So a lot has happened since the Tarawera 100k in 2015 and I probably should have blogged a little more. Well, a lot more.
To get this ball rolling again here’s a summary of some the best (and worst) moments of the last two years that have been written about elsewhere.
2015 World & European 24hr Champs 3rd place with 261km and Team Gold. Before and after I also managed to piss off Nike for protesting against their sponsorship of twice convicted and unrepentant drug cheat Justin Gatlin.
2015 UTMB – My first DNF at 130km after a Summer chasing my dreams in Chamonix, France. One Summer doesn’t make a mountain runner, but I’m still here trying harder every day.
2015 – My first naked photo shoot since University. The first official one, rather than just me being drunk and naked. Unfortunately the brilliant Sport magazine no longer exists, but to feature in there twice was an honour.
2016 Trail du Velan – Winning a load of Swiss Cheese (9kg to be exact) and getting ready for the 2016 UTMB CCC and an 11th place. I actually thought I was top 10 when I crossed the line, but close enough.
2016 European 24hr Champs and knee surgery just afterwards was disappointing but has only strengthened the desire to win 24hr races.
2017 saw a sensible rehab and steady build up to the 2017 World 24hr Champs, but another disappointing performance. It really demonstrated how tough the 24hr format is. A bit of time in the mountains to recover now!
2017 also sees the start of the TrainAsONE team where I have been given the opportunity by TAO to support a select few deserving athletes to achieve their goals. Exciting times ahead for that project too.
Next up is Nats’ Xmas present of the Kom-Emine trail in Bulgaria. We’ll be supported by the wonderful Zhivko and teaming up with friend Ry Webb to run the 300-700km (depending on where you look) trail across the Balkans. We think it’s probably in the middle around 500km.
Well, thats a quick round up and I’m sure I’ve missed plenty but I’ll make sure the gap isn’t quite two years next time.
When you fly to the other side of the world to run a 100k trail race that you have to give it a go right? Well, that's what I've been telling myself since race day and it was all going so well until three quarters of the way through the race until I started my usual party trick of vomiting everywhere. Nothing has changed that much from my nights out at university really? When I got an email in December from the Ultra Trail World Tour asking if I would like elite athlete support I thought it was a little bit too good to be true, especially when they agreed to fund a trip to run one of my bucket list races in New Zealand.
It's the biggest thing I've got out of this running lark so far and I was really excited. Training went well for January and three big weeks got me in good shape before my taper and thirty two hour set of flights. I had a good mix of hills, speed-work and mileage that had knackered me out but, with some good rest in my taper, I was happy with how the legs were spinning over. The level of competition was getting stronger and stronger as the race got closer, with international athletes such as Dylan Bowman, Jorge Maravilla, Yun Yan-qiao, Pao Bartolo, Mike Wardian and Vajin Armstrong lining up at the start with a twenty four hour running inspiration Yoshikazu Hara, who had run 285km in December toeing the line as well, I knew that if I raced sensibly and finished strong, like I know I can, I could maybe break the top 5 or hit the podium. With a rousing Haka at the start, whilst I was hidden in the bushes for a final pitstop, the race got underway amongst the great redwood forests of Rotorua, with some sick single track trails ahead for us to enjoy. Pockets full of homemade rice cakes and some CLIF shot bloks, the legs and mind were feeling good and I felt like I belonged on the front of the thousand runners lining up for an adventure.
