Virgin London Marathon 2014


In a bit to purge myself of the four hour plus marathon label, I decided to take the training a little bit more serious this time round. A 5 runs a week plan was created based on the usual long Sunday run with shorter, faster weekdays runs and a new twist of a tempo run on the Saturday to tire out the pins in advance of the long run - allegedly simulating making the long run the equivalent of the end of a much longer run. Well it sounded feasbile at the time and to be honest actually felt right for the duration of the training - so much so that I stuck to the plan.
So approx 75 sessions and 500 miles later I found myself at Ipswich station on Saturday morning, loaded up with tuna pasta, gels and flapjacks, off on my little adventure.
A nice brisk 3 mile walk from Liverpool St to the hotel in Lambeth gave me a chance to unwind and get rid of those pre race nerves. Walking over London Bridge I glanced down to Lower Thmes Street and could see the barriers in place, ready for Sunday. How different would it be in less than 24 hours I wondered.
Lower Thames Street on Saturday
Chilled and watched the Arsenal vs Wigan semi final while scoffing a massive bowl of Tuna & Pesto pasta and a load of sparking water - nom nom nom. Little evening stroll up to Vauxhall Bridge to see the river then off to bed by 10:00pm for a good nights kip.
Looking East from Vauxhall Bridge
Up early to fill up with more water and loads of Muesli and then the trip to Greenwich Park with an increasing number of people and rising excitement and nerves. Usual military like organisation - it really is well done - and dropped of the clothes bag and wandered up to pen 4 at 9.30 to start soaking up the atmosphere and make the most of, lets face it, one of the most epic races you can take part in.
Looking back from pen 4 to the end of the red start
10:00am and off we go with a race plan to make the most of the Runners World pacers and hang with him for as long as I could. I picked the 8:30 min/mile guy as this was faster than last time but not so fast that I might blow up later. This guy was awesome and hit the mile markers within a couple of seconds with little or no agressive changes of pace. Had I relied on my own garmin, people around me or my own unreliable pace it wouldn't have worked. The garmin fluctuated between an indicated 7 or 9 min/mile pace quite randomly. Other runners pace flucuated wildly and my own track record of self discipline is hopeless.
8 miles in my right calf got tight and I thought it was going to cramp up - but it just stayed like that all day and was bearable. Crowds were absolutely massive and the good weather seems to have bought out more than ever this year. Temperature started to rise from around 12ish and after Canary Wharf so a concerted effort to take on a bit more water than would have normally. Got to 22 and things started to hurt and I realised that I had picked a pace that was certainly going to be a challenge. Needed to give myself a bit of a talking to at this point and dig in and hang onto the relentless pacer who was now shouting encouragment to his entourage who were all going a bit quiet. Couple of gels, bit of water and a remider to "be awesome" (thank you Mr Brant for that one) did the trick and 4 more miles suddenly seemed achievable. Emptied the tanks completely along the Embankment and round St James Park and over the line in 3:43:49.
A short 10 minutes then followed of slight surrealness as the heat, emotion and the whole event caught up with me - but I did manage to pose for an endorphin rammed official photo...
Bit pleased with myself
Best stat - Over the final 7.2k I was over taken by 10 people but overtook 1076.
And I beat Michael Owen by over 2 minutes.

Splits for those that might be interested. Consistiency thanks to the awesome pacer.
SplitTime Of DayTimeDiffmin/kmkm/h
5K10:31:2000:26:3326:3305:1911.30-
10K10:58:0900:53:2226:4905:2211.19-
15K11:24:4001:19:5326:3105:1911.31-
20K11:51:1001:46:2326:3005:1911.32-
HALF11:56:5701:52:1005:4705:1711.38-
25K12:18:0002:13:1321:0305:2411.13-
30K12:44:2602:39:3926:2605:1811.35-
35K13:10:5203:06:0526:2605:1811.35-
40K13:37:2103:32:3426:2905:1811.33-
Finish time13:48:3603:43:4911:1505:0811.71
Clark starts 2014 with a hard fought win, setting an early time which was not to be beaten

2013 Calamity Cup

Many suggestions for a winner this year, but the standout contestant and winner was RA.  Here's a picture of him (with his winners trophy tucked away for safekeeping in his top pocket, not hidden out of embarrassment) looking ecstatic.   

