Posted on Leave a comment

2018 in review: A year of running in numbers and memories

The Stats

Starting weight / body fat : 100kg / 23%
End Weight / body fat: 98kg / 14%
Starting resting heart rate: 58
End resting heart rate: 49
First January run 2018: 3km / 0 ft. incline – felt awful
Last run 2018: 22km / 2,339 ft. incline – felt easy
Runs over half marathon distance: 22
Runs over marathon distance: 6
Completed Ultramarathons: 4
Uncompleted Ultramarathons: 3
Total runs: 158
Total Elevation: 96,106 feet
Total Distance: 2,063km

The Memories

It feels a little bit odd looking at the numbers above, truth be told. It’s a bit like they belong to someone else. If you’d told me 12 months ago that by the end of the year, I’d have run the equivalent distance of Leeds to Africa and the equivalent height of 3 and a third Everests, I’d have said “Well, yes, that’s the plan”, because I’m a stubborn bastard – but deep down, I’d have known that you were taking the piss. I can vividly remember how hard 5km at a decent pace felt back in January. I can remember the shin splints, because 20 miles in a week was over-training. I can remember the feeling of suffocation after every single run – before an asthma diagnosis and an inhaler sorted me out. I can remember the exhaustion and sheer physical pain of the first ultra – the Calderdale Way – in June; and how I felt afterwards, knowing that I’d have to negotiate three times the incline to complete Lakes in a Day. I can remember the heartbreaking disappointment of then pulling out of Lakes in a Day thanks to a freak storm, after 12 wet, wind-battered hours, 12,000 feet of incline and nearly 50km of brutal, painful slog. And then the disappointment of ending the final ultra of the year 43 miles early, thanks to a tendon injury.

No feelings of trepidation here. Nope. None whatsoever

But most of all, I remember the absolute elation of the ultras I completed. The tears of joy after Calderdale. The fist-pumping roars of delight at the end of the 2-day, 60-mile round trip of the Herriot Way. The pride of managing 50 miles in a day in September. The amazement of waking up after Lakes in a Day and reading the elevation stats. Twelve-bloody-thousand?! The hilarity of barely being able to walk because my calves had seized up so much (this happened at least 5 or 6 times). The camaraderie – through beautiful, picturesque sunshine and severe, dangerous difficulty. The £2000 raised for Yorkshire Cancer Research and the wonderful, warming feeling of knowing that each donation carried a show of support along with it. And the vast improvement that this year has made to my mental and physical health.

Oh, and how quickly you get pissed after a long run, and how much food you can pack away, completely free of consequence.

This plus one Guinness and I was SHITFACED

The Reflections

But what have I learnt here? Well, on at least 200 occasions, I’ve learned a new swear word to describe the sheer fucking agony of running when you’re tired or in pain, or the weather is either horrifically hot or abysmally windy, or the incline is making your lungs, calves and thighs burn and scream at you like a deranged leprechaun with a hammer. I’ve also learned that pretty much anything is doable if you’re slightly unhinged, extremely stubborn and have the support of another person. I ran over a half marathon distance 22 times in 2018, but how many of those times was I alone? Once.

On the technical side – for those of you who are interested, I’ve also learned a few very valuable tips for if you want to train for a marathon, or an ultra.

1) Stretching is supremely important, regardless of whether you’ve actually done any exercise that day.
2) Baths are incredible for stopping muscles seizing up.
3) Eating a massive breakfast that takes in every single part of a pig before a long run is a dreadful idea.
4) Carb loading is disgusting and makes you feel awful…
5) …but is absolutely life-changing once you get above 20 miles.
6) Training programmes off the Internet are often made for mentalists, professional runners and people who don’t actually have lives outside of running.
7) Tapering is overrated – it’s far more about how mentally ready you feel, and if that means doing a long run a week before, then do it.
8) Injuries happen. This cannot be avoided.
9) I can’t lose weight. I can just redistribute it from one place to another.
10) There are few things on earth more painful than chafing – get Runderwear, padded cycling shorts and a handy Buttshield roll-on. There is no shame in the world of running.
11) Speaking of which, running makes you fart. A LOT.
12) It takes a wind speed of over 75mph to lift a 100kg man off his feet.
13) You are a lot faster when it isn’t 35 degrees.
14) GPS is great, but it’s fallible – get a paper map, a pen and a compass.
15) Kit is so important. The right shoes for the terrain, 2 pairs of really good socks, the above-mentioned underwear and seriously good but lightweight wind and waterproofs, an awesome bag, water tube thingy, a camel back gloves, a hat and a LED head torch that can blind a sheep from 100m.

