Saturday
Feb152014

The case for wearing Hokas

This would never have happened if I was wearing Hokas.

Thursday evening started out just like any other evening. In fact no it didn't because instead of running home I was headed to the shops to buy stuff to cook for dinner and get a Valentines Day card for my lovely wife. If only I were a Jehovah's Witness.

So on my way to the shop I crossed the road at a pedestrian crossing with the green man proudly glowing his stride, before I got half way I discovered an unusual thing on top of my foot. A car. He had just jumped the light and ran right over my right foot.

I reeled back to the pavement, at this stage not really knowing what to do or say. What on earth do you say or do when a car has run over your foot.

I think many runners first instinct when anything like this happens is to panic about the prospect of not being able to go running for a while. I am not too bothered if say I cut my finger while cooking as my fingers are not that important (except maybe for blogging but I reckon I can still do that with only 4 of them). I imagine a guitarist would immediately panic about their future fingerpicking before it even occurs to them to stop the bleeding. 

I'd say the chain of thought that went through my mind was something like this;

1 - S**t this looks like I am not going to be able to run for a while

2 - Oh but I can't wait to bang on about this on facebook

3 - Owwwww my foot f*****g hurts 

4 - OK better get the licence plate (which I did as the bugger drove off without stopping which apparently is illegal)

5 - Owwww, the foot is really hurting now

6 - Oh dear, It's my turn to cook, this will inevitably delay that and Gemma will be annoyed.

I found a community support Policeman and said in a very reserved English way "oh I'm sorry to bother you but I've just been run over the foot by a car and don't really know what to do".

So he called an ambulance which arrived in about 20 minutes (one of those first response units in a car) while I answered some questions. I was actually asked some really tough questions such as "what kind of car was it"? I know nothing at all about cars. I only recently learned to drive and when someone asks what kind of car I learned in I can only respond "A red one". Apparently it was an Aldi A3, which was quite a nice car to drive.

I just said "A black one" to which he asked "was it a saloon?" and I said "No, it was definitely a car, not a bar". 

The ambulance arrived and I disgusted the poor medics with the state of my feet (the injury didn't look too bad but the stink was a bit much". I am not sure whether I could blame that on the hit and run guy. They were however impressed with how low my heart rate was, below 60 which they said was amazing considering I had just been hit by a car. I said it's probably 10 lower than normal because I no longer have to worry about cooking dinner and that usually elevates the anxiety a bit.

The pain got worse and worse as I went to the hospital to have an xray. It actually feels the same as the end of my first Spartathlon when I felt I may have fractured something in my foot. I recall that taking a few weeks to get over and hoped that this would not be as bad. The xray was inconclusive and I have to go to see someone on Tuesday for a further test. I am hoping the fact that it was inconclusive means it's not that bad. Getting the bus to work sucks.

At some point I really should get more annoyed that some dick ran over my foot and then drove off. I think the police are onto it. 

And Gemma said the only way I was getting out of cooking tomorrow was to get my hands run over...

But a bit of good news. I send my book to the ePublishing people this week and it will be available to buy from around 12th March. Please "like" my facebook page to keep up to date with what is going on and spread the word too :)

 

Friday
Feb072014

Like The Wind - Magazine Launch

BUY LIKE THE WIND MAGAZINE HERE

I often get nervous before standing up and speaking about running, usually out of a slight feeling of inferiority that I don't think what I have done is particularly in the company that I am often presenting it to. However this one was different. I was reading the first few pages from my book (THAT IS DEFINITELY COMING OUT SOON) and I was worried that I might DNF 3.5 pages of words.

These 3.5 pages describe in pretty brutal detail what could well be the worst 20 minutes of my life. It happened in New Mexico and although at the time I tried to make a point of blogging everything I felt that I could not publish this as quite frankly it was too humiliating. 

So I would not agree to put myself in this situation lightly, however when Simon asked me to read the first pages. He has read the book already and keeps telling me that he really likes that opening part.

A few months ago Simon told me about an incredibly ambitious plan of his. He is already doing great work with his company Freestak whereas this was going to be something else. A magazine that was going to be about the stories behind running. It sounded like a brilliant project and I was full of stories and happy to help. I contributed an article about some of the mind games I play when I am going through tough times. They see me through most things, they didn't quite work in New Mexico but now I at least have that as a story to tell at magazine launches.