The Whole Hog - Sunday Oct 20th 2013


Provoked by taunts from a collegue at work I eventually gave in at the last minute and entered The Whole Hog 2013 held at Wantisden Hall.
Forecast wasn't brilliant but the sun was out as I arrived at 9.30 for race registration. Collected a timing band and race t-shirt which most people seemed to plan to wear for the race - so I did as well (see later)
Race briefing for the individual event was preceeded by a massive downpour which had everyone scurrying for cover to try and keep dry - ironic as we were all about to jump in and out of something far, far worse shortly.

Very pretty race registration
Clouds soon gave way to a downpour
Luckily the rain stopped for the start and at 11.00 after a group warm up we were off. The first 3-4k was all basically cross country running which helped to string the field out. Smart move to get towards the front of the pack as overtaking later on was going to be hard. 4K in was the first water obstacle - steep bank into black smelly muddy water follwed by a wade across a pond then out the otherside up a cargo net. So wearing the heavy cotton t-shirt wasnt such a smart move as it now weighd a ton. About another 500m and it started to get a little easier to run as the water drained away. Not for long as another water obstacle - draining and sapping away at my energy. This pattern was pretty much repeated with longer and deeper immersions in increasingly smellier water and mud. Some nice mud lined tunnels to crawl through...

Check the colour of the mud!!
Then a man made trench with a cargo net to try and drown you...
Nearly there - about 4k to go

And a rope jump into deep water - swim to a pontoon - out, over swim to another pontoon, swim to the bank and a cargo net scramble out

Well knackered by now...
Long run section up across a muddy ploughed field to the imfamous Pirates plank...
Pirates Plank
where I was told "it's a bit slippy but only waist deep, mate". So I leapt of the 5ft plank and dissappeard into at least 10ft of water - completely submerged - very funny.
That was indeed the last wet obstacle and I was pretty done in by now but managed to pick up a few places on the 1.5k run in and even managed a little sprint finish.

So 6th in Vet (40+) class with 1:04:14, which would have been 38/149 in the Senior (-40) class. Well pleased with that.

Oh and what of my much younger workmate (Ben Baumguertel for those who know him) 1:15:53 - so somewhere way behind me...

Nuff said.





Morzine 2013 - part two


Day 3
Another early damp start and unusually a bus ride, took us up into the mountains. Straight away we dropped into  some pretty treacherous descents and around a slightly slower (31 mph) and rather edgy Panoramic. DangerMayst seemed to excel on the rocky red descents but soon disappeared after Panoramic, only to re-appear safe and sound clutching some brake parts. The now well used M5 bolt and tape once again saving the day. After the initial descents including the avoided road jump we arrived at the tangled network of runs that all start & end at the same point, these kept us busy building lactic acid for the next two hours. 3 were open and after sampling all,  the green Serpentine, with tall carved berms that seemed to go on for ever, was voted as the most fun and all apart from BigAir’s jump (which had no landing ramp and removed all his lungs contents), provided some of the best rides of the day. Wary of the time we moved one valley closer, which enabled me to overcome my fear of the big ramp & air bag a couple of times. Then the least favourite trail of the day with its high consequence jagged rocks and hooked drop offs was decided against only to be repeated immediately, to collect the dropped sun glasses. Eager to miss the inevitable storms we dropped through Avoriaz and avoiding the swearing forest we made the descent by road. No one noticed whether they had Strava on or not, but ferocious corner exit pedalling, narrow handle bar grip, chin on the stem, slip streaming, car bullying and rear wheel lifting last minute pre switch back braking would ensure no one would doze off. All tactics including using the front of a van were used, as for the pedalling, generally it made no difference. We arrived back at the cycle shop as the heavens opened and Happy Hour was pursued. Later 1 and ¾ inches of rain fell over 3 hours which saw torrents of water, sand and gravel washed into our building and the market square, just as they were nearing completion of the Hog Spectacle and so the night long clean-up operation begun. As we all plugged into Strava screams of 44.4mph turned into mummers as 44.7 was announced, 44.9mph, then the magic 45.0mph not to be beaten time was revealed by one over-reading device – He’s not coming again. 