And 16…

What’s next?

16) Running is addictive, but totally illogical.

It hurts, it’s hard work and if you’re doing serious distance but aren’t superhuman, you’re basically in some sort of physical pain for 90% of your life. So why can’t I stop then? Is it the addiction to the post-run feeling? The being outdoors, surrounded by beautiful scenery? The absolutely mindless drivel that gets spouted when there are only two of you plodding around like idiots for hours and hours?

I don’t really know. But what I do know is that I have a calendar for the year that’s already starting to take shape:

January 13th – Trigger (Marsden to Edale – 24.5 miles, 4000 feet)
April 6th – Kielder Forest Ultra (62 miles, 4000 feet)
April 27th – Yorkshire 3 Peaks Marathon (26.2 miles, 5000 feet)
June 1st – Calderdale Cannonball Ultra (53 miles, 7300 feet)
July 26th / 27th – The Dalesway (83 miles, 8000 feet)
October 12th – Lakes in a Day (52 miles, 11,700 feet)

It’s fair to say that 2019 is already looking suitably idiotic. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about it as much as I’ll enjoy swearing about it. And if you’re interested, I’ll be putting together a training plan for a marathon in the next couple of weeks, that doesn’t mean you have to give up your entire life to running. It even allows for booze. Yeah. Have that, Ryan Hall.

There’s the pub! I can see the pub!
Posted on Leave a comment

5 Days to Go: All Manner of Swearing

Weight: 93.5kg
Body Fat: 18%
Resting Heart Rate: 50
Miles Run This Year: 1000
Fear Levels: Through the roof

Well, there’s not a lot more I can do now. The miles have been run, the muscles have been pulled, stretched, repaired and pulled again many times over and I’ve spent about double the amount of sponsorship raised on equipment, proving in the process that a) It would have been better for Yorkshire Cancer Research if I’d just given them the money I have had to spend, and b) the old adage that running is a sport that is accessible to all is absolute rubbish.

But here I am, well into the taper and carb load stage of the year. I like a good carb – at least, I thought I did. I’m pretty sick of them right now though; in fact, I feel sluggish, lethargic and fat. A few hours ago, I got back from my final decent-length run – an 18k jog around the woods and canal of Bramley, Rodley and Calverley. I got in, took off my pack and sweaty vest and discovered an impressive waist strap mark has set up camp right around a little paunch that has developed within a week of eating nothing but potatoes, rice and bread. I think it must only be people in carb loading phases who can stroll around an 18k trail route without really breaking a sweat, complete with pot belly.

Me, recovering in a field on my run today

I imagine that this week will see the commencement of a week-long extravaganza of nervous pooing – and lots of stretching, of course. There will also be the compulsive weather forecast checking – at least five times a day. The current forecast is for pretty much constant rain and 100km winds on top of Blencathra and Helvellyn. Which is nice. I expect to be thoroughly fed up at least 35 miles from the finish – but I will finish, barring injury or exhaustion to the point of collapse. Probably. And then it’s time to relax! Except it isn’t, as I still need to do another couple of hundred miles to reach 1253.93 – or 2018km – for the year. This, of course, includes re-running and completing the Leeds Country Way because I. Just. Can’t. Let. Things. Go.

Suffering from anxiety is exhausting. I know it will be on overdrive this week, playing the role of bastard as it does so well, telling me that I can’t do it and refusing to let me sleep. But when I look back on 2018, I can truly say that it has been the least anxious year in recent times. Part of that is, of course, down to a career change – I will never deny that. The other part though, is undoubtedly down to running and what it has done to my health, my confidence and my perspective on life. I think that this is reason enough to feel proud at this point of the year, regardless of what’s happening in just over 5 days.

In fact, it’s perhaps the best time for me to understand this, so I can remind myself of these words at multiple moments during Saturday, when I catch myself cursing the idiocy of my decisions and I creak and wobble my way along the hardest run I have ever done. Wish me luck!

      No joke. This is how far we have to go. So far, that it goes off the edge of a map of the entire Lake District. Shit.