When discussing the race beforehand with the other nippy chaps they had all hinted towards an easy paced start for the first twenty or thirty kilometres to ease us into this early season race. Unfortunately no one had mentioned this to Yun, who was dead set on an improvement on his second place finish last year. Expecting Bowman and co to mark such a strong move from this omni-smiling North Face runner I just settled in behind him and trotted along. It felt a little quick but I figured he'd settle down when he realised the chaps ahead were only racing the 60k race. No such luck, as I let Yun race Moritz just ahead as I knew he was planning on a slightly shorter day than us. I settled into a rhythm and enjoyed the wonderful crowds and volunteers at the aid stations and chowed down on my food every half hour. Bryon Powell was pretty shocked to see me in second early in the race, a little wary that he might actually have to interview this cheeky little British chap for his website irunfar.com one day. One day you will have to Bryon and I know you'll enjoy it. Mr. Bowman, a fan of the game of darts and a dedicated Phil "the Power" Taylor fan, came past at about 50k into the race and moved very strongly uphill, so much so that I just had to let him go straight past. He was having a great run and would smash the course record in a wee while. Then I went past Yun & Moritz after we all took a slight wrong turn into some bush and I was to have the pleasure of Yun's company for a few kilometres after that.
From 55k onwards I was joined by Majell Backhausen, pronounced My-Elle I learnt two years too late, to pace me through to the finish. He was in town for a wedding so it seemed like a good chance to catch up with a friend who lived on the other side of the world. Yun and I were having a great little ding-dong battle along the trails, both struggling over fallen tress due to our less than giant frames and sneaking underneath some that I'm sure Bowman and Maravilla, now ahead, would have hurdled. Good things come in small packages eh? After watching Yun grin wildly at every obstacle so far, even when we interrupted his pit stop on the side of the trail, it wasn't good to see him slump down into a chair at the 70k checkpoint. We had been pushing each other, racing for third now, for 70k and now he just had nothing left. Powering out of the 70k checkpoint, happy that I was leaving Yun behind, it wasn't long before my body decided that I was trying just a little too hard. The racing had meant that it was happy to run or digest food, but not both, and I chundered everywhere on the loop of despair, as Hara literally jumped, skipped and hopped up a gnarly looking incline I was stumbling up.
This was not unusual territory. I knew I had to get fluids, electrolytes and energy into my body before it chucked them out again so I continued eating as much as I could, but energy levels were real low. Flat and downhill were fine but any type of incline just sapped me and I slowed to a crawl. Armstrong passed at 85k, Wardian at 95k and Bartolo around 97k, all with encouragement and good will. There really are so many nice blokes in ultra racing and they'd all been there. My pre race aim was sub 9 hours so coming through the finish at 8:45:11 was something I might have taken at the start, but on race day I had to make a decision in the thick of the action. I could have eased off, let Yun go and tried my best to finish in the top 5 or I could try for the win. It's a decision I'll make the same way every time but if you don't go you'll never win. One day they'll not seem me again until the finish line.
Overall New Zealand was a great experience, a country full of beautiful, green trails, super friendly people and enough mountains to keep you entertained for months on end!Majel and I explored the North Island afterwards, tramping over Maungatautari, running up Te Aroha and sitting atop the Pinnacles on the Coromandel Peninsula, all great adventures in their own right. I think I'll need to go back for the South Island. Maybe Tarawera needs another crack too eh?
A huge thank you to the UTWT, Paul, Tim and everyone at Tarawera Ultra, Majel, The Byrne family for looking after me in Auckland and Lynn & the Tylees for being my co-adventurers around Waikato. Inov-8, Julbo and Petzl made sure I didn't have to run naked, the sun didn't get in my eyes too much and I didn't have to run in the dark at the start. The X-Talon 212s were awesome on the single track and I didn't smash my face into the ground once.
After my first year as a Team inov-8 Runner spent running around the mountains, 2015 is another fantastic looking year with a mix of mountains and running around in circles in a GB vest!
To start things off I’ll be running at Tarawera 100k in New Zealand, a beautiful course along the woodland single-track and lake side course out of Rotorua. I can’t wait to get into the thick of it and smash it down some hills in my X-talon 212s.
April see’s another opportunity to put on the hallowed GB vest and run around a loop in Turin to try and better my previous 239km best for 24 hours. We have a great squad going out there and I cannot wait to be part of it!