Day 4 - Aches & Pains Day
3 full on days were taking its toll and there were painkillers and Monster being ingested by mid-morning. But as the Les Gets and Chavannes trails started to dry once more in baking relentless sun, adrenaline cut-in and everything but enjoying these fast as you like, Marmots’ last day choice, awesome runs were soon forgotten. We started with the non-stop, no longer a seven but six minute run, Chavannes, several red and blues, before the long and fast open cross country descent into Morzine. This was made special by Big Air removing the barbed wire fence with his bike and legs and laying on the floor in order to direct us safely cross the 25mph bridge. But his was not to be his only bike exit today as another berm-detour-run-off-down-the-hill without your bike incident occurred, on camera? Oh yes. Unplanned berm exits were something I think we all safely achieved this year. I am sure CarefulButFaster does not need reminding of his big off in Morzine 5.1 (Higher & faster still) last year, but…… Time & time again I remind you to not follow me, luckily in this case, our line astern re-enactment of the 5.1 big off excursion, was safely navigated back onto the piste.  In the afternoon we crossed Morzine and to Zore to enjoy the fast tight berms & new monster table tops. Plenty of opportunity to stack, with cameras rolling, but it was everyone around us loosing skin or trapping body parts, including full use of some catch fencing. And then the final car overtaking - road race, down to Morzine, enjoyed 40mph coasting (by most) and reasonably pointless 43mph pedalling, dropped us back to give sad farewells to the heaviest, widest and most expensive bikes we ever ride. We felt smug at not injuring ourselves and most importantly, safely looking after our adopted son.
Finally the storm cycle was broken and the evening mellowed to accept our leather clad fellow bikers evening’s entertainment, that was going to keep us from our beds. The first band were fair, even good in places, but the headliner sucked like your granny on egg and reminiscent of a Bad French Doonican, he seeped through our tightly shut windows and shutters until someone eventually pulled the plug around 1AM.

A swift and precise 12hr Mr Pain driving experience got us to another rubber gloveless border crossing, popped out the other side into the only traffic jam we saw (M25) and we were still home in time for Maysty’s Ovaltine.
2013, Faster, deeper and mildly moist  (Not a porn movie, it’s this year’s catchy tag line) and importantly only minor scrapes.  It is possibly the best thing you can do with far too many clothes on and really, we do OK for a bunch of old guys.

2014; The Chinese year of 50 year olds, will you join MMMMMtb chapter for MZ7.

Morzine VI - part 1


This year Darren had carefully booked the adventure for the now infamous Woodbridge Surfers Extreme division 6th outing to the Alps to coincide with and pander to his other secret loves. Chaps and face hair.
So it seemed appropriate that given our central position within France’s largest Harley Davidson gathering, less than 100 metres from a 20 metre speaker stack and directly facing the stage, that we should attempt to blend in. To help us mingle fully and properly fit in the Surfers Extreme embraced change and renamed the group and indeed our own names to reflect the kudos which we would gather. So the Melton Mounted Moist Marmot’s MTB chapter evolved and with our new names, which embraced our characters, such as BigAir, DangerMayst, Bruiser, MisterPain and GoinCarefulThisYearButSomehowFaster&inFront OfYou and so with all our new facial hair, we were truly part of the local scene. (Marmot is a kind of Alpine Beaver, not normally visible but seen a lot more this year).
Prior to all this with some 12 hours of travelling in Mels Mystery Machine, we arrived slightly early, enough to book our steeds for the week, check out the pad and sample some cold filtered nectar before laying out our armour  ready for the next day. With some trepidation, big hopes of sunshine, dry trails and forearms of steel, it was off to bed.
With the breakfast team pumping out the eggs early and all squeezed into our gear, we very quickly realised just how hot it would be and just how bad that would smell after four days.
The first day was off to Les Gets, with its moon crater like berms and mass of interconnected trails, we slowly all overcome the fear of the first outing and maybe slightly acclimatised to the high level of lactic that a six minute handstand could produce. With the trails drying fast under the baking sun, we had not realised that the moisture was not disappearing, merely a temporary lifting. With all the excitement of the fantastic runs and BigAir’s brake lever bolt dropping out, we had not noticed the clouds had turned black but with bolts of lightning we quickly gained height to location where we could freewheel home from. As the clouds built and surrounded us the rain lashed down and as a lightning bolt struck below us and umbrellas tore at their mountings, we eventually realised apart from the two that had stripped to their vests and cling filmed the rest, we were the only ones, fool enough to be up there still. A little over an hour later, as the rain slowed, we gently eased our way down the now treacherous trail back to Morzine. Having already scouted the Happy Hour unwinding drinking hole, we judged the day to be really great success, our bodies said we could have stopped at 3PM, so vowed to avoid the rain the next day, by starting even earlier and getting home before the rain.

