Monday, 20 December 2010

2010 was fun

Now I've run my last race for the year, I thought I'd quickly sum up some of the highlights.

Last weekend I was meant to run the PCTR Rodeo Beach 50k, but about halfway through (when walking up yet another hill), I realised that my legs just weren't trained well enough for the hills and finishing would have just left me a bit crippled during the week. So I stopped at 30k having got some good flat and downhill practice in and having realised that zero hill training outside of races is a bad idea and will be remedied.

So, what were the best bits of 2010 (I'm going to exclude my wedding and stick to races or the list would be too long, too personal and even less interesting for anyone except myself)?

Well, it was basically a successful year. The main target was to break 6h at Comrades, and 6h01m may seem like a failure, but I ran near to a perfect race on the day and am very happy with how I kept shifting to a higher gear to finish strongly. I want to keep a streak going there for as long as possible since I love it, so it's a shame it takes about 40 hours to get to.

My next biggest highlight would be the number of really enjoyable runs I had, with several great events that felt easy and had me smiling the whole way through (not even a hint of a grimace). In particular, Two Oceans, Boston and Miwok spring to mind.

One thing I didn't expect on moving to the Bay Area was to find a gem of a race series in the Pacific Coast Trail Runs. These always have a great atmosphere for beginners to elites, as well as showcasing some spectacular scenery. I've been able to meet the local running community through these runs and I definitely like it.

There are too many other races to mention, but Western States was the other main event for the year. It was both a great experience and slightly overhyped but there's no doubt that the battle at the front of the men's race was something which will go down in history. I'm really looking forward to running it in 2011, possibly even more than 2010, especially now I know what I'm letting myself in for.

I've got a lot of great memories from 2010 on the trails and roads so I hope 2011 can live up to it. Unless I get injured, it should. A few other recommendations for ultrarunners are below, since these produced moments which brought home what a cool sport ultrarunning is:

1. Do some kind of Fat/Mad/Bad Ass race in the New Year. There are loads around and are so relaxed and so a perfect way to start 2011.

2. Finishing up the Eiffel Tower made the Eco Trail de Paris really worth entering. I think there'll be plenty of Serpie vests at the 2011 version.

3. Run one of the South African major ultras at some point in your life. Two Oceans is prettier and has the bonus of a trip to beautiful Cape Town, but Comrades is the daddy. Bigger, harder, older and basically more epic. I'm so glad I got to do both this year, however, it's too far to fit them both in every year so I'll have to wait for another chance to run Two Oceans again. And when I do, I'll be really excited about it. There's something special about a country that venerates ultrarunning above shorter distances.

4. Do a triple marathon or other multi-day race since there's no better way to get an instant 'we're all in it together' atmosphere. In the UK, the VOTwo events are perfect (Jurassic Coast and Atlantic Coast come highly recommended). But the best one has to be the Transalpine 8-dayer (and so I'd love to try the Trans Rockies 6-dayer too) and I'm gutted to have missed it this year. Luckily for Californians, Tahoe has options with PCTR organising some new stuff (including a 2-dayer) as well as the classic Tahoe triple on the roads. Or there's the numerous Marathon des Sables-type events in deserts around the world. But in general, these are some of the best events around and don't need to break the bank (except the desert races).

5. Run in the Marin Headlands. There are so many races there and many are extremely competitive, especially Miwok 100k and TNF Endurance Challenge Championship 50-miler. PCTR has loads of runs there too, and these have the benefit of not requiring lotteries to enter (like Miwok) and not always being in December (like TNFEC). On a clear day, there's probably nowhere I'd rather do a training run and even in the rain, it's hard not to smile even on the umpteenth huge hill.

Merry Christmas and good luck in 2011 with whatever your running goals are.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Honolulu marathon

It may be tropical, but it's still Christmas.

The start line.

Fireworks go off at the gun.

Heading back and seeing all the runners heading out.

Just a quick update now I'm (unfortunately) back from Hawaii and a great few days of relaxation. The Honolulu marathon was fun, although the 5am start was a bit earlier than I'd have liked. But when you consider the heat, even in December, it certainly makes it easier to have the first 90 minutes in the dark. And sunrises in races are always one of the best features possible.

I arrived the day before and once I started looking at the course in a bit more detail, realised it's a huge race, often with over 30,000 entrants, making it one of the ten largest marathons in the world in most years. This year there were around 25,000 runners according to the local paper.

So with that many people and no seeding pens, it was a free-for-all at the start. I managed to get within about 100 feet of the start line and it reminded me of what big city marathons feel like for 99% of the runners - a huge scrum. Most race these days have seeding pens and make you prove your past times to stop people pretending to be a lot faster than they are, but not Honolulu. London, New York and other massive races have seemed much smaller than this did, because I got to start almost on the start line and among people who run off at speed.

So it was a different experience to be forced to walk a bit for the first quarter of a mile and to keep jumping on the kerb to pass people who were jogging slowly. It wasn't really hot, but it was humid, so I was sweating heavily even before the gun went off. However, I didn't mind the humidity or slow start since this was my equivalent to the standard 'long, slow run'. I don't really believe in that type of training run, so my version is a marathon at 85-90% of race pace. Slow enough to feel fairly easy, but fast enough that it has some training benefits specific to marathons and ultras other than just purely logging miles.

I'd originally planned to break the Guinness World Record for the fastest Santa (2h55m) since I set this a couple of years ago straight after running the Marathon des Sables and someone had beaten it the following year, both records set at the London marathon. But the Honolulu marathon organisers weren't willing to provide the minimal evidence requirements, so I binned that idea.

I still felt like the 2h55m time was about right, especially after a hard run the previous week at TNF 50k. So that's the speed I kept to over the first few miles, making sure I took photos whenever anything looked photo-worthy. Just after mile four, the course went past our hotel and I gave Amy a kiss when I spotted her in the crowd (spectating at 5:30am on her holiday :)). Then I jogged off and just enjoyed the sights along Waikiki Beach and the Diamond Head crater.

The elite guys and girls were chasing a $40,000 first prize and were professionals, including the fastest marathoner of the year (Patrick Macau who ran a 2h04m at Rotterdam) who was acting as the rabbit for several fellow Kenyans with PBs well below 2h10m. Behind them, the field was spread out thinly and the masses were well back, further than usual for a road marathon. I'm guessing this is partly due to the conditions and partly because this is an obvious choice for those wanting to take it a bit easier and enjoy their vacation instead of feeling wrecked for the week after the race.