After Turin I’ll have some down time before heading to Portugal with Danny Kendall as a British pair at the Carlos Sa Geres Trail adventure. 4 days of beautiful mountain running trying to keep up with the quickest Brit at MDS ever and that’s why I try to train everyday for this, using the best outdoor sports equipment I get from sites like www.productexpert.com so I have everything I need for my training. Should be fun racing friends Jo Meek & Holly Rush too!
So UTMB is the main focus for the year and after a reasonable 26:48 last year I know that to step up to the next level I have to be in the mountains to train for them so Paul Navesey, Majel Backhausen and I will be shacking up in Les Houches to give ourselves the best chance to compete in those massive hills!
There are also other possibilities about the year and an an awesome adventure with fellow Centurion Ultra Team runner James Elson, but more of that later in the year when we have the ball rolling.
All this wouldn’t be possible without help from British Athletics & the Ultra Trail World Tour, as well as my partners inov-8, Julbo, Petzl, TomTom, Big Balls Beanies and Lyon Outdoor.
I hope everyone is excited about 2015, I know I am!
Don’t risk your life, or endanger others, by going up Mont Blanc without the right equipment. Simple eh?
If you need someone to explain what the right equipment is for going up a 4810m, glacier topped mountain then you’re not experienced enough to go up without a guide.
Nats and I have been in Chamonix for 2.5 years now and still haven’t been to the top of Western Europe. It’s not for the want of experience, Nats has climbed the Matterhorn & various other 4000m peaks and I’ve crossed glaciers in Arctic Norway. We’ve even climbed Mont Blanc de Tacul (4,248m), but we did it with with boots, crampons, axes, rope, helmets, full length trousers, goggles, etc.
One way or another it just hasn’t been the right time, be it down to races, rocks spitting from the Grand Couloir or the weather, it’s a serious undertaking, even travelling with the right gear and trying to go up and down in a day .
So if you’re coming out for UTMB or just visiting Chamonix for a holiday and you’re thinking of “running” up Mont Blanc (the altitude will mean that you won’t actually be running if you’re wondering) then please think twice.
Just this Thursday a 28 year old Traileur slipped at 4500m and fell 300m to his death whilst “running” Mont Blanc in his trail running gear. The runner Matthieu Craff, from Brittany, was “sans équipement d’alpinisme” and fell from the Bosse Ridge on the normal route many take each day to the top.
This death comes just days after the Mayor of St. Gervais said fines would be payable by those disrespecting the route with inadequate kit, but many questioned how this could be implemented. Mont Blanc, and the rest of the massif, claim multiple lives each year and the mountains are no joke up high.
We’ve seen Brits coming out and think that adding an ice axe and some micro spikes to a pair of trail shoes makes them safe in the mountains and other sport shoes that are about to get release and you can find more about it at www.soleheaven.com/blogs/sneaker-launch-calendar. Trust me, you’re not and the fact you’re still here has an element of luck involved.
Ultimately it’s down to the individual to decide what they are willing to risk, but if you are coming to Chamonix this Summer then don’t be a fool. Going up Mont Blanc without the correct equipment not only endangers you, but also those around and the others that have to go searching for lost traileurs and those in danger.
You don’t have to be a trail runner to make these mistakes, but we will get the brunt of the blame so why not set an example, rather than be one.
The mountain will always be there, so if your experience isn’t quite right, you don’t have the right gear or if the weather isn’t spot on then just wait. If you want to go lightweight then don’t be ridiculous. A couple of extra kilograms might slow you down, but it might also save your life.
There are plenty of Guides in Chamonix, plenty of experienced mountaineers and plenty of risk. If you are going up lightweight then still be safe and be a responsible Tweeter.
You don’t know who’s watching and who will follow you to their death.
Whatever your reason for running an ultra marathon, be it a personal challenge, to raise money for charity, get yourself a sub 24hr buckle, enjoy a day in the great outdoors or be competitive, every wants to get a little quicker right?