It was in a really nice venue at the Truxman Brewery where a kind of "who's who" of British ultra running came and mingled. The magazine was not just about ultra running but obviously I was drawn to them. The magazine is a great read, not what you'd get from a regular running magazine. This was is just packed with great stories and beautiful artwork. This is not a magazine you are going to skim through in 20 minutes and then put in the recycling but one that you will keep and refer back to for inspirtation. I am thrilled that such a magazine now exists and even more so that I was asked to take part.

I managed to get through my part without choking too much. I also heard the delightful Mimi Anderson talk about her experience in the Arctic and was introduced to Simon Wheatcroft who has an inspiring story to tell about how blindness inspired him to run long distance.

But I got to chat to a load of others too. I finally got to meet Stuart Mills who's blog I have been following for a number of years now and I recommned reading and has written a great piece about his first marathon experience. I saw Tobias Mews who I met a few years back who now writes adventure articles in the telegraph. Robbie Britton was there, fresh from a victory at the Pilgrims Challenge 66 mile two day ultra. IN fact he looked way too skinny so I gave him my meal voucher. He too has put in a great bit of writing about his motivation for running. It was great to catch up with Dan Ashfar of Xempo and Sandra and the guys from the Ealing Half Marathon. Sorry I didn't make the Ealing Mile today, I had a work thing honest.

I hope you all get a chance to read this. Reading about other peoples stories and motivations I find is really inpsiring, helps me do things better and give me ideas about what to do next. 

And I hope my article was of some use. If the Zebra thing becomes well known I would feel a bit bad as this was inspired from a girl I spoke to supporting the Thames Ring race last year. Putting the Zebra on a bike was all my idea though.

Saturday
Feb012014

Ultra WAGS (and HABS and SODS and MOFS)  

This month in Ultra Tales I assembled an article for "Ultra Wags" that looks at ultra running from the point of view of the other half, the one who is sitting at home wondering where their partner is or perhaps out in the middle of nowhere waiting for their husband/wife with a handful of lubricant.

You can (and really should) download ultra tales from here. There are lots of great reports in there including the Piece of String race.

Anyhoo I thought I'd put my wife's fansastic contribution here. Apparently I am quite obsessed by a race.

 

Your Name:                             Gemma Greenwood

Runner’s Name:                      James Adams

Relation to Ultra Runner:        Wife

Details (eg married, kids, etc):           

 Married less than a year, been together four (it seems longer), no kids yet.

Brief history of ultra runner. (years running, ultras done etc)

What can I say about James Adams that most of the ultra-running population don’t already know? Bugger all, I suspect, since he’s a prolific blogger who loves to bang on about his running. 

How long have you suffered your partner’s extreme running? 

I started suffering my partner’s extreme running from BEFORE I met him.  Yes, it is possible.  Facebook makes these things possible, and if you know James at all, you will know his addiction to Facebook is all too real.  I think that before I encountered him, I encountered his blistered feet which were his Facebook profile picture of choice for quite a time – some of you may remember the picture: great big purple blood-filled plum-sized blisters that he got as a result of his first GUCR run. Nowadays a small blister makes him drop out of a race (NDW100, 2013). Clearly marriage is making him soft.

 

Did they do this kind of thing when you met and what was your first impressions of them? 

Fortunately (I think), James was already an ultra-running nutter when I met him.  He’d completed GUCR and MDS with his sights firmly set on Badwater as the ultimate race…how things have changed! Badwater is a distant memory and now Spartathlon holds James’ focus for most of the year…

 

Anyway, at least I knew what I was letting myself in for, and wasn’t someone expecting a normal and conventional relationship with actual summer/beach holidays or anything (despite promises to the contrary). No, instead I spend my spare time & holidays standing beside the edge of a road/field/trail, in the freezing cold or scorching heat waiting for a brief appearance from my beloved, all sweaty and smelly, before he sods off again stuffed with food and drink.

 

Did they start doing this after you met? Describe the first time you heard about their plans. 

N/A

 

How do you usually get involved in their racing and training?  (eg supporting races, helping with training, massage etc).