After about ten miles I could only see a handful of people ahead or behind, which I hadn't expected. I hit halfway in 1h26m as the horizon just started to light up, and considered that to be fine given the rising temperatures would make the second half harder, no matter how slowly I ran.

Around 14 miles I saw a group of Kenyans coming back the other way on the return leg. Behind them, I saw very few people until I hit the turnaround at 16-17 miles. By now the sun had just come up and it was undoubtedly pretty. The course isn't as beautiful as I'd hoped due to lots of roads with little view except the mountains in the background. Sections are very scenic, especially around Diamond Head, but the main entertainment for the second half was seeing all the runners coming in the other direction. I usually like this as it gives a better sense of the scale of the race and everybody gets to cheer for everyone else.

The last miles felt fine and I cruised down the finish straight feeling like I could have kept going a lot longer. I finished in 2h53m01s and my legs felt better over the next few days than at any long race since around May, which I take to be an encouraging sign. I almost caused a crash at the finish since I stopped a foot from the end to take a photo of the clock, but didn't realise there was a wheelchair athlete bearing down on me. I had to jump out his way, as can be seen in the last couple of seconds of this video:

You can just see the wheelchair guy who swerved round me - sorry!

I'd say the conditions, especially the humidity, but also the headwind until the turnaround, add about ten minutes to the time, so I feel like I probably ran a 2h45m effort, which is a harder run than I'd planned. The winner ran 2h15m and only two other guys (both Kenyans) broke 2h20m. Somehow I was 32nd overall, while that sort of time in a similar-sized race would normally be lucky to be near the top 500. So that was a pleasant surprise. And in true Hawaii (i.e. IronMan) fashion, the results were split into elites and 5-year age groups. I came 2nd in my age group of 30-34, which just goes to show how age groups make no sense, especially when they apply to the under 40s.

I enjoyed the race, but enjoyed the whole trip more. The race was generally well organised, but the main improvement would be to have some sort of seeding to avoid the walker/joggers from getting trampled on the start line. Not sure I'd do it again, but I will do another race in Hawaii one day. Maybe even the IronMan, if I can ever be motivated to train for two other sports.

The biggest racing memories I'll have from the trip will be the sunrise runs along Waikiki Beach and the fact that I found out I was lucky in both the Way Too Cool and Miwok lotteries, so I get the opportunity to enjoy both of those in 2011.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

North Face Challenge Final 50k - San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge on the drive to the race the night before.

Yesterday was a fun race and certainly lived up to its billing as the most competitive trail 50 miler around (possibly ever?). I only saw it from the perspective of the 50k, which meant I had an extra two hours in bed and got to see all the leaders come in. I'd hoped to really focus on this race and run the main event, but training over the last few months has involved being overtrained and not spending much time at all on trails, so dropping down to the 50k was the only sensible option. Not ideal to miss such an enjoyable and exciting challenge, but there's always next year.

Great races all around with full 50-mile results here: and 50k results here: There was also a marathon and the following day had several shorter races, making for a huge event.

I won't go through the full details of the longer race, but it was wet and muddy with around 10,000-11,000ft of climb over the Marin Headlands and with almost the first two hours in the pre-dawn darkness. Not too cold, but some wind, especially on the higher points. It was won impressively by Miguel Heras of Spain in 6h47m for the men and Anna Frost of New Zealand in 7h45m for the ladies. So many top runners turned up and a whole load of other great racers were entered but had to DNS. irunfar covered the race with plenty of interviews and analysis at

Anyway, I can describe the 50k better, given that's what I ran. It covered most of the same course, starting at 7am, just after sunrise. I've seen most of the course before in recent races (Miwok 100k, Headlands 50 miler and the Stinson Beach 50k...and that's just races I've run, never mind all the others around there which I've had to put on my 'to do' list instead). The number of races is a good indication of how perfect those trails are for runners and the photos below show some views when it's not overcast or muddy (afraid I didn't take my camera for this one).

The trails actually started with a mile on the road so everyone charged off at a fast pace. Then it went straight uphill for the first climb (see the profile below). I led until a couple of minutes into this hill, determined to run this whole race hard, as a substitute for the 50 miler, but I was forced to walk/jog up the hill due to a lack of hill training recently and heavy legs so the leaders were out of sight when I started going downhill on the other side. They all looked like strong climbers so I realised that if I was going to have any chance, I'd have to make up for my weak-feeling legs and poor climbing by hammering the downhills and going hard on the flats too. But at least my legs were well-trained for those types of running, so I considered that there was a chance I could stay in touch with them. Although I aimed to use the tactics that led to the adage that trail races are 'won on the uphills and lost on the downhills', it seemed possible...hopefully.

At the start of the day, I'd thought that breaking four hours would be possible if my legs hadn't lost too much of the climbing training from the build-up to Western States. But with the time I was bound to lose from power-walking so much, I now had no idea what to aim for and could only focus on the man in front.

The climbs through to the Muir Beach checkpoint at 8.2 miles were relatively small so I managed to catch up to second on a particularly muddy descent since he didn't seem to have trail shoes on. Then I came through the aid station just behind first and had a couple of miles of chatting with him on a flatter section. His name was Paul Terranova and he'd flown in from Texas so even the 50k was drawing in competitors from all over.

Then we reached the bottom of the biggest climb, a 1,500ft ascent to Pantoll then to Bootjack aid station at 14.0 miles. I told him to overtake me as I'd be climbing slowly, and he gradually pulled ahead until he went out of sight again. By the time I got to the aid station he was two minutes ahead, so I hoped that I'd at least get within view on the slightly more technical trails down to the Old Inn aid station at 19.1 miles (actually 20.1 miles on the Garmin, which tends to underestimate by about 1-5% on these types of trails). Luckily, I was able to catch him almost immediately, finding myself really enjoying jumping over the rocks and roots through the forest. This is always the best part of trail racing for me, not just because it's the fastest, but because galloping over rocks and roots is pure fun.

I could tell that the rest of the race was likely to be a game of leap-frog with Paul going ahead on the climbs and me catching up on the downhills. And that's how it was for the next few miles. However, he looked so strong on each climb that he wasn't visible almost immediately after he'd pass me. So I had to stick to the aim of racing each downhill like I was in a much shorter race. But with two thirds of the race completed, it seemed to be working and my legs weren't feeling bad from the extra pounding from the higher effort level. Looking back, it's amusing how I went from feeling completely confident in winning when I reached the bottom of a hill to having no hope again when I got passed much quicker than I expected on the next ascent.