Maybe quicker isn’t the right word, how about more efficient, more comfortable? I’ve run 100 miles in nearly 28 hours and I know it was a lot more comfortable, dare I say enjoyable, running it a little bit quicker. It just hurt less and I got to sleep sooner. I love sleeping.
I’ve decided to forego my right, by Fijian by-law 573, to an afternoon nap for the next few weeks and I thought I would try do something useful with my time and write a series of blogs about ultra marathon running and how to make it as easy as possible.
Running these races is never going to actually be easy but if you can make it 5% less difficult than “really bloody tough” then you’re going to enjoy your day just that little bit more and there is a bunch of stuff you can do to make it as easy as possible on the day.
I’ve teamed up with www.run247.com and I’m going to break it down into five different headings, five things that I think are important to running 30 to 153 miles.
Each week I will write down my thoughts on those matters, hopefully get some ideas from some friends as well and some input from everyone else.
I’ll keep them brief, light hearted and, fingers crossed, useful. The six things I reckon you can work on to get to that finish line a little speedier are as follows, with a link to the first article that went up yesterday.
The Need for Speed (speedwork & fitness) –
Making it as easy as possible (Efficiency)
Eat, Drink & be Merry! (Nutrition, Hydration & Electrolytes)
Mind Games (errr…Mind games)
Check yourself before you wreck yourself (Pacing)
Feel free to drop me an email and mention anything else you reckon I could inlcude and I’ll do my utmost to make it readable and beneficial to all the crazy suckers who want to move long distances in a competitive manner.
December. It’s the season to be jolly, to sit around with family members whilst devouring whole boxes of Celebrations and to drink egg nog (Does anyone even drink that stuff any more, what the hell is it?).
Well we thought that it would be best to earn that little off season with the family and get some hard work done the weekend before on a lovely hill in wooded Surrey, so Coxyand I are going to dish out some Christmas Joy of our own, painful joy, to those who want to come down to Box Hill on Sunday 22nd December.
Same drill as usual, drop me an email at Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org with the heading “All I want for Xmas is some suffering” and I will add you to email list with all the details.
It will be 3 hours maximum of hill work, functional exercises, trail running and good fun from 11-2 on the Sunday and afterwards we shall be hitting a local pub for a feed up and some beverages if they allow us.
Think of it as a horrible present from us to you…
Are you training for your next big challenge, be it the Three Peaks Challenge, your first marathon, triathlon, Ultra marathon or some meaty 100 miler?
Team GB ultra-marathon runner Robbie Britton and Life after Desk PT Rebecca Cox lifeafterdeskpt.com want to make you suffer a little, just a little, to make sure that when it comes to race day it will take some serious shit to stop you moving forward.
For 3 hours of your life you can come down to Box Hill, Surrey and get a tough training session to help you pace, increase mileage and most importantly endure. You’ll also get some great tips on how to prepare for the big day, manage nutrition and cope with the latter stages of a strenuous physical event.
Hell, the pair of us have both run 100 miles in under 24 hours, Coxy crawled across the desert with shredded legs and I managed a cheeky 149 miles for Team GB at the 24hr World Championships in May. We’d like to think we know what we’re doing.
The cost? The only currency we require is your time and a little bit of misery. Spaces are limited so email me if you’re interested at Robert.email@example.com. First session is 3p.m. on Sunday 9th June.
It’ll be fun*.
So I need to write about possibly the greatest weekend of my life and make it interesting for everyone else too. The World 24hr Running Championships in Steenbergen Holland and the first chance for me to wear the hallowed GB vest. Surreal doesn’t quite cover it… Bloody unbelievable? Phantasmagorical… I don’t even know what that means, but it may do.
After running 231km in Barcelona last December I had the chance to try and recreate, or better, that amongst some of the greatest 24hr runners in the World (including the best of all time, Yiannis Kouros, but more of him later) and boy was I going to take this chance. My training had PB written all over it, I felt good, felt strong, but now I had to come with the goods in the day. I couldn’t wait!
