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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

12h de Feucherolles, 2011

Last Saturday I participated in the 12 heures de Feucherolles in what turned out to be an extraordinary weekend of sport, camaraderie and appreciation. Lifetime memories like this are hard to condense into a blog because it has the potential to be long winded and sound self indulgent. So my report will be as brief as I can make it in hope that the photos can do some talking for me and you wont have to sit all day listening to an hour by hour break down of me running round in circles.

Thanks to our Aunt Bibiche I arrived in the village of Feucherolles after about a half hour journey from our home, the main hub of the race was perched atop a winding a hill in a very affluent area where the "second car" in peoples driveways was either a Porsche or a sleek Benz. The locals seemed friendly, well dressed and slightly bemused with what we were up to. The course was a 1.2km loop of asphalt with roughly thirty metres of grass where the finish line and aid station were positioned. There were three races being contested, 6hrs, 12hrs and 24hrs and we were all due to start at ten o clock. As I was preparing my gear and fluids for the punishing heat (already rising in the early morning) I was approached by many folks from the 24 hrs d'Arcueil that I ran last year. Seeing faces from past races is real plus of these events because a lot can happen in ones life in six months both from a running a living perspective, and seeing my friend Pascal again was really nice. I also bumped into Jean Phillipe who had contacted me through dailymile a few days before the race asking if I was the guy who happened to be running the same event as him. We had traded a few messages the week prior so a proper introduction half an hour before the gun went off was a bonus. The whole atmosphere of people sitting in their tents, strolling around and enjoying life created the ambiance that powered us all to our own personal finish lines.

So, as race director and all out legend Jean-Luc Garcia assembled 140 or so runners for our pep talk we learned that the benefactors of the race would be an Autism group. I was so moved by this and further blown away to realise that a young Autistic man would be running the 24hr race. This made me very emotional and I could only think of my Pearl and how today was going to be for her more than any other race that had come before. At ten o clock we rolled.

(pre-race pep talk)

(the finishing chute)

(the rules are simple)

(our encampment)

My goal for the day was pretty basic, it was training for Ireland. Run for twelve hours, hydrate and fuel up the same way as I will for July and see how it goes. The first few hours were nondescript and consisted of regular water and snack intake, sponges of cold water on my neck and face and making sure I was well covered from the increasingly hot sun. By the time I had passed my first marathon (3:50) the temperature was hovering around 27/28 degrees. I kept my salt intake regular as I was drinking more and more. Jean Phillipe was definitely in the zone at an early stage looking strong and tactical. Mid afternoon brought the real test of patience and mettle as seeing the six hour finishers wrap up a solid days running meant I was still at the half way point. It was here that my inability to pee regularly became an issue, I felt the need to go but the colour (think iced tea) and quantity (very little) meant I needed to super hydrate. I know a lot of runners use sports drinks and gels but they turn my stomach and previous experience has taught me that a dodgy stomach can ruin the day. I did a mental check and pep talk reminding myself that I was in training mode and that with the right fuel would cover the next six hours at probably the same pace. I stopped for some bread, cheese and cold meats at the seventy kilometre mark (6:55) and walked a lap eating slowly. I then took a high carb hydration drink from someone at the aid station and slowly drank the lot. Pretty soon after I could feel my body's equilibrium restored and settled back into my rhythm. All I needed now was for the sun to go down.

(pet pig in a locals garden)

(waiting for sundown)


Once I had eaten I needed a distraction from the continuous loops and hooked up few hours of pre programmed tunes to pass the time. Music is something I can take or leave but for a time limit race there is no real finish line, not like a 100km race where the quicker you run, the faster you get to the end. With a twelve hour loop your suffering lasts as long as everyone else. The gentle slopes in the road and little dips suddenly seemed a lot more taxing on the legs and my ankles were starting to beg me for an ice bucket. Every two/three laps I made a pit stop to sponge my knees and thighs to keep my temperature low and have sip of water. At eight o clock it started to cool down I took the first of two Advil which was a trick I learned from reading Dave Mackey's blog. I passed to 100km mark at 10:08 and knew it was only a matter of cruising the same pace to the finish, I caught up with Jean-Luc at the aid station and was informed that I was in second place, this came a complete surprise to me as I had chosen not to concentrate on the rankings, just running my own pace. What came as no surprise was that Jean-Phillipe was ahead by about eight kilometres and we ran side by side for a few laps as the last hour descended upon us. I was happy for him and running against someone of his ability really brings out the best in a race as a whole. Pascal and all the support crew, volunteers and finished runners cheered us loudly as Jean-Luc announced that we had two laps to go. I revved up the pace and crossed the line after a tremendously fulfilling run of 118.2km's. Hugs were exchanged amongst all the finishers and Jean-Luc informed us that the old course record of 109km's had not only been broken by Jean-Phillipe (who won with 127.2km's) but by my second place also. A day of surprises and celebrations. The prizes were superb and everyone retreated to Jean-Luc's make-shift bar to toast the day, I stuck with my soup and a group of us sat by the finish line into the early hours to cheer on the 24hr runners who had to face the night. I camped out at the site to continue to encourage the brave runners the next morning.