One thing I had heard about this race series is that the course markings are not always the best and many fast runners had had their races derailed by getting lost. So far I'd not had a problem but there had been occasional turns where it had been ambiguous, so I had to keep my focus and concentrate at each junction to not miss anything.

After the longest flat section of the race to get back to Muir Beach, I couldn't see Paul behind and knew I'd be going back up the really slippery, muddy hill which had been difficult enough to run down originally. Even if I'd felt able to run uphill, it was like walking on banana skins so I was crawling up. But I don't see how anyone else would go much faster unless they'd opted for really spiky trail shoes.

There were just two big climbs left to the finish, a 900ft one up then down to Tennessee Valley, followed by a 600ft one up to the final checkpoint. Both of these were slow powerwalks with little running, but it was a surprise to not be overtaken on either. I still focused on running the downhills as fast as I could and was happy to be able to maintain around my 5k pace without it feeling bad (however, that's not the case a day later...). From the last aid station I remembered that it was only 2.7 miles to the finish, all of it downhill then a flat last mile. So it looked like this 50k course would be a bit over a mile long on the Garmin, meaning maybe a little more than that due to it's typical error from experience.

The day was still overcast but it wasn't raining at this point and the trail was wider and very easy to run down. I was looking forward to finishing and to having had a successful day, but there was a final twist to come. After over two miles from the final aid station I could see the road which the race had started on, but the route back to it had a sign blocking the way with a large 'X' and stating 'Wrong Way'. So I didn't turn back on towards the road and kept going on the same route as before, looking out for the route to the finish line.

The trail split into two with course markings for every one of the race distances, but with pink arrows showing 'Marathon Loop 1' and 'Marathon Loop 2' as my only options. Neither of these sounded like a finish line but Loop 2 was perhaps the marathon route to the finish and it just hadn't been marked properly (I'd expected more ambiguity so this didn't definitely mean it wasn't the right way). But the trail then started winding uphill and each corner just revealed more trail heading upwards. Eventually I decided that I must have missed the proper turning and started running back. I should have finished ages before this so thought I must have lost first place and wasn't in a good mood. From higher up I saw the Loop 1-2 split and saw Paul choose Loop 2 as well, then I saw a race official sprinting after him so knew that I was around a quarter of a mile behind him and that it was unlikely I'd catch him.

He turned at the 'Wrong Turn' sign, so must have been told to ignore it by the race official and I followed, very glad I'd doubled back on myself. But I was exhausted and frustrated to have probably lost at the the due to bad trail marking. Since the 50k was likely to be the first race of the day to finish, we were the only two to get past this point before a race official made sure everyone else was directed correctly. Would have been a real shame if the 50-mile leaders (who came though not long after) had faced this issue as the major prize money ($10,000 for first) should not be decided by mistakes which aren't the fault of the runners.

Using the magic of the information on my Garmin, I saw that I'd run an extra 2.7 miles due to missing this turn and estimate that Paul probably went a quarter of a mile down the wrong route to add half a mile to his distance. So we hit the road with both of us looking fatigued and he now only had a 50m lead. After putting so much energy in I wasn't going to give up without a fight, but I'd been mentally drained by the thought of losing my lead and having much more running left than expected. I really hoped he didn't have a strong sprint left and I caught him relatively quickly, expecting him to react and try to drop me.

That last half mile was very hard since I went all out but had nothing left in the fuel tank for a sprint. When I turned the last corner and saw the finish line I barely had any adrenaline left to become elated, but I knew I'd just managed to hold on to the lead. 4h48m was way slower than I'd hoped for and the erroneous course marking took the sheen off the day to some extent, but only slightly. However, it didn't change the positions at all, just making the gaps between runners much, much smaller, so no harm was done.

Soon after Paul and I finished, Miguel Heras came through for the 50-mile win and I was surprised since I didn't recognise him (although I had heard the name). I don't think I was the only one, given that anyone who's an unknown quantity (i.e hasn't raced anything major in the US before) tends to be off most people's radar. Both he and fellow Spaniard Kilian Journet (his training buddy and Salomon team-mate, I believe) prove that having a beard and long hair isn't essential for ultra trail success. That's lucky for me since I couldn't grow a decent beard even if I wanted to (and my wife might divorce me if I did, anyway).

It was fun to get to watch the results of the main event unfold and the post-event celebrations were well-organised with a strong sense of occasion and plenty of food and drink. I enjoyed talking to loads of runners, many of whom I'd heard of but not met before. Plus there were several of my new PCTR team-mates in the 50-miler, so it was a great opportunity to meet them too. They all had strong runs too, so were generally happy with how it had unfolded, even if their positions were lower than in an average race due to the ridiculously fast field.

I can't wait until next year to do the main event and there is undoubtedly a great buzz surrounding it. Plus it's good that it's only two weeks to go until I get another opportunity to run around these great trails again, at the PCTR Rodeo Beach 50k. Am looking forward to seeing plenty of friendly faces there and maybe some sunnier skies.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Build up to the North Face Endurance Challenge Championship 50 miler

Having not written anything for a while, I thought I'd post given all the excitement over this weekend's big 50 mile race north of San Francisco in the Marin Headlands. There are so many races around those hills so it's certainly a good, tough course. It'll be a crazy race with so many really quick guys there from all over the world, even with many big names dropping out. Excellent coverage is at irunfar, profiling the men's and women's races and updating all the time for any drop outs.

I'd really been looking forward to it as it's always more fun to race the best guys than have a weaker field and there aren't many ultras around the world that can guarantee really great, deep fields. To my mind it's only Western States, UTMB and this race for trail runs, although there's a second tier of races with plenty of fast guys.

Unfortunately, I've decided to wimp out and drop down to the 50k. A combination of the overtraining since July (I definitely shouldn't have raced that half marathon 2 weeks after WS), not getting out on the trails except at occasional races plus me still feeling worn down now made me think that I'd end up crawling through the 50 miles. Such a comparison to May when I felt fine doing stuff like the Miwok 100k, while the last few 50ks I've run have left me with sore calves and limping around for a few days, even though I tried to run them steadily and felt like I was holding back a bit.