It depends on the race distance, location, timing etc, but so far I am mostly a taxi service, given that James can’t drive (yet). I don’t think there is a ‘usual’ for these things.  The first couple of Spartathlons, I stayed in the UK constantly sitting at the laptop and updating his Facebook fans with any developments in his progress.  Last year and this for Spartathlon, I will be there, driving along the route from the mile point to the end.  I don’t actually need to do anything on this race, since it is incredibly well organised and supported, but James did throw his toys out of the pram last year when I didn’t turn up until the middle of the Saturday morning because I was enjoying our swanky accommodation and the bugger just needed a hug.

 

When James ran across America a couple of years ago (as you do), I was only initially required to go out to visit him at the end of the race, and crew him for the last week before we had a week holiday in NY…until he got food poisoning in New Mexico and I got a sad/pathetic text asking me to go out there sooner.  So, for my sins, I spent ten days driving across Oklahoma in 40C+ heat wave three miles at a time.  I was responsible for carting his stinking kit, trimming his bushy moustache and beard from around his mouth, making him eat fruit, and generally ensuring he stayed alive.

 

Do you run? What kind of distances? Other sports or participate in? Run –

Yes, I run, and it’s how we met – through the Serpentine Running Club. Sometimes though, I do think it should be renamed the Serpentine Dating Club, given the number of our friends we’ve seen meet and marry through the club! 

 

Over the years that I’ve been a member, I’ve run everything from a 1k race through to ultras, although I have a rule that I like to sleep at night, so the longest I have run for is 50 miles so far.  If I can work on getting some speed like Sharman, I might consider longer distances.  To date, I’ve finished over 25 marathons and ultras. 

 

Do you ever wish your partner had a "normal" hobby like golf or chess or something? 

Are they normal hobbies?  No, I don’t think so.  Anyway, running is ingrained in James’ soul (and perhaps his soles too), so I wouldn’t want to change that.  It’s part of the man that I fell in love with. Also, if he stopped running, he’d be bloody HUGE. Have you seen how much he eats and drinks? That would definitely be worse…

 

Would you like your kids to follow in his/her footsteps? How likely is that?  

I’d definitely like our kids (assuming we have some) to enjoy sports and the outdoors.  Running would be awesome, and I suspect they’ll get little choice in the matter with regards to being surrounded by it from an early age.  My biggest concern would the ‘forcing them into it’ element.  If they HAVE to spend almost every weekend supporting running events or being involved, it might put them off a bit…

 

Describe the strangest moment you have witnessed while crewing your partner. 

 

What are they like when they are injured or not running for some reason? 

I don’t think I’ve ever known James to be injured or off running for more than about a week. I suspect his joints are well lubricated with all the fat from the pork scratchings he secretly scoffs, and he doesn’t go fast enough to do any real damage.

 

Do you ever go on "normal" holidays? Do all of your trips involve a race somewhere?

I’ve been promised a “normal” holiday for OVER TWO YEARS now.  I am really not holding out much hope of us having one.  We didn’t even have a conventional honeymoon as our wedding was sandwiched between two runs in New Zealand.  The weekend before we got married, we both ran the Motatapu marathon.  The weekend after, James ran Northburn 100. Even the weekend we had earmarked for getting married, James tried to worm out of because Tarawera ultra (in the North Island of NZ) was on that day… I really don’t hold out much hope for him organising a proper holiday / honeymoon experience for us!

 

What does your partner have to give back in return for all this supporting you do?

He doesn’t ‘have’ to do anything. Although I am still waiting to find out what special treats are in store for me… I suspect he will be the better one of the two of us at middle-of-the-night parenting, should we ever have kids.

 

Do you ever get the feeling that when you spend time alone together in a beautiful area they are thinking "that would make a great run"?

Feeling?? He bloody announces it ALL THE TIME when we’re out somewhere nice in the countryside.

 

What are they like with money? How likely are they to spend the family food budget on a solar powered back pack which inflates into a life boat? Give details of times when they have spent money frivolously. 

James is a classic for ‘packing light’, that is, forgetting or not taking stuff he’s likely to need.  When he moved in with me, he had over 40 cans of deodorant because he keeps buying more.  He forgets to take trousers to work fairly regularly, which means he’s a good customer of M&S and when we went away for GUCR this year, he didn’t pack ANY normal clothes – trousers, pants, shirt, socks etc, which meant we had to do a shopping trip for all of the above. Which reminds me, he still owes me about £30-odd for that lot…

 

Have they ever said "never again". How long did it last? 