(Jean-Luc's midnight tequila bar)

(l-r Jean-Phillipe, Jean-Luc)

(me and Pascal)

(me and Jean Phillipe)

(the podium)

The day summed up all that is good about friendship and sharing . The sharing of our compassion and support for the Autistic, the disabled, the less fortunate. The bonds created through enduring the same highs and lows of the road and ultimately knowing that you gave it your best shot, regardless of the distance covered. An enormous depth of gratitude I owe to Jean-Luc, Nadine, Pascal, Jean -Phillipe, Mireille and all the runners and supporters who cheered, stuck a sponge in my hand and beyond. And also to the ones behind the scene, Alicia, Dylan and Pearl.... the list is long. It was truly one of the greatest days to be a runner.


Results here.

Garmin below (it froze at one point, slightly innacurate)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Salomon Ambassadors.

I was recently privileged to be mentioned amongst some incredible athletes sponsored by an incredible company. Salomon have made a lot happen for me by not only providing the best trail gear in the world but by also supporting Running for Pearl, a cause that is dear to mine and many other peoples hearts. Its always a joy for me to wear the 'uniform' when out in the woods and at one with the trail. Below is the text from the article and the original post can be seen here. The picture is a glimpse from a recent photo shoot with my talented friend Christian and I look forward to posting more in the next blog. It was an incredibly enjoyable experience with him last Sunday morning and I learned a lot, about photography and life.

At Salomon the belief is that the outdoors are a place for inspiration, discovery and enjoyment - and as part of that trail running is an activity that helps place the runner in that environment. Salomon also think that life is not all about competition, but also about being the best you can and challenging yourself in the outdoors. As a long-time 'athlete' I consider myself more of a 'soul runner' these days, and find running at one with nature the most rewarding of all my running experiences, so I think I fit into this category. Of course we have some of the very best endurance athletes in the world as part of the Salomon International Team, and our very own Salomon Trail Team in the UK. But we also support some very different individuals, who we consider as ambassadors for the brand. One such runner is Mark Hines . Those of you who follow ultra running will have heard of Mark. His achievements in such events as the Yukon Arctic Ultra Trail have been phenomenal, and as a speaker and writer Mark has developed a great following for his humble attitude and great achievements. Another couple of ultra athletes are the Accelerace Challenge crew. Ross and Chris are attempting to travel over 2200 miles from London to Calenzana at the north end of the GR20 on Corsica, via mountain bike, kayak and trail and mountain running in just 14 days - culminating with a 3-day, 112 mile trail running over the GR20! The guys have also just completed a grueling 50 mile run across Snowdonia too, watch it here Malcolm McLoughlin, is running for Pearl. On July 4th 2011 Malcolm will start running from Mizen Head (Co.Cork) to Malin Head (Co. Donegal) in Ireland, a colossal 587 kms. Malcolm states: "Running for Pearl came about in late 2009 as my daughter Pearl was diagnosed with Autism on July 21st 2009. The idea was to combine endurance events with Autism awareness in the hope of making sense of this handicap, not just for ourselves but for other families too." You can follow his blog here too These guys are just a few people that we support with Salomon product. We do not wish to buy their faith, we merely want to help them on their journeys and gather their feedback after they have achieved some of these amazing goals. They exemplify the spirit of Salomon, and alongside the array of elites athlete are also testimony that our product and philosophies hold true to the ethos: "Salomon is athletic outdoor".

Matt Ward.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Miwok 2011

Superb video of Miwok 100km last Saturday in San Fransisco. Congratulations to Dave Mackey and Pam Smith on their wins. Full results here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Barefoot Running

Last Sunday I had a very interesting experience in that I attended a barefoot running day in Paris. I decided to incorporate a long steady training run and it was going to be a day of just running wherever the road took me.