Hopefully I'll be pleasantly surprised in the 50k and have a bit of energy to get round in a reasonable time. But I'm also fully focusing on Comrades, which is only six months away, so I need my road speed to improve. That's meant that I'm doing 2-3 hard speed sessions a week, but I've never really done much speed work and endurance has always been my strength instead, with my 10k and half marathon speeds being barely quicker than my marathon pace (compare a 35:18 10k to 36:10 per 10k in my best marathon).

I've run hard 5ks on the treadmill and a couple of 10k races recently, but I'm still a long way off where I need to be - 16:19 for 5k and a 34:38 10k, both of which left me feeling near a heart attack. I think I've been making the mistake of doing these speed sessions too hard, which is partly due to many of them being on treadmills and me being stubborn. So when I set myself a goal I generally manage to stop myself hitting the controls to slow it down, which turns me into a hyperventilating, noisy runner and I virtually fall off the treadmill. It's not fun, but I kept telling myself no pain, no gain.

Now I see the error in that - I've heard from all sources that you should feel like you can do one more rep at the end of a speed session, so when I can barely stand up at the end, it's just making it impossible to recover quickly enough for the next hard session (even the recovery jog feels hard). I'm going to try to fix it and still have just over six weeks until the Phoenix marathon, which needs to be quick. Then lots of miles, lots of hills and lots of 90% race efforts until Comrades.

The next six months should be great with some fantastic runs coming up. In particular, I'll be doing and/or helping out at most of the Pacific Coast Trail Runs, which now have a huge number of races in their calendar. And I have the honour of joining their inaugral race team, too, which should be fun and be a great chance to get more involved with the local running community.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Stinson Beach 50k

Stinson Beach soon after dawn.
Yet another Pacific Coast Trail Run this weekend and it was harder than expected, as it usually is. I always sign up before the course details and elevation profile are available, so I only found out recently that the Stinson Beach 50k has a decently hilly 7,000ft of climbing (plus options of 25k and 12k showing off the course, too). But that's a good thing since the only trail running I'm getting currently is the races I turn up to, so the harder they are, the better work out I get.

I'd decided to DNS at the flat Helen Klein 50 miler the previous weekend since my calves had felt strained after the Silicon Valley Marathon on the weekend before that. Instead, I'd decided that it would be a really great idea to do lots of speed work, so I'd squeezed in a hard session (including a 5k treadmill PB) 3 times in the six days before Stinson. The fact I wasn't broken on the start line suggested that my overtraining is out my system and I can get back to business as usual.

So, at the start it looked like being a beautiful day in Marin and I'd even enjoyed the early drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, despite the fact I'd have preferred a bit more sleep. Looking around I could see several guys in sponsored kit and I'd been told that a few fast runners would be showing up, but I didn't know them by sight, so guessed I'd only find out when they shot off up the first climb. The field was certainly more talented than at an average ultra, and this was obviously influenced by the North Face Challenge 50 Mile Final being around Marin just three weeks later with a whopping $10k first prize.

However, I didn't want to get drawn into the racing given I know my uphill running is relatively weak right now, plus I wanted to keep training hard during the following week. After having such enjoyable runs at Miwok and other races in the build up to Western States, I'd imagined I could still do this type of race and feel relaxed throughout, but when you stop training on trails, that fitness does fade a bit.

So I was a bit disappointed to have to walk so much of the uphills on lap one (of two), but the legs did seem to wake up better for the second attempt on each hill. The scenery was great, as it always is around those trails and this is about the fourth race I've done in the region, all of which have been a joy to run (and tough). The next few weeks have more of the same, with the Quad Dipsea following much of the same course, then the North Face 50 and Rodeo Beach races both using combinations of the same trails networks. I think I should move to Marin...

Start line of the 50k.

Great views of Marin.

Dipsea trail steps.
The views at the top of each climb were breath-taking and I made sure I brought my camera to remember it better. It was kind of surreal to be running on a section I'd remember from the Miwok 100k, then something from a different race given that I don't have a proper map in my head of how the trails link up. But it did bring back good memories as well as creating great new ones.

I also managed to chat to a load of people during and after the race, reinforcing what a great social community ultra-running creates. When you put a load of people together to do something they love and throw in a picture-postcard back-drop, it's generally going to produce positive vibes. And the organisation was flawless as ever (I've still not managed to do one wrong turn in a PCT race).

In the end I finished second in 4h38m, so was really happy with that. It had taken more effort than I'd planned and been tougher on the uphills, in particular. But I finished uninjured with a good hill session in the legs and feeling more part of the local ultra community than when I started.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Silicon Valley Marathon

This weekend was a speed session on the relatively flat Dean Karnazes Silicon Valley Marathon through San Jose to Los Gatos and back. I'd hoped to really race this but the lack of training due to the (hopefully gone for good) overtraining syndrome meant I just wanted a decent training run at high effort.

Then I got man 'flu during the week and a crick in my neck, so I wasn't sure it'd even be sensible to start. By race day I was barely sniffling with not much of a cough and I had most of the movement back in my neck, so I thought I'd be ok to run.

It started downtown before dawn and the conditions were just about perfect, not being too hot and no rain or wind. And since the half marathon version is run at the same time, it made it difficult to tell who was in what race. Luckily I had Amy to crew for me and she was able to tell me who was ahead.

The last few years the winner hadn't broken 2:40 so I wanted to aim for that and be able to train in the following week. However, within a couple of miles there was a marathoner zooming off too fast for me. He looked like he was heading for around 2:30 and there was no point in trying to hang with that pace. At half way he was four minutes ahead and I was dead on 6 minute miling in 1:18:30, so I was right to let him go.

The miles to half way were uphill, but not too steeply, so coming back and heading towards San Jose again would be a net downhill, although only of 250ft. A hardish 20 mile run seemed like a good idea, then a cruise back to the finish for the last 10k. So at 20 miles I took it easy, yet found I was still keeping up around a 6:20/mile pace, which felt very positive.

However, my plan of taking it easy to the finish changed when I saw 3rd behind me with two miles to go. I reasoned that I might as well hold on to 2nd after 24 miles of decent effort, so I sped up and raced in the last section at full speed. At least I had another gear to shift into, and I felt like I'd not pushed things too much, which was the aim. Only 2.5 months until the Phoenix marathon where the aim is to give it everything (I'm even going to do focused training just for that race...mind you that didn't work last year when I instead picked up an injury in December).

