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The End Of A Love Affair….

So over the weekend a very important relationship for me ended..

We had been together for nigh on 2 years now, shared some good times, bad times, awful times and amazing times. We had travelled around the country together taking in the various sights that good ole Blighty has to offer and spent alot of one on one time just soaking up the view and connecting with nature..

We met across a crowded Ebay auction about 2 years ago, when I saw them I knew they were the right trail shoes for me.. Inov-8 Roclite 295’s oh how you have served me well.. In the last 2 years I have run nearly 600 miles in those bad boys; from my first trail race, to my first trail marathon, my first ultra marathon and my first multi day ultra marathon. I have to say they never let me down, I have always felt confident running in whatever conditions Mother Nature has thrown at me, and I think I have experienced her greatest hits! From the slippery clay of the Jurassic Coast, to the slippery mud of the Jersey North Coast, to the Slippery Clayey mud of the North Downs (see the theme here???) and so on and so forth..

Anyway I would like to bid them a fond farewell, I hope you will join me in raising a glass to my faithful, battered, muddy Inov-8’s.. I will be consigning them to the bin this evening.. By the way I have replaced them with a much younger, sexier model who is sure to give me many ups and downs over the coming years!! 🙂

There is a shoe in there honestly!

The weekend just gone I participated in the XNRG Pilgrims Challenge 2 Day Ultra on the North Downs Way in Surrey. My mate Pete and I flew over on Friday night and were lucky enough to spend a night in a travel lodge in Aldershot. Saturday morning I awoke after a great nights sleep and we set off to the start line, not really knowing what to expect, but having the vague idea that the course would be less extreme than the Dorset Ultra weighing in at about 3000ft of elevation as opposed to nearly double that in Dorset.

Remember these Signs?

I was set to start at 10am, but it was so cold I asked if I could switch to the 9am start to get going.. We started and the day was beautiful, cold, sunny and perfect for a 33 mile run.. Apart from the mud! Right from the off I paired up with a couple of guys who ran way beyond my ability levels, and one of who had a GPS map of the route on his IPhone and seemed to know the way, there were alot of points along the initial part of the route where the signage was not obvious so I thought it prudent to stick with them.  We blasted off at a crazy pace running all the hills and completely turning my carefully thought out race strategy (drawn on the back of a fag packet!!) out the window.. By 15 miles I had said goodbye to my fast friends, taken a few wrong turns and set about the painful task of living with the damage I had inflicted by committing the cardinal sin – Going out too fast! The rest of the race passed uneventfully, if a little painfully with beautiful scenery and some very muddy pathways along the way. The XNRG crew at the check points were all very friendly and supportive and were a welcome sight after a couple of hours on my own listening to my cheeky girls play mix on my IPod.. The checkpoint food was also spot on, with a selection of fine cheeses, pretzels, sausage rolls and other culinary delights. I finished the day in 5 hours 20 mins with no real wrong turns and a lesson learnt about the need to control pace at the start of a 2 day event. I had a massage right at the end of the race which set me up for the next day and kept the aches and pains at bay. The field was a very strong one, with the winner for day one coming in at just over 4 hours and breaking the course record.

That night was spent listening to ultra endurance athlete Andy Mouncey doing a presentation on Ultra marathon running and his career which was very entertaining, and was good to see him manning checkpoint 2 on Sunday morning giving words of encouragement to all people moving through. The big highlight of the Sat evening for me (apart from the delicious Pasta Bolognese) was when the last 3 guys in from the race arrived in 12 hours later after starting at about 8am and the whole room erupted in a standing ovation for them.. This sent shivers down my spine and summed up one of the things I love most about ultra running.. One of the 3 had a bottle of Stella in her water bottle carrier, I think she had earnt that!

The Presidential Suite For Me!!

Onto day 2 and after a restless nights sleep in a school gymnasium with 200 other smelly endurance athletes the lights came on at 6am and up we got. 8am start for the race today, and the course was the reverse of the previous day taking 33 miles of the beautiful North Downs back to Farnham which psychologically was home for the day.. Pete and I had a flight to catch at 7pm which added a nice little bit of motivation  to make it snappy so off we went. The legs were stiff to start and I decided on keeping a steady pace initially so that I could ease into the day and not blow up too early on. This plan went out the window when I took a wrong turn about 10 miles in, and added an extra mile or so plus an extra hill to my race. I trudged back up that hill a broken man after galloping down it like a leaping gazelle.. I joined the race and the North Downs Way once more and set about trying to reclaim some of the time I had lost. I did hit a few bad patches periodically and thought that it was going to be a long day indeed, but after bumping into a few people and chatting a bit along the way I found my spirits lifting and hitting a nice flat section where I got into a good rhythm and ticking of a good few miles which made everything look a lot better.

A bit further down the track I bumped into 3 runners around the 20 mile mark who were obviously preparing for the MDS and had done both days of the Pilgrims with the rucksacks they would be using in Morocco plus approximate weight. This was where I learnt my second valuable lesson of the weekend: Its good to run with other people! I stuck with the guys I met, Tom, Damian and Therese and really hit it off with them, we had a good couple of hours together and the banter was great and really kept my spirits up through the latter part of a very tough couple of days. I look forward to this type of camaraderie in the desert, particularly touching base again with all the people I met over the weekend who will be doing the MDS: Joey, Warwick, Sally, Gordon, Pete, Susie, Rory, Ian, Stuart, Kate and alot of other people who I chatted to along the way, at meal times, ran with and said hello to.

In summary the Pilgrims was a great event, well organised and great value for the entry fee. There were alot of MDS 2013 competitors there which was great to put face to names and to exchange information. I would not hesitate to recommend the event and will probably venture back there myself next year. Lots of lessons learnt for the MDS as well as a great confidence boost ahead of the big one.

More to follow soon!

I will be running in aid of Jersey Hospice care and in memory of my friend Natalie Moss – if you would like to donate please visit my just giving page here

One Response

  1. Gwyn says:

    Another great blog Paul, thanks. I also have a pair of Roclite 295's, I find them great for grip but can't wear them for long distances because the lack of cushioning makes the soles of my feet sore, especially on hard ground. I probably just need to toughen up!

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