I befriended Christian Harberts on dailymile earlier this year and it is always nice to come into contact with expatriates in the city, when they happen to be runners it is even better. As I got to know Christian I was very intrigued by his website Courir Pieds Nus as barefoot running seems to cropping up all over the place at the moment. But most of these barefoot movements seemed to be happening in America and Christian was the first person who was bringing it to a place close to home. I decided I wanted to know more just for my own curiosity as it has become the hottest talked about topic to hit running in years. Is it good for you, is it bad? Are you more or less likely to get injured? These are just two of the many questions surrounding the great barefoot debate. And, as with any debate there are those who will listen and live and let live and those who think their views are gospel and everyone should follow. That's where it gets annoying for me, if someone starts to rant at me and tell me how I should run they are fighting a losing battle. Sorry, but save it for someone weakling who will let themselves be steam rolled with sonic waffle.

In the beginning minimalism was something a select few were participating in but when Chris McDougalls Born to Run came out it just blew the lid off this little movement. Here was an heroic tale of adventure, injury, comeback, tribes of 'superhuman' sandal wearing no-bodies in the Mexican mountains, oh, and Scott Jurek. I love the book and have read it twice and even though raises some very, very valid points I think running is an individual pursuit and thus should be treated so. Of course with the popularity of the book came interest and with interest came major running shoe companies hawking shoes that sold 'less' but at the same price. Anton Krupicka, an amazing runner and designer of the NB Minimus was the new poster boy for their juggernaut. And why not, the guy can run the like ancients and who wouldn't want to be free in the mountains with nothing but a pair of shorts and hair blowing in the breeze. He also is a genuine barefoot runner incorporating it into many of his evening shake-out sessions. I for one am envious of his ways :) just look at the video. But envious enough to trade in my shoes and go back to basics, not so fast.

I like the freedom of being able to chose what I wear and where I run. I love my XT Wings and they are the shoe I use ninety percent of the time in my trail runs. They are sturdy and give me the confidence when I am hauling down a switchback at flat out speeds that the wheels ain't gonna come off. If one runs trails, one should use the best in trail gear. You wouldn't drive up the side of a rugged mountain in a Ferrari now would you? Unpredictable terrain needs a tailor made piece of equipment and doing that sans chaussures is something I just do not envision.

(Salomon XT Wings)

Luckily Christian is an extremely laid back and cool guy with a basic philosophy of "lets run together and have fun, with or without shoes and try to not get injured" I really dig this approach as it's all about the coming together and sharing each others passions. He had managed to gather an impressive number given that fact that there was a pretty popular marathon in Senart--plus a high profile ten km race held by Planet Jogging in Bois de Boulogne which was not far from his event in Issy les Moulineaux at the same time. I had run from home and arrived sweaty with twelve km under my belt and eager for more. We convened at the track where Christian explained a bit about the movement both here and in the States (he is Swiss-American) and a little about his own group before inviting us all to do one lap shoeless. It was fun and you could tell instantly the ones who do and the ones who don't. I looked like a frog jumping from one hot rock to another whilst the more experienced bare footers just grooved with ease. We then split into three groups, one km, five km and ten km distances. I chose the ten km group and five of us did two loops of a local park by the Seine, the weather was superb and I got roasted to a tomato red but was having too much fun with the guys in my group to notice at the time. Stories and backgrounds were traded and races tips swapped. One of our runners, Alain, ran with a guide due to his visual impairment and I felt real joy being beside him because of his positive attitude and love for running. Never again will I look at an injury or feeling tired again in the same way. Gratitude for what one has is way too often overlooked and Alain showed me that its all about that being in that moment, he also ran a heck of a last two km's.

(Christian giving a pre-run talk)

(Huaraches sandals, home made)

(park loop)

(the days group)

(hanging with Christian)

Once we had finished everyone was off doing what they do on a Sunday, I decided it was time for another few hours in the sun to work on hydration and fueling strategies for the Head to Head run in July. I clocked another thirty to take me total to fifty for the day, the pace wasn't blistering but I ran smartly and conservatively trying to get familiar with longer times on road surfaces. It's a lot harder on the body than trail running and my ankles really felt it in a new way. It's all evolving nicely now and a lot of T's are being crossed at the moment. I just need to keep the majority of my focus on the training as a great team of friends are taking on some of the organisation behind the scenes. Thanks guys. I will be detailing in depth my weekly training in the coming weeks to give an idea of the preparation involved.

See ya round the bend.


Running for Pearl

This blog is dedicated to my daughter Pearl who was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) in August 2009. My goal is to raise funds and awareness by doing what I love....Running.