I was really happy that the illness and neck didn't affect things and that I didn't have to drop out or DNS. In the end I ran 2:38:36, so it was a bit ahead of the time I'd aimed for, but I blame 3rd place for that.

The course was decent enough and well marshaled, plus I've now seen the Los Gatos Creek Trail and can use it to train on, so a good weekend's work. It's always worthwhile to try the local races and it certainly is a novelty to not have to get up to early to travel miles away.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Big Sur River Run 10k and Training Thoughts

Nice views in Big Sur.

Post-race fat loading at Nepenthe along Route 1.
After not running a 10k for over a year, I decided I should try it again and learn how to do it properly. Luckily, I chose the Big Sur River Run in Pfeiffer State Park.

The park is in the famous Big Sur area and gave Amy and myself a chance to see the a long section of coastline used in the Big Sur marathon (which I'm now really excited about doing next year), including the 1932 Bixby Bridge.

Even though the race was in the park, it followed the river and was on the roads instead of trails so was a fast course. It's also fairly old and established, with this being the 30th running.

Anyway, I've felt more normal in training for the past week so tried a 5k on the treadmill on Thursday and almost collapsed during it, but managed 16:29 for a PB. Wasn't sure whether that would leave me too tired for Saturday morning (it was a really tough session and I've avoided hard sessions for a while), but today went well with a new 10k PB of 34:38 and third. Had to run myself into the ground to not slow down and spent the whole time trying to hold on to the coat tails of the guy in third until I just squeezed past near the end.

So it was satisfying to have two mentally and physically tough runs close together. From what I've been learning from Tim Noakes' 'Lore of Running' (am still getting through this bible-sized tome), teaching the brain's 'central governor' how to push harder and allow me to run faster is the key to improving. That should mean that every hard run I do where I don't give in and allow myself to slow, even as my heart rate soars, would make it easier for next time. This isn't just improving mental toughness, but teaching the mind's natural mechanism for protecting the heart muscle from oxygen depletion how to accept higher effort levels (it's too conservative and has been shown by Noakes to be more of a limiting factor than oxygen and energy stores to the legs and arms).

His book is fascinating and completely science-based, explaining the flaw in the generally accepted paradigm that an athlete's performance is determined mainly by VO2 max. He shows how performance drops off even though there is still energy and oxygen enough for the outer muscles. Instead, it's the oxygen available to the heart that sends triggers to the brain to force the 'central governor' to kick in and force the body to feel more fatigue than the arms and legs justify. I've butchered the explanation and shortened many chapters into two paragraphs, but I can appreciate the logic and science he uses to back it up. Plus I'm sure I'm not the only one who knows how much easier it is to do a particular time or performance for the second time. This was very clear to me in my second sub 3-hour marathon, which was much easier than the first because my brain was willing to accept I could take it, so it didn't try to hold me back to protect the heart. It had been taught that that level of effort was ok, even though I hadn't got any fitter in the intervening month.

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur
I'll be taking on board what I've learned from Prof. Noakes to hopefully significantly improve my running in 2011. Step one will be to race hard in long races less often. It's a tough one, but I'll force myself to jog more long races and just focus on the ones that count...well, I'll try.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Mt Diablo 50k - great views and big climbs

View from Mt Diablo.
Another Pacific Coast Trail Run this weekend, again near Oakland. This time an even hillier one and I hadn't realised just how hilly the Mt Diablo 50k was until I checked out the profile a few days before (8,900ft of climb by going up and down Mt Diablo twice). I think I'm right in saying that Mt Diablo is the highest point in the mountains surrounding the Bay Area, too.

Plus the fact the best times on the course were by some very fast guys and yet only one person had broken five hours. Five hours? For a 50k CR? Hmmm...looked like it might take a while, especially since I've not been able to train much and wanted to 'take it easy' so I could get back to training mid-week.

The event also includes a single loop of the course (25k) and a slightly different course for 8k, the latter starting 15 minutes after the longer runs. So the single and double loopers started off together and went straight uphill, which was almost non-stop from around 600ft to the summit at 3,849ft.

Start line.

I'd hoped to run most of it, but the race was basically a long hike followed by a fast downhill, then the same again. And the second lap certainly felt like a harder hike, particularly when I got my nutrition wrong by not eating enough or taking in any salt. I cramped a bit near the top, but the views made it worthwhile.

On the way up.

The Observatory at the top of Mt Diablo.

Time to turn back and go down...then do it all again.

The checkpoint half-way up.

What a great course and what perfect training for the mountain ultras. Well organised and very friendly too, like all the PCT runs. I ended up taking a bit less time than I'd expected (5:09 and 1st) even with the slow crawl up to the top each time. But the long run back was such easy running, even if it left me with sore legs for the next day.

Got two more of the PCT runs this year so am looking forward to them too. This run will help get me back in shape for the North Face 50 miler final in San Fran at the start of December too, which has over 10,000ft of ascent.

Oh, and Will - if you read this, drop me an email at as it'd be good to sort out some training runs like we discussed after the race.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Golden Hills Marathon

Stunning views along most of the course.
 Had a really chilled run yesterday in the hills around Oakland for the Golden Hills marathon. I've run on sections of that course and knew to expect a load of single track and great views along the way. Luckily, it was also a sunny day, although a bit hot for racing (but fine for an easier pace). Given my tiredness over the last couple of months, I decided it'd still be ok to run this as long as I didn't go too quickly. And with almost zero running mid-week, I'd had a chance to rest as well.

The Race Director is Ann Trason, although I think this is her last year before she hands it on. Every ultra runner has heard of her and there isn't anyone more accomplished (14 Western States wins, two at Comrades, and course records at virtually every race around). So it was a real honour to meet her and couldn't resist a photo (am sure I wasn't the only fan who did this).

RD and ultra legend, Ann Trason

In addition, there were virtually all the fast Bay Area ultra runners, but most were doing the longer version of the race - the Dick Collins' Fire Trails 50 miler. So even with the heat, course records fell in both races. Leor Pantilat ran 3:06 for the marathon and Dave Mackay did 6:19 in the ultra. So some really fast running given the marathon had around 5,000ft of ascent and the ultra was something like 7,800ft.

I felt a bit guilty to choose the shorter version of the race options and would have loved to race against the fast field, but this wasn't the right time for it and it would have just been a bad idea and stopped me from getting back to normal again.