Day two. 24 hours later - 3pm. We huddled under a tree, stretching water proofs over everything we could! Then heading off not really knowing a route home, but assured that the torrential rain which had started to form 3 inch deep mud rivers, was not going to make it easy and also that plans are best not made in the pub. Earlier in the day it was decided that the Moist Marmots were going to cross the border and dive into Switzerland, Pain, Mr Pain had planned the route and the early start got us ahead of schedule. It was not long before the temperature was dropping and we exceeded 2000M. There was plenty of snow still left which created its own amusement as it is slippery and cold and funny. As we crossed the border, the trails changed, fast , rugged, daunting and we repeated a particularly challenging trail near Les Crosettes, before fear of weather, being 3 valleys away from safety and with no passports, we headed back to France. 
La Panoramic , is a gently sloping trail which meanders all the way round a mountain, dropping you majestically in a natural valley , surrounded on all sides by some the most beautiful mountain scenery you could imagine, for you to gently enjoy. Or alternatively you could pedal wherever you can (to top the speed up), you will see none of this scenery (hopefully), hold on real tight, spend only 80% of the time on the ground, for the twice-as-good-as-any-roller-coaster ride, touching on 30mph, will have you  gripping everything you have. Turn on Strava and release the beast. You decide what happened. 2 laps full on, don’t look down, with BigAir landing off the trail twice and Careful Dave in a ditch, we counted our good fortune that nothing else mad would happen that day and we headed off to the next valley. Strava on, can we break 40 mph from Melanie’s corner down to Chatel? With that lovely loose shingle feeling of two punctures, all we managed was 36mph on the gravel, shale and jumping drain ditches!

Chatel is another natural picture card bowl surrounded by snow topped mountains, lined with trees, picturesque streams gently babbling past the many Alpine hut restaurants, completely ruined by a huge Burn jump air bag. As we cruised by, watching the mindless idiots with no respect for their limbs, fire themselves skyward, BigAir stopped, pondered and decided that maybe he could try this, he is young he had a note from his parents, so off he went. Me, well I couldn’t let him do it on his own. As we stood in the queue, it dawned on me what I had let myself in for. As I neared the front I could hear my heart, if Duncan did it what choice did I have, well actually, if I let Duncan go first, I could do the smaller jump. I can’t remember being so scared or more relieved when I landed. The second one hurt a lot as the bike escaped me so I had to do a third. BigAir was getting big air so we were glad we had called him that. And so after a massive sugar entry and a forth jump we headed off, knowing if I came back, I would have to do the big one – Shit what is wrong with me, I still feel nervous saying it. Well nothing would stop Duncan now, well luckily for him, the tree which also could not stay on the mountain, did. As we came above Morzine the storm just dumped on to us. We found ourselves dropping through heavily rooted now mud rivered trails, which were just easier to ride then walk. As I picked my routes I could hear, like a wolf in the woods at midnight,  DangerMayst gently encouraging himself, with the F-word at full volume, as the near impassable trail caught him out once again and caused him to use his shorts as mud anchors. As Pain and I arrived at the accident scene, a wisp of a girl was just helping BigAir back up the mountain side, from his and his bikes resting place, jammed on a tree. Not really learning off he went again and a little later I was confronted by just his bike, stuck axle deep upturned in a hole. At 3mph eventually you would overtake the sheet of mud falling down the mountain side and safe riding could resume. Half an hour later, very muddy, very tired, we welcomed Happy Hour once again.

