrow golf course, followed by a slight uphill just to the south of the Epsom road before reaching the roads in the suburbs of Guildford. It was only here, at about 8:45, that I finally saw some dog walkers and one other runner. I felt slightly less lonely!

The final section to the town centre was a mixture of icy pavements and clear roads, so I obviously stayed on the roads and was soon home coming down the high street.

20 miles complete and under my belt and quite an enjoyable run in the end; running in the snow is great and the quiet and peace really helps with the meditative quality of the activity.

And that breakfast sure did taste good πŸ™‚

GoMotion Waist Light Kit

I have for some weeks been using a waist torch (as opposed to a head torch) from the GoMotionΒ people.

A waist light, is exactly that, a torch that straps to your waist, as opposed to a head torch which, obviously, you wear on you forehead.

Waist Light Kit
Waist Light Kit

There are a variety of different mounting options, but I bought the waist light kit, which is designed to be used with an existing backpack with a waist strap. There are also options which come with a strap for independent fitting and a similar set for chest mounting. They also sell two different intensities of light, but I’m not sure this is an option for all mountings.

The waist light kit I bought fits onto a double mounting which has Velcro attachments to allow it to be easily, and quickly secured to a variety of straps. There is then a substantial spiral cord which provides power from the separate battery pack, which I strapped behind, at the bottom of my backpack. There is also a red flashing light in the battery pack which may be switch on or off as desired.

I have found it to be very effective in most conditions (except the fog the other day, but I don’t think any light would have cut through that) and I particularly enjoy the fact that it constantly illuminates the track ahead, irrespective of the motion or orientation of your head. I did have to attach a small lanyard to it to hold it in place against the ‘freshness’ of the spiral cord to the battery pack, which although quite tight at the moment, I have no doubt will loosen up over time.

The torch itself has an adjustable beam, operated by swivelling lugs at the top and bottom of the lens. The beam becomes very narrow and square when on the spotlight end of the setting and so far I’ve not used this much, with the 100 lumens floodlight providing a much better all round illumination of the trails when I’ve been out over the last few weeks.

The idea is a great one. No weight or straps on your head and no wires down the back of your neck and most importantly, as I say, it takes the wearer away from the tunnel of light feeling which I personally get with head torches which do not allow you to move your head away from the path you are following. I think it works well, also providing a great deal more visibility of the relief of the track ahead because the eye and light are far more separated than with a head torch.

I have yet to finalise my equipment for the MdS, so don’t know if I will need a front pouch which may upset things a bit, but I shall be hoping to use this light on the long day in the Sahara as I think it will make running in the moonless night a lot easier to deal with.

Running with Weight and Friends

Last week I ran with my friend John. This week, another member of ‘Les Rosbifs’ from the MdS 2008, as my brother-in-law Tim was also part of the crew as we went out for a short, recovery week 13 miles.

It had been almost 2 1/2 years since we had all run together early in August 2010, during my recovery runs after the Lakeland 100 and shortly before my fateful visit to Leadville.

The significance of the occasion was not lost on any of us and we very quickly covered the 8 mile loop round Worplesdon and down through Sutton Green, Jacob’s Well and back to John’s in Burpham before I peeled off for my second and final 5km augmentation. Indeed, we chatted about old times, the MdS especially remarking how unbelievable it was that it was nearly 5 years ago since we were in the desert together with the other Rosbifs, Rob, Greg, Tom and Will.

20121210-230501.jpg

How quickly time flies, and life passes by in the blink of an eye if you’re not careful.

Thinking back, the two things that really stick in my mind, are that the MdS was only the third ultra I had ever attempted, and my daughter was not even 15 months old and was grumpy on my return as she did not recognise my bearded face – she is now about to turn 6, but will still likely be equally as unforgiving about me going away for 10 days in Morocco, next April πŸ™‚

Tim has jut come back from a few weeks of ‘sabbatical’ cycling in Cuba, visiting relatives and friends in SA and a motorbike trip across India. As a consequence of his travels, he has not had much chance to run over the last couple of months, so was after a relatively slow run. I had added another kilogram or so to my backpack, which was a 25% increase to 5kg, so I was more than happy to oblige. It is amazing how much difference a pack with weight makes.

By the time we had finished our route, we were all ready to have a rest, which is a bit worrying, but it was still great to run with friends again. Just like old times, and just as if we had only last run yesterday.

It was too wet to go out….

Just like Dr Suess’ “The Cat in the Hat”, the rain was awful this morning and I’m ashamed to say I couldn’t face three hours of ‘damp’ running. With a sense of irony, the kittens were equally as displeased, but that is academic as they are not allowed out at the moment anyway πŸ™

All we could do was to sit, sit, sit, sit!

I had planned to get out earlyish and do 22 miles or so, but the greyness and dampness of the outside put me off from the moment I woke up this morning – note to self: It’s not always sunny outside so get real, and don’t be such a woos.

As an alternative, I decided to get down to the gym to at least try to use the indoor facilities for a long run, although the thought of 20 miles or so on a treadmill wasn’t that appealing either. Perhaps that is the difference between ordinary mortals like myself and the superhuman elite ultra runners; they are far more likely to train wherever, whatever!

Having confirmed my London membership would allow me access to the Guildford Virgin Active gym, I ran through the rain as little as I could to the car.

Constantia Uitsig

A new gym is always an unnerving experience but I have to say the staff we very helpful and courteous, so full marks to them in that respect. The different gym equipment is a different matter though. On the occasions that I have used a treadmill recently, I have been spoilt with screens showing a selection of satellite channels, but no such luck here. The screens they did have, although large, were a good thirty feet away, and the selection was premiership football (no), Holyoaks omnibus (errr, no!) or the BBC news (ok, but not for long as David Cameron is on). This was going to be a difficult session. In the end although I managed to figure out how to get the thing to give me more than a 60 minute programme, I was bored after 10 miles, so called it a day and then did some physio exercises, which I felt would at least make the session worthwhile. I still felt a bit grumpy that I hadn’t done my distance though.

It was still tipping it down on my journey home, but I was joined shortly after my arrival by Liz, dad and the others, who had all been to St Nicolas’ church, which luckily is only a couple of hundred yards down the road.

In her previous life, i.e. pre-England, pre-children and pre-me, Liz had worked in Cape Town at a place called Constantia Uitsig, where she had entertained the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Michael Caine, and as a treat she had decided to make a dish for our Sunday meal from a recipe book we have from the restaurant, a slow roasted shoulder of lamb with rosemary and garlic or Abbacchio alla Toscana. We didn’t include the garlic this time, as dad is not keen on the after effects, but did serve it with the recommended spinach, almonds and raisins.

It was delicious πŸ™‚

After lunch the sun came out and with another serving of Eton mess, or simple meringue and cream, for those that wanted it, the afternoon was complete.