The marathon starts off with around 1,400ft of climb over a few miles and I started mid-pack with a gentle jog, taking a few photos when the views were particularly good. I purposefully didn't want to have any idea what position I was so I couldn't get competitive, but there were plenty ahead of me.

After a couple of miles, Dave Mackey flew by in the other direction, almost half way through the 50 miler in under three hours. Chikara Omine was just behind, then plenty of other local faces.

Some of the descents were steep and I couldn't help going down fast and hammering my thighs, which wasn't the plan. The middle of the section went along the French Trail in Redwood Park, which I've seen in a few other races, all 50ks. It's such a great section with the forest all around and beautiful single track undulating enough to slow most people, but it's still a fairly fast trail. At this point I was really able to enjoy the run, but had to make sure I held back and avoided running hard, which is difficult when you're having fun. There was still 12-13 miles left and I wanted to finish strongly, feeling fresh and not exhaust myself.

View of San Fancisco across the Bay.

The French Trail in Redwood Park - some of the best single track running around.

Lake Chabot near the end of the marathon.

Over the remaining miles I was prepared for more big climbs, but after a high point of the trail around 19 miles, it was mainly downhill and flat. So anyone not too tired would clock much faster miles here even without extra effort.

Lake Chabot was on the left for the last few miles and the sun glinted off it to make for a pretty finish. However, it was also more exposed and warmer, which I knew would really effect the 50 milers, but was not too tough after the shorter distance.

I finished in 3:38, thinking I was around the top 10, but pleased to find out I'd come 3rd. It had been a perfect day out with a chance to chat to a lot of runners, many of whom I already knew. Great course, well organised and really couldn't have been much more fun. Trails are just better than roads, if enjoyment is the aim. The contrast between last week's road half and this couldn't be greater, although that's a slightly unfair comparison given the road race is all about a time trial, which isn't a great idea on overly fatigued legs.

Anyway, it's good to have a fun run and hopefully some more rest will pay off with full recovery so I can train again.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

San Jose Rock 'n' Roll Half

Oh crap! Lots of women about to overtake me.
 Since receiving an email with last minute race details, I haven't been particularly enamoured by the Rock 'n' Roll race series. It included a couple of annoying tips and rules. Firstly, it suggested running very easily and not pushing yourself - not what racing is all about. For a flat, sight-free race round San Jose, it's not like you can take in the views. But I suppose it does have bands at several parts of the course for 'atmosphere' of sorts.

The other thing in the email really showed me that it's only about making money and not about creating any kind of enjoyable running experience. It said that for those who can't make the expo, there's luckily an alternative for picking up the bib and chip. But only 350 people could pick up on race day instead. And they ONLY had to pay an extra $30 for the privilege. On top of up to $120 to enter the race...a half marathon (some of their halves cost even more if entered at the expo and aren't much cheaper even if entered a year in advance).

I have no issue with organisers making money from races instead of just doing it for love of the sport or charity. But these guys take the piss and must turn a lot of people off races when they see the mercurial attitude of the organisers. Admittedly, they do attract big crowds and focus on getting beginners to run, which is a very good thing when obesity is such an issue, but these events are only half like the mega events of the London/NYC etc marathons and don't have the courses, spectators or experience to offer, even though they do have the scale (and toilet queues, congestion etc associated with it).

So, although it's certainly good to get people involved in running, it doesn't help deal with obesity or get people healthier if they hardly train then never run again. This is also shown by the fact that, apart from the elites, hardly anyone runs these races and most power-walk. As I came into the last mile, I passed people on the way out at mile four. Lots of them.

I have barely run in the last three weeks, just doing the three marathons at Tahoe, so had a bit of a chance to recharge. But I was still run down at the start line and not in the mood for any mistakes by the organisers, given what I wrote above.

In fairness, the event was well run with plenty of volunteers at water stations (do they realise they aren't helping the community but offering their free services just so the company in charge can make more money?). The start corrals could be entered by anyone, meaning there was little point to them, especially when you could state any predicted finish time anyway. Mind you, I easily squeezed in to the front with just a couple of minutes to spare, so can't complain that it mattered.

Then we all went off and Meb Keflezighi zoomed off to defend his title, one month before attempting to defend his NYC marathon title too. I could see him for a couple of miles (just) and started off as I meant to, but could feel my legs were heavy.

After three miles I decided it wasn't going to be my day and I should just settle in for a jog, so people started to overtake. Another mile and I saw Amy, so I tried to tell her I'd be slowing down, but she was next to one of the bands and clearly couldn't hear. Oops.

I took it a bit easier then found about four or five of the elite women overtaking me. I stayed at my pace and was feeling fine so thought that maybe I'd not let them get away, after all who likes getting chicked? Even if I wasn't going to have a good day, I could focus on gaining those positions back.

Seemed like a good idea while I went through half way in around 38 minutes. Then I felt the heavy legs again and just settled into a pace behind a guy, then a girl. Not too fast, but I managed to hang on for 1:17:29, which isn't too slow, even if it's a few minutes off what I'd aimed for.

Can I stop now?

The course was just roads and showed off a chunk of San Jose but not anything particularly pretty to take my mind off the pain. I didn't end up taking it easy, except the middle couple of miles. I'm sure a lot of PBs were achieved as it is a fast, flat course, but not for me. And Meb won by a couple of minutes in 1:01:45, just slower than last year.

Meb high fiving after his win.

However, it all feels a bit empty - a hard and mainly unsuccessful effort in a not very memorable race. Trails are more fun, but this sort of thing is needed to work on speed.

Probably no running until next weekend's Golden Hills marathon in Oakland. Might have to jog it to continue my resting, which at least means it'll be a relaxing and fun race. I'll also get to meet Ann Trason at the event, basically the biggest name in female ultra running ever. She's the RD.

Anyway, that's the end of a slightly bad tempered posting. Apologies, but when you see the contrast between today's event and some of the excellently organised trail races, which have really passionate people trying to make sure everyone gets the best experience possible, this type of road race can seem soulless.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Tahoe Triple Marathon, 24-26 Sept

Emerald Bay.
I've been visiting Lake Tahoe a lot recently, with my wedding and Western States both over the summer. But it's still a lot of fun to see it each time and I came to this race really excited about the course and the competition after enjoying it so much last year. It seems the last weekend of September is one of the biggest race weekends around, with so much going on. I knew people running great ultras (Spartathlon 153 miler in Greece, Hardmoors 110 miler in the UK, Flagline 50k US Trail Championship in Bend. OR) and super fast marathons (Berlin and others) while I had my trip to the lake. Almost every runner I knew had something big on at the same time and I have to admit I'd like to have done them all.