End of Part One  - Part Two Coming Soon – Photographic & Video evidence to follow soon after.

Tear Jerker Triathlon - Light Reading

Another early start got Darren, IanH, Paul, SteveW and myself onto the Elvedon Estate in plenty of time and the front of queue. I looked upon my seasoned colleagues for advice,  applying stickers to everything, chip to your leg and then off we wobbled carrying all our gear, had I got enough gear to see me through? Really I could not carry any more, so put my mind at rest that anything forgotten was a bonus.
As we arrived and started to set up our gear, the nerves started, for me there was so much unknown and so much to get or go wrong. Once it was pointed out how I had set it up all incorrectly and the quickly regretted look at the rather intimidating reservoir, it was straight to briefing. The waiting was finally over, well apart from the hour I had to wait til my start. DP, IH and SW were in second wave, so we got to enjoy their faces as they slipped into the 12 degrees, briefly forgetting what was in store for me. We saw grown men whimpering as their tackle retreated and worse for mine and Paul's confidence we watched as the weaker swimmers were way behind and even a retirement after about 50M. Paul was in and gone with maybe a little too much complaining for a hard man, leaving me on my own, with just my thoughts and my months of Dr Coutts swim school. At three minutes to go I took all my bravery and entered the water, then at 1 minute I did it again but stayed in. After the gun, like the others I allowed a few seconds for the crowd splash away so I could choose my pace from behind. Almost immediately I climbed up someone's legs then onto someone's back, but soon I found my space and pace then worked through some of the field. The first buoy felt a long, long way but once cleared and with a little canoe guidance I was soon on target to complete the one that I thought would get me.  Swim times for 750M.
Ian
Hopgood
00:19:22
David
Hopkins
00:20:06
Steve
Whittaker
00:22:17
Darren
Payne
00:22:37
Paul
Brant
00:28:27
As I run down the bank I had to beat away female admirers trying to help me with my now firmly jammed zip, this is something I have become accustomed to dealing with, but in this situation it is just against the rules. Eventually when I reached the bike I calmed and simply pulled the zip down. 30 minutes earlier Steve had experienced the same issues but calmed himself down by having a nice long chat with Darren. My 2 minute practises were edged into 3 minutes, slow out of a wetsuit strange for a surfer group – Sloppy. Paul pulled back nearly a minute with his hasty neoprene exit and we all headed out in the same order. Cycling should have been the safest result, but you know how things happen.
All seem to start well for all of us, Steve went off at a pace he could not sustain but had to as he knew Darren was only 1 minute behind and Darren did exactly the same finishing the same minute behind over an hour later. Paul set a blistering pace knocking a full five minutes off, bringing all three together (in time). Now here's the issue, you all may have read in the press that I won the Tri-Athlon, well that is not exactly true. My times are correct for what I did; I just did not do as much as nearly everyone else.  Initially all seemed well, managed to get my gloves on as I cycled and the pace seemed fine, keeping up with most on the open tarmac parts, overtaking a few especially on the off road sections and overtaken by a few "Ninjas". All felt good the kilometres were racing by and I did feel good. On one of the longer straight stretches I could see rider's stretching out ahead of me, so I leant forward on my bars and tucked my head down. Big mistake, as I prepared to hang left, the rider in front came back the other way and it dawned on me that I had followed someone who was lost. He must have thought it strange that I only seemed to know one word. After raising my voice and repeating it several more times, he pointed at some riders not 100 meters  away and we quickly re-joined behind them. Had we lost a few meters or gained, well as I pulled into a T2, the gain became very apparent and it was more than a few metres, no really I could now be in the lead! Paul rolled in as I was leaving and his pained face from his blistering pace twisted into what the ….  are you doing here, when he knew he should be 20 mins ahead of me at this point. I used the same word again as started off on the run. Ian also had an unusual cycle time, I can't remember if he asked to mention or not mention the nice old lady who he accidentally destroyed in T1 by checking she was in the earlier start, soon over took him, not long after, on her shopper bike, with a pannier.