If you would like to sponsor Tom and I as we come towards the end of a truly epic year of ultramarathons, pain and eating, just click here.

Posted on Leave a comment

52 Days to Go: Final Preparations

Remaining Ultramarathae: 2
Tendons: Shot
Body Weight: 94.2kg (14 stone 12)
Body Fat %: 19%
Confidence Level: 5/10

Don’t be looking at that confidence level the wrong way, y’all; a five is what I aspire to in life as a general rule. This is a good thing.  Other than generally ticking over though – not doing any really long runs, but not allowing fitness to drop – I don’t have much to report. I had a lovely jaunt in the mountains to keep the buns steely and I’ve been doing plenty of 10km-ish runs to keep my feet… runny. All that really remains is to summarise what’s left to do and look forward to the main event. I actually booked accommodation for the night before the main event this week, which is like when your recently single mate finally wants to talk about their break-up (which probably happened 8 months ago) – it’s my version of admitting that it’s actually happening.

The Leeds Country Way – Saturday 1st September

If you don’t know, then this is the final pre-ultramarathon ultramarathon, and it’s a biggie. The Leeds Country Way is a 61.34-mile (98.7-km) round of the countryside of Leeds’ outer suburbs. In terms of incline vs. distance, it’s not too bad: just the 4,225 feet of incline. To put that into context, the first 30 miles of Lakes in a Day covers nearly 9,000. So, it’s a distance challenge rather than an incline one. As with most things (for me at least), this is a purely mental exercise. It’s validation that I can cover a really long distance in one sitting. I suppose it’s the last piece of the puzzle, really. Anyway, if you live around the route (see below), then I’ll be posting rough arrival times at the end of the week, so if you want to come and say hi / cheer / heckle / give snacks, then that’d be great. We’re aiming for sub-16 hours, but to be honest I’ll be happy just to finish with both feet mostly intact.

Oh, and don’t worry for those of you with OCD: we’ll be rounding the route up to 100km on the nose.

The Recce – Saturday 15th September

The final marathon-esque distance will be in the form of a recce. We are going to go from the start of the Lakes in a Day route and do the first 23 miles; Calbeck to the Helvellyn summit. It’s about 7,500 feet of incline, which will be awesome training and also includes  the only sections I have never done before at some point, so we’re giving ourselves a better chance of not getting lost on the day.

The Main Event – Saturday 13th October

Just a reminder for any of those who want to sponsor us – this is all for Yorkshire Cancer Research. Here’s that link again.

We recently passed the £750 (50%) mark, so massive thanks to everyone who has donated (some more than once, Mum!) It means a lot to be supported in this way – but to be honest everyone has been supportive and encouraging when they’ve spoken to me face to face about it. Loving comments like “You’re an idiot” and “You’re too fat to do this”, or “You eat and drink like a Lord – you can’t do an ultramarathon” have made all the difference.

xxx

Posted on Leave a comment

Week 22: Putting my Runny Where my Mouth Is

May’s Miles: 120
Longest Effort: 22 miles, 2,208 feet
Weight at the start of this week: 95.1kg
Weight at the end of this week: 97.8kg
State of Readiness: Is leaving the country to avoid a marathon a valid way to raise money? Asking for a friend.

Here we are then; the night before my first ultramarathon. Mind you, distance-wise it’s more a marathon plus change. The Calderdale Trail is 29 miles and 4,400 feet of incline – something which my Strava estimates will take me around 6 hours. I’ll be over the moon if we finish in under 6 hours, but I think closer to 7 is more likely, given the terrain and incline. I’ve attempted a short taper – one week rather than 3. This isn’t because I’m an idiot; it’s more that I needed to go close to the full distance quite close to the event, just to prove to myself that I could (that longest effort above was 8 days ago). I will taper more seriously for the 84km runs, but for this one I think the mental boost was more valuable than the potential physical risk. Time will tell if I’m right.

In the 152 days since the start of the year, I’ve been for 90 runs, over a total of 422 miles (or 679 kilometres). I’ve run in the snow, the rain, heat over 25 degrees, up hills (and the odd mountain), along canals and roads, and, most often, on a treadmill. I’ve had shin splints, industrial chafing, leg, ankle, foot, shoulder and lower back pain, and post-long run insomnia. I’ve lost a stone (then gained nearly half of it back in a week thanks to carb loading) and I’ve had a LOT of showers. And now, 18 hours before the start of the first major challenge, I’m pacing around the house anxiously, unable to do any work or focus on anything at all, apart from packing and re-packing my kit bag. Oh, and eating rice.