Dick Beardsley talks about running (surprisingly) at the pre-race dinner.

But as there's only one of me, I focused on Tahoe. Even with my recent fatigue from overtraining, I was hopeful I'd be able to get through the three marathons in one piece and wasn't planning on DNFs, even if I had to walk. Given the altitude of the course (between 6,200ft and 7,050ft) and the rolling hills, it's not particularly quick, but there're views that are stunning all the way round. It's also a very cool concept to run round the entire 72 miles of the lake, which involves an overlap to make up the full 78.6 miles (technically a bit over 79 miles from the organiser's measurements).

And the triple isn't the only event in town. There's so many options that you could choose from over the three days, and even more than last year. Distances from 5k to 144 miles, plus cycling and kayaking options. But the Sunday marathon is the main event and the triple is the main lure since there are very few triples round the world and the only other ones I know of are on trails. That's the main reason that this course holds the world record for 3-in-3 days, even with the slow course. In most recent years someone has tried to go for the record, but I wasn't even considering it in my current form as it requires an average time of 2:43 per day, probably equivalent to around the low to mid 2:30s on a flat, sea level course.

I was disappointed to not see the guys I'd raced last year as each day had been a real race, at least for positions 2-4, with the leader, Lynyrd Skynrod (check this out - way ahead as he chased that record in vain. So I had no idea how fast people would go out on day one.

Day One: Emerald Bay Marathon

Only 78.6 miles to go.

We started soon after dawn at the best scenic look-out of the entire lake - Inspiration Point over Emerald Bay. Although it was barely above freezing, that is one of the most picturesque start lines I can imagine and the 70-ish runners who posed for a group photo all looked revved up and excited about it. For some this was the first foray into any type of ultrarunning, while it was the 10th year at this exact race for others.

I hadn't run for a week so that I could rest, so when the gun (literally...a shotgun) was fired, I sprang off with surprisingly light feet. I was on my own and couldn't hear the patter of any feet behind me, so assumed that nobody was really going to hammer it, unlike last year's frantic start. Then I looked at my Garmin and saw that I was running 4:50 mile pace and decided it would be wise to slow down a bit...or a lot. The first few miles are steeply downhill and either allow you to cruise some easy, fast miles or to destroy your triple marathon chances within minutes. I looked again at my watch and saw that mile one was just over 5:20, so it was too fast, but with the downhill and few days off running I didn't think I'd wrecked my chances. But, just in case I slowed a bit more to cruise down while enjoying the views over the sometimes sheer drops by the road.

I looked round and couldn't see anyone behind so felt safe going at a more reasonable pace, but I did want to set a respectable time on the first day, if possible, so that the unusual fatigue recently couldn't derail me in a close race. After a couple more miles, my crew of Amy and the pups informed me that I was a couple of minutes ahead. That surprised me since I went through five miles in 30 minutes and I didn't think anyone was going to go close to that. So I kept the pace faster than I wanted and decided I'd let Amy update me with time checks to judge how big the lead was.

Around 7-8 miles was the 'Y' intersection where route 89 meets route 50, and the course turns left here to go back towards the lake after a section of pure forest away from it, including some hard-packed trails next to the road. I felt much better than last year, with none of the dizziness or disorientation, but 6:30/mile felt reasonably hard. I put it down to the altitude.

At half-way I managed to not go the wrong way this year and followed the turn towards the beachfront before popping out behind the casinos as I crossed into Nevada. Amy had told me that she waited 10 minutes and hadn't seen second, so he'd either stuck to the main road and done a small short-cut or was way back. She also told me that the last time she'd been able to check, it was fellow Brit, Paul Allen, in second, so a 1-2 was on the cards.
Give me gels.

After the casinos the course leaves the main city on the lake, South Lake Tahoe, and goes through smaller towns and the gaps between them. The hills start soon after, but it all builds up to the final miles where the road meanders up from around 6,300ft to the highest point of the whole event, at 7,050ft, where the finish line sits in a car park by Spooner Lake. These last miles are also the most dangerous as there's a 2-lane highway each way and cars going at 60mph while the runners hug the edge, which measures under a foot at points. Nobody's ever been hit, but you have to keep your wits about you when the roads aren't closed.

As I got into those last miles it was heating up, but was still comfortable. The high for the day would be around 75F, but only the runners at the very back would suffer that. It was hard enough doing that climb before it got hotter, but I decided to take a walking break to give my legs a rest and so feel marginally better on the following days. Amy and the pups had popped up every couple of miles and crewed for me perfectly, always having the things to hand that I needed. It was lucky, since the four-ish water stations weren't all ready when I ran by and it would have been especially tough to run it without a crew, even with my hydration pack.

I crossed the line in 2:53, then waited to see if I'd built up a decent lead for the next days. Paul was indeed in 2nd and I only saw him while Amy and I drove back to SLT so I could sit in the lake and let my legs get a mini ice bath. He finished around 3:25, so I'd tried much harder than I needed to. But I also wanted to go for sub 3h each day, if I could, as it's a nice, round target.

Day Two: CalNeva Marathon
I spend most of the rest of the day eating and walking round shops with Amy before an early night. I was tired but felt better than I'd initially hoped. So on the start of day two in the twilight of early morning, I was ready to run another hard race.

This one starts with around seven miles of downhill to get back to the lake level at 6,200ft, but I'd forgotten about the uphill between two and three miles so got my heart rate up while running that. It was especially cool in the shade of the mountainside so I was glad of my long sleeves and gloves.

Again, I'd gone off in the lead on my own and Amy gave me time checks early on, but after a few miles we didn't bother any more and I focused on trying to get tired legs to keep up a reasonable speed. That was harder than expected and as I went through the extremely fancy mansions at Incline Village around halfway, I felt exhausted.

In the shade of the mountainside early on in day two.
 It was around this point that the bike race caught me. They started at 7am (compared to 7:45 for us) and went round the lake clockwise, instead of our anti-clockwise direction. When they got to me they had around 20 miles left and 52 under their belts. They were going fast in a pelaton and the leaders broke the course record. But I then spent almost the entire rest of the race having cyclists zoom past me and force me closer to the barrier on the roadside than I'd have liked.