First Name
Last Name
Swim Time
T1 Rnk
T1 Time
Bike Rnk
Bike Time
David
Hopkins
00:20:06
125
00:03:11
33
00:56:18
Steve
Whittaker
00:22:17
144
00:03:37
108
01:08:12
Darren
Payne
00:22:37
149
00:03:48
117
01:09:49
Paul
Brant
00:28:27
165
00:03:05
113
01:04:16
Ian
Hopgood
00:19:22
?
00:02:08
?
01:05:00





Steve secured his place at the front, with a good swim, a very good cycle and an awesome 35second  T2 time, I don't know what Darren and I were thinking during T2  but Paul had time for a power nap before his run. 
The run was a difficult mix of terrain, rutted and harsh under foot throughout. Some open field, some sand, some soft ground hills, a bomb hole  and along a freshly cut trail through the woods (with the stumps left in) The sun had some real warmth and although only 5.5km, it was very tough. My heart was not fully behind me and I needed to stop, but as I slogged through the sand, I decided that I had already stopped for lunch in the Sunrise so my two genuine times should count today (it makes sense to me). I had to ask permission (on the understanding that I had not won) from my fellow competitors, to not have to retire. It just seem wrong to throw all the effort away.
So here are the results

Pos
First Name
Last Name
Swim Time
T1 Rnk
T1 Time
Bike Rnk
Bike Time
T2 Rnk
T2 Time
Run Rnk
Run Time
Total Time
44
David
Hopkins
00:20:06
125
00:03:11
33
00:56:18
34
00:02:16
44
00:29:47
1:51:38
93
Steve
Whittaker
00:22:17
144
00:03:37
108
01:08:12
107
00:00:35
93
00:26:52
2:01:33
110
Darren
Payne
00:22:37
149
00:03:48
117
01:09:49
116
00:01:29
110
00:28:13
2:05:56
129
Paul
Brant
00:28:27
165
00:03:05
113
01:04:16
121
00:03:28
129
00:36:33
2:15:49

Ian
Hopgood
00:19:22
?
00:02:08
?
01:05:00
?





The swim was daunting for all, big, deep and very cold. "I have turned into a girl" Paul bellowed as the water passed his waist, brought a very quick smile to face. The feeling that you were not going to make it past the first discipline was very strong and for me being the last to go did not help. Climbing out was very rewarding. The ride was fantastic, complete mix of surface through the beautiful Elvedon estate and every corner was a test with 50PSI. And the run did not disappoint, but allowed Steve to stretch his lead.
The corrected results.
Pos
First Name
Swim Time
T1 Rnk
T1 Time
Bike Rnk
Bike Time
T2 Rnk
T2 Time
Run Rnk
Run Time
Total Time












93
          SteveW
00:22:17
144
00:03:37
108
01:08:12
107
00:00:35
93
00:26:52
2:01:33
110
          Darren
00:22:37
149
00:03:48
117
01:09:49
116
00:01:29
110
00:28:13
2:05:56
129
           PaulB
00:28:27
165
00:03:05
113
01:04:16
121
00:03:28
129
00:36:33
2:15:49
          David
00:20:06
125
00:03:11
33
Twat
34
00:02:16
44
00:29:47

           IanH
00:19:22
?
00:02:08
?
01:05:00
?
















A winner for the Gauntlet? Well only 3 competed in the chosen events and only 2 completed. However Paul swapped 10k for 30 miles, so I am sure this does not exclude him or indeed an average 10k do him justice, but given his Sunrise time who was ever going to catch him anyway? And there was a guy who suggested the challenge was a good idea and then pulled out of all of them just because he jumped on a girl, surely he could be the winner? If it were to come down to the two, none could respect the accolade if it was handed out to a shandy drinker. So what it comes down to is this. We were never racing each other, just encouraging, although the competition helped, we were just racing ourselves and we all now have something to beat. I never thought I could manage a Tri, let alone an extreme Tri, so that is enough for me and I will be back here next year, faster and looking up more.  The 3 Fingered Gauntlet was picked up and held high by 5 true athletes and I bestow upon you that a decision must be made and declared at the party that never finishes at 9. A decision of who will carry the 3FG into 2014 and defend it in the chosen events.
E&OE