I think he said that about Spartathlon once...after the first time when his leg nearly fell off.  I think it lasted until the leg healed and he could walk again. Then he was determined to go back and beat it. I’m not sure how many times he’ll have to do this before he retires from it though!

How I laughed!

 

When you stood on that altar and agreed to "for better for worse" did you ever think it would come to this?  

It came to ‘this’ a week later as he set off on Northburn 100. The only way I thought I’d get him to NZ to marry me was to tempt him with some ridiculous race.  It worked.

 

Do you deal with their feet? 

I have been known to pop blisters, cut toe nails, chop off calluses, and the like.  It’s a grim job, but he’s so inflexible, he can barely reach his own feet.  I do try make sure he’s washed them thoroughly first though – and even bought him a long-handled scrubbing brush to do so.

 

Do you have any special words, techniques to keep them motivated in a race (keep it clean please).

At the end of Northburn 100, I ran out to meet James on the trail and accompanied him for the last 5k or so, most of which was in the dying light or the dark.  He was really struggling by now, but of course we both knew he’d finish.  To keep him moving, I’d run out in front of him and flash my bum or my boobs on a regular basis.  I’m pretty sure there wasn’t anyone else around… and if there was, sorry!

   

What is their worst habit? 

You mean I can only pick one? Right now, I think it is the vile and repulsive smell of his feet.  He ought to take more care of them – dealing with issues before they escalate to this aroma!  His shoes have been banished to outside, and his socks are tied up in a plastic bag somewhere waiting for him to deal with them.

Three words to describe your partner?

Obsessed with Spartathlon.

 

Do you ever wish you were running? Why? 

When I want to run, I usually do.  Hopefully though, once he can drive, he’ll support me on something a bit mad.  Not quite America in 70 days, but I’ll think of something to get him back, I am sure.

 

If he/she didn't run what would you spend your weekends doing?

Probably walking in the countryside. Maybe bike riding.  Visiting National Trust properties… all the normal things people of our advancing age get up to ;o) 

 

What do your friends think about your partner? (assuming you still have friends). 

Given that the huge majority of our friends are runners and ultra-runners (the first group being the more normal), I think people are pretty used to him…it’s the reaction I get from those that don’t run which is the best.  Gobsmacked pretty much describes it.

 

Is your partner competitive. Please describe. Does this apply to other areas in their lives too? 

I think James is one of the least competitive people I know.  He likes to tease some particular friends, who are competitive with him, but that’s all really.  Tenacitastic is the word I’d use for James (which I just made up). That man can just keep on running.  He might not be fast or glamorous, but he will get there.  Does that make him the Skoda of runners? 

 

Do you get competitive? How important is it that your partner beats others to you?

No, I am not competitive either.  However, I also like to make sure that where possible he beats the same particular friends above…

 

What's the best advice you'd give to a new ultra WAG? 

Buy a lot of Halo & teach your ultra runner to use the washing machine.

 

Is there anything else you would like to add? Any amazing stories or anecdote –

Oh no… I don’t want to make his head any bigger than it already is, thank you.

Saturday
Jan182014

The Box Hill Fell Race

The last fell race I ran I came last. I was hoping to better that result this time. I don't know whether anything south of the peak district can really classify as a fell race and I did see at least one guy wearing tights so figured this was a southern softie thing. The Box Hill Fell Race was going to include a few ups and downs though. 

I have run (or walked) up and down box hill many times, this is as close as London gets to having a big hill. I have decided to do more stuff like this rather than plod as many ultras as possible between now and the Grand Union Canal Race. I need to be lighter and faster and figured burning myself 9 miles at a time would be more beneficial that shlomping another 50 miles. I blame Robbie Britton for this thinking

Plus this was an event with a huge serpie turn out. There were some of the same faces there that I am used to. I find the starts of these races offer a different kind of endurance, for example I have to endure the comment "Isn't this a bit short for you" at least every five minutes before the start and during the race. Also I don't think people here know about ultra-crapping. If there is one thing ultra-runners are much quicker at it is expressing their bowel systems. Often it has to be done outdoors with a 20 second window of privacy and so you learn to crouch, push, wipe and run almost without breaking stride. Why were the people in these cublicles so so long, did they take a paper in there to read?