Around 14 miles in, the first of the two main hills comes into play, but the hills of the CalNeva marathon aren't too bad and this is definitely the fastest day. That's despite the fact the organisers say it's a half mile long, which is needed to reach a suitable starting point for the final day in Tahoe City.

The views of the lake were framed in a perfect blue sky and searing sun, which did start to heat me up towards the end. I slugged it out, just trying to keep up around a 3h marathon pace and feeling like I was coming to the end of a double marathon, which I effectively was. At 23 miles is the nastiest hill, which was steep enough to force a walk. I took several walking breaks during the day to let my joints have a rest, so the hills were almost a welcome relief as they provided an excuse to slow down. I often find that in trail ultras too, so don't mind the hills since everyone slows down on them anyway, even if they don't walk.

For the last few miles into Tahoe City, I had a good groove going and could keep the pace up without too much difficulty, mainly because it's a gentle downhill. Amy and the pups had done a great job of keeping me encouraged and well-fed so it was good to see them cheer me down to the finish. Another hard effort, which could have been taken more easily, but I kept the time under 3h with 2h56m. Paul also managed to keep hold of 2nd with 3h34m. I only saw him after I'd come out of the lake again to freeze my legs, but he looked fine for a man two marathons down.

I'd felt a slight twinge in my left calf at the start of the day and by the end it was enough to make me limp around. I hoped it'd feel better in the morning and aches and pains are to be expected with multi-day races, but I couldn't help but think that my lead of over an hour might all be needed for the final day. I certainly felt a hell of a lot worse in every way than after day one. But things had basically gone to plan and Amy and I had a very tasty dinner cruise on the lake (organised by the race) to look forward to.

Day Three: Lake Tahoe Marathon

The final day is the main event and so has more runners and fanfare. It also has some proper aid stations and the northbound traffic lane is closed, so we have more room to run. Except the locals seemed to ignore the police and plenty of them still drove towards us, even if the number of cars was at least reduced.

Although each day can be entered as a stand alone marathon, the one most people do in this way is day three. So instead of around 55 triplers and a handful of single-dayers, it was closer to 300 single-dayers to add to the remnants of the triple. Usually some of these guys are fast, as shown by the 2:30 course record on the hilliest and hardest section of the lake.

So when I found myself limping heavily and unable to walk down stairs unaided, I didn't fancy my chances. I needed 3:10 to keep my overall time below 9h, which became the new target. I couldn't see any way that I could keep up with the leaders on their fresh legs.

It also gets confusing since most of the other events are on at the same time, meaning our section of the lake had people running a 5k, 10k, half, 20 miler, 50 miler, 72 miler and marathon relay and it was difficult to work out which was which. Instead I used the good old trick of counting those ahead of me at the start. I expected this to be a big number so was really surprised after half a mile to be in 3rd and running at a 6:30/mile pace. In my short warm up I could barely do a 10:00/mile pace and that was with a limp. The human body can always do much more than you think and every time you rediscover that, it adds to the beauty of ultras.

After a few miles I couldn't feel my calf pain and felt just about ok maintaining pace. I could just see the two guys ahead and then got confused since one had been running topless but was suddenly in a black top. I hadn't noticed him put it on and I'd been catching him, but suddenly he was shooting off into the distance. That was when a volunteer at the aid station shouted out that I was in 2nd and the other guy ahead was in a relay. Wish there was a way to tell, like race numbers back and front (Comrades leads the way again with this simple 'innovation').

So now I was theoretically in with a shot at the win since first was only a couple of minutes ahead. I had nothing in the tank and no desire to all out race this early on, so I just kept at a reasonable pace and decided to see what would happen on the hills later on. I really didn't have an option and still had to bear in mind that I might end up walking a lot, especially if the calf started playing up. It was my first chance of the whole event to properly race but I'd used up too much of an already low tank by this day three.

Running down the west side of the lake was reasonably enjoyable, given the fatigue. I felt fairly good until about halfway then started to feel the combined distance and sore-to-the-touch calves and thighs. Only a couple more miles and I'd hit the hills, so would get a chance to walk and rest a bit. Amy was really encouraging and it's such a help to have her support me every couple of miles. Luckily she has a Carrie Underwood concert as a thank you, but I suspect she enjoyed the crewing a little bit too.

The hills combined with rising temperatures on the hottest day so far (highs in the 80s) and the later start time of 8am, so it was pure endurance to get through to 20 miles and the start line of day one at Inspiration Point. I was just about able to take in the views while I crawled uphill or pounded my thighs on the downhills and Amy was good enough to take some great shots of the background as she drove along, so I'd have a more pleasant memory of them.

At 20 miles, she told me I was three minutes off the lead and it's downhill then mainly flat to the finish. I decided to see what the first mile felt like, but it was just too hard on the legs and I had to reduce the stress on the thighs so that I'd not be forced to walk the final miles.

At least it looked like I'd break 3:10, as I had 47 minutes left for the last 10k to do that. Nobody in the same race as me was visible behind, although I kept going past runners, who must have been doing the 20 mile version.

This point last year I'd been racing Lynyrd and hoping to beat him in one day at least. I'd had over a minute to catch up at Inspiration Point and had just drawn level in the last mile when he decided to let me go ahead as he changed into a tracksuit after fending me off for a few miles. This time round I was on my own and it looked like 1st was too far ahead and 3rd was too far back. I was right about the winner, but in the results it looks like 3rd almost got me, only finishing a little over a minute behind. The crowds on the way to, and around, Pope Beach were bigger and I put in a last burst to finish in 3:04 for 8:53 overall. The winner was just over four minutes ahead.
I was exhausted but elated that things had gone so well. In the end I had about a 2h margin in the triple and had used up virtually all my energy for a race that was meant to not leave me too exhausted, given my upcoming races. But it was worth it and I'll definitely return to that course again, maybe with some Serpies from London. I'd even like to aim for the World Record one time, but will need to focus on this particular race more and also speed up a bit.

Running over Emerald Bay for the second time.
Running down from Inspiration Point in the last few miles.
Congratulations to all the finishers in all the races, especially the two who did the double dare of running round the entire lake in both directions, totalling 144 miles. Time for a rest now.