We flew out on the Thursday, Micky Seymour, the best thing to come out of plumbing since Mario and Luigi, and I jetted out and spent the day in Amsterdam where we drank coffee, ate sweets and had a peek at the naughty ladies (I’m not wasting my energy on them before you say anything). We met up with the squad and headed down to Bergen Op Zoom, the location of our Athlete’s Village. Athlete’s Village, hell yeah, I felt like Usain Bolt! I even took the chance to get in on the Japanese team photo and then run off before they noticed!
After an easy night I was up for breakfast but the world of International Sport was calling and I had been called for a doping test. I’m no fan of needles but I loved this, the fact that my sport was important enough to warrant these essential features of modern day athleticism. Only Big Time Charlie’s get dope testing and they wanted little me? This is how you pass a drugs test Lance, you twat.
With a sore arm but a sense of pride I now had to carry the flag at the front of the GB team for the opening ceremony and parade. Oh what a great honour my teammates had put on my shoulders, I thought. Turns out that carrying a flag for over an hour before race day is just something they wanted to avoid! Ha! I’ll carry it every time if needs be, I loved it, struggling to keep a childish grin off my face.
On race day we headed down as a team, with the likes of John Pares, Paddy Robbins, Steve Holyoak, Matt Moroz, Lizzy Hawker, Emily Gelder, Sharon Law, Debs M-C and Karen Hathaway we had a strong team, both male and female. The pressure had been put on the girls before the race but they had some strong personalities who were going to go for gold on race day, there was even talk of World Records.
Wearing the GB vest and 2 pairs of shorts, just to make the most of it, we set off at 12 and people were flying! The Latvians were on a bloody mission, Matt Moroz was off with Lizzy Hawker at the front and Yiannis Kouros seems to be out to try improve his own records as I tried to mimicking his style from behind, albeit with somewhat limped wrists.
I settled into a wee jog, enjoying the company of the other athletes and plodding along, I wanted to maintain 11k per hour for the first 12 and then slow it down a bit so I dealt with 1k at a time and got on with it. The rain started. It was going to be a long night, but I felt NICE.
The pictures of the night are somewhat limited, mainly due to the pleasant, intermittent, torrential rain and the morale sapping hail. The forecast midweek had me worrying about overheating, the actual weather had me more concerned about drowning, I’m not the tallest of chaps.
Chucking on my La Sportiva Goretex Active Shell Jacket ASAP really saved my bacon that night. Runners were getting cold and having a torrid time, although it was no worse than a British Spring night (I.e. awful), the number of competitors out on the course reached a noticeable low during the evening as great runners had to take shelter and rewarm. The increased stress on the body of a 24 hour race leaves you much more susceptible to other factors you would usually jog off. I reached 130k in 12 hours, bang on target. Now to relax a little and ease to a 100 mile p.b.
At the 100 mile point Paddy Robbins was leading up the way for Team GB and reached a 100 in less than 15, a monster effort. Paddy’s night was not to be a good one though and he suffered in the small hours, having to take a break and having no energy. Unusual for such a strong runner who usually gets quicker as the race goes on but a pit of proof that he’s actually human and not an android set back in time to conquer the Grand Union Canal Race for the good of mankind.
At this point only Steve Holyoak and myself were out on the course for the men’s team, whilst Lizzie and Emily were having a bad day at the office for the ladies. Debs and Karen were plugging away and Sharon Law was cheerfully bouncing her way through the women’s rankings. The only bad point of Sharon doing so well was the infrequency with which I saw her in this race, normally jogging along with a row of men reluctant to overtake or trying to chat her up. Always a pleasure Sharon ;)
Food wasn’t going down too well at this stage but I was still munching some oranges and Cliff Shot Blocks, whilst vomiting every now and again. Morning was coming and it would soon be business time, time to get my act together and start pushing on!