Thursday night’s meal. I ate three of the chefs too.

Doesn’t that all sound fun? I’d be lying if I said it has been. I will admit it’s been generally better than I thought it would be though. Of course, these are famous last words. Ask me again what I think when I’m on the sixth hill up towards 1200 foot, at around the 21-mile mark tomorrow. I suspect my answer will be somewhat different.

And of course…

Just as I was starting to pack yesterday, a package arrived – Yorkshire Cancer Research tops for this event, and the five subsequent ones. Here’s that link again: https://www.justgiving.com/teams/Simonrichardsontombamber

Obviously, the longest runs are yet to come – but they all very much count towards our fundraising. Here’s a picture of me, pre-tonight’s head shave, looking nervous as hell in my race top to remind you what this is all about.

Catch you on the flipside!!!

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Weeks Many-Not Enough: What’s That Brown Stain in my Pants?

Weeks until first ultra: 2
Weight: 95.5kg (15st 3)
Longest run: 20 miles
Mental State: Blind terror

Well. This has come around a little quicker than I had expected. Of course, I am aware that every single day usually contains 24 hours, but I am also, in a much more real way, even more painfully aware that as soon as you’re putting something off, that figure dips to around 8 seconds. Or at least, that’s how I understand tantric sex really works.

I’d better update you anyway. Last week I managed 43 miles, with a longest excursion of 20 miles. So, at least in one respect, I have achieved what I set out to do in May. In two days, I will climax (non-tantrically) with a 23.2-mile jaunt with 3500 foot of incline thrown in, before then doing something that I have read about called “tapering” for the 9 days leading up to the Calderdale ultra. From what I have read, I gather that tapering = crying and eating crisps in the basement for a week. That being the case, I will have therefore come full circle in six months, right back to where I was in January – a teary-stained, crispy blob who smells vaguely of damp – which makes me wonder what the point of the last six months has really been.

What can I say about 2018 in terms of physical health? I don’t spring out of bed in the mornings in a burst of song. I can run 10km without really breaking a sweat yet I still get disconcertingly out of breath if I run up the stairs to the toilet without giving my brain fair warning. I don’t have a stomach that you could use as a skateboard. Ok, my resting heart rate and blood pressure are both lower than they were at the start of the year, but who actually cares about that? I’ve also discovered that excessive running causes significant amounts of shoulder and lower back pain, as well as some industrial-strength chafing around the lower buttocks, inner thighs and inner arms that makes it very difficult to sleep for a couple of nights after a long run. I now run like a deranged adult baby – grimacing and waddling lop-sidedly while wearing padded underwear and enough vaseline to sustain the entire porn industry. I don’t exactly count this as physical progress.

Mentally, though, I do feel significantly less pull-your-bottom-lip-all-the-way-over-the-back-of-your-head-while-screaming-at-a-lamp-post batshit crazy. And I have to admit that I do get a sense of warm, satisfied smuggery after a run that, if I’m not very careful, almost results in the occasional good mood. So, I suppose that it’s been a good thing overall?

Ok, let’s call it evens for the moment; my left buttock has just started bleeding again.

A Wee Note to my Supporters

Before I finish, I’d like to draw your attention to a few things. Firstly, I’ve finalised my event diary for the months leading up to Lakes in a Day.

  1. Calderdale Ultra – Saturday June 2nd. (30 miles)
  2. Yorkshire 3 Peaks – Saturday June 30th (24.5 miles)
  3. Ingleborough Fell Race – Saturday July 21st (6.2 miles)
  4. The Herriot Way – Saturday July 28th and Sunday July 29th (50 miles)
  5. Yorkshire 3 Peaks (again) – Saturday August 11th (24.5 miles)
  6. Lakes in a Day recce – Saturday September 15th and Sunday September 16th (TBC miles)

And then the big day on October 13th (52 miles).

Secondly, I’m not just doing this for laughs. In fact, I haven’t even laughed once. This is all for Yorkshire Cancer Research: https://yorkshirecancerresearch.org.uk/

And this is my justgiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/simon-richardson-tom-bamber

I’m hoping to raise quite a bit, but you never know. Every little helps anyway.

Thanks all xxx