The start is up the grassy face of Box Hill, over some long grass. Everyone was keen to show that they can run uphill and whereas normally I'd be walking this and having a sandwich but 100 meters into a 9 mile race it didn't seem appropriate. A few minutes later we were at the top and running on some lovely trail.

For the first time in a while I actually started to feel like I could do some actual running. I was running down the hills with great gusto, careful not to plow into the back of others in front, I thought "wow - I'm not the worlds shittest fell runner".

The usual behaviour of opening gates and then holding them for the next runner went out the window as we all just pushed them open and left them to fly back in others faces. I was wearing Walsh's like a proper fell runner which gave me amazing traction on the ground, I should have used these for the Country to Capital last week.

It felt good to run some miles on a trail that were faster than canal boat. I wasn't pushing too hard and didn't feel as out of breath running up some of these hills as I did when walking some last weekend. The ground was pretty dry actually even though low down the fields were under water. It has been some time since I ran up a hill and it felt great.

Some runners commented at the end that they never spent so much of a race walking. For me it was the opposite, running 95%. I supposed 5% walking is a lot for some but most of my races have much more than that.

So - how about this for awkward.

I was running behind a girl, she was doing a great job of sweeping the hazards ahead of me and so I was happy to let the gates and trees hit her in the face (yep, no chivalry in fell running) and for her to slide on any slippy bits. A some point she turned around said to me 

Hey, your that guy who posted on Facebook about that game you play where you try to guess a girls underwear when running

What is the response to that? "I have no idea what you mean dear now let me pass".

She could actually be talking about one of two things. There is a game that I am sure many a man plays when tired in an ultra where you try to guess "pants, thong or commando". It can help pass the time when things get hard.

However I think she was refering to my "confession" I made on a facebook group recently where I say sometimes in a race I am very tired, I play the same game but then sometimes realise that I have been playing it with another man who is wearing tights. On realising this I just shrug and think "no one else is around, no one needs to know, I'll just carry on playing".

Anyway, perhaps I need a therapist.

I got chatting to her (Jenni) who was at the talk I did last month about running and the mind. It's funny how every race I have done recently I have got to the stage where I wanted it to be over at some point and didn't enjoy the last few miles, even in 5k and 10k races. With about a mile to go I was still full of energy, the climbs and descents not whacking me as much as I would have thought.

The last half a mile is a nice steady down hill that you can get a good pace on. I have no idea what time i finished, about 1.20 ish or something I think which was faster than I thought I would I could do something that bumpy in my current state. 

SO, more stuff like this please.

 

Sunday
Jan122014

Never wipe your ass with a squirrel - Jason Robillard

It's good advice. Also do not contradict the above advice on a train full of commuters, the British Transport Police are non-plussed by this. Also might lose something in the British translation. It should be "ARSE" not "ASS". Anyway.

This book captures the imagination somewhat with it's title and I ordered it without much thought. I thought it would be a book of ultra running tales similar to "Running though the wall" and "And then the vulture eats you" but it is in fact a beginners guide to running ultra marathons. The author describes.

"One average dude with limited athletic ability publicly writing a not-so-serious ultramarathon book for the rest of us"

It's certainly not one of the sterile and morbid guides to running you can get but quite a funny guide to running that most people would enjoy reading. Obviously being a super elite awesome ultra running machine that I am there is little I have to learn about the sport but this book suprised me with a combination of basic ultra running know-how and some pretty cool advice.

There is a lot of advice on how to survive the elements, hot and cold, wind and rain. There are tips on how to read the clouds and the animals to determine how long you have left to live on your run and some great general advice on first ultras and trails. I learned a bit on walking training and "speed-ups" during races. There are a lot of ideas here to try.

However I think this book goes to areas that others dare not go, the author has experimented heavily and can give you great tips on shaving certain areas to avoid chaffing (and maybe please others),  how to get away with killing your annoying running buddy and.. erm.. "relieving" yourself on a run . 

Jason Robillard is a man who has experimented on himself (in an ultra running sense of course) and is sharing all that he has learned, as he mentions at the start he is not on the heels of Kilian Jornet but more likely on the floor in a bar. However I reckon this serves very well as an intro to someone who might be doubting whether they are able to run an ultra. The laid back writing might be reassuring that anything is possible.

I recommend buying the book or at least following his facebook group which has lots of funny memes you can share with everyone. Read in addition to Relentless Forward Progress and you'll be invincible :)