About 19 hours in, fuelled by plenty of flat coke, I was feeling good and started to put in some quicker laps. It was at this point I considered the gamble. I felt good so should I pace it out steadily until the finish, still some 5 hours away, and hope that it all held strong or should I smash the hell out of it now, in the present? My legs haven’t been an issue in races, just my fuel, so I could move quickly and decided to go for it. Make hay whilst the suns shines (or not) as they say.
The next few hours were wonderful, I was lapping people, including Yiannis Kouros, and I felt real strong. Cor Blimey, I even posted my fastest laps of the race about 22 hours in! I was actually lapping the race leader, Jon Olsen, although he had a healthy lead by now, it helped with my confidence. Could I keep this up until the finish?
Alas, it wasn’t to last. I keeled over half way round a lap and threw up about 2 litres of Coca Cola, much to the delight of the nearby photographer who was snapping away. I haven’t seen the photos but if they come up on some fetish site could people let me know…
The last two hours were just a situation of hanging on and moving forward. John Pares, Paddy and Lizzy Hawker were all back on course and all moving round. Even Matt Moroz was putting the odd lap in to boost morale. It was a solid team effort and Steve Holyoak was doing the boys proud with a steady, mature, excellent race. The girls were chomping round too, with Karen, Debs and Sharon all adding to great over night totals.
I had the pleasure of running my penultimate lap with Chisholm Deupree, a wonderful American runner who helped me when I was feeling low, in return for the encouragement I had given during the race. A real moment that reminded me why I loved ultra running so much. We’re all in this pile of shit struggle together, we’ll get through it.
Happy to finish my last lap near the start, I plodded round for a final one with a Union Jack across my shoulders, but Paddy had other ideas. The “A” standard for qualification was 239km, my last lap was 238.3 or something like that and Paddy was going to drag me kicking and screaming to that A standard. I smashed it round, slapping a few hands but I’d played up to the crowd the lap before, now we had something to aim for. The feed station was crowded with supporters but Paddy went first and was my battering ram. We knew it would have to be past the support tents but where that magical 239 point was, we did not know.
I gave everything I had left and sprinted until that final buzzer went. Once again I knew my legs had much more in them, much more. It is just a case of finding out how to get the fuel in. I crashed to the floor as the horn went, half tempted to throw my finishing marker as far into the distance as I could manage ( which would have been about 8 inches), I just laid it down on the floor next to me. If it wasn’t enough, then oh well, we’d tried.
Mick was there at the finish shortly, and solely to test the quality of Adidas’ waterproof top, I let out a flood of tears, emotion had got too much for me again, but they were tears of joy. The top worked, Mick stayed dry, and I recovered to let people know “I’m not crying, it’s just been raining on my face”.
239km? Did I make? Did I care? I went and sat down next to Sharon.
She had just set a new PB and a Scottish Record. Enough to secure the 3rd Place in the European Championships individually and the girls took 2nd i the European team event. Brilliant performance! The Team GB performance of the day in my eyes. Steve Holyoak was the top GB runner with 246 km. Great effort.
My results finally came through and it was 239.008km. Ha! I had made it by 8 metres! The first thing I had thought…I wish I’d of known, I could have collapsed 8 metres earlier! That last lap was more painful than anything I had ever done but I would do it again in a heartbeat.
At the end of the day it couldn’t have been done without the great support of my friends and family, the GB support crew, especially Micky Seymour and Richard Brown, the great team out there, all the other runners and everyone supporting back home on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks everyone!
What next? Spartathlon is the next big one, end of September with hopefully some other smaller ones in between. For Team GB? Next World Champs next year, I don’t mind if I do!
So for a bit of fun, Rebecca “Coxy” Cox, a cheeky but sadistic personal trainer, and myself were putting on a training day for the lads of www.mh2yh.com, 10 chaps of varying fitness, attempting to cycle, swim and run from London to Amsterdam in aid of Parkinson’s Disease. My House to Your House they called it.