Friday, 28 October 2011

The Running Man: Days 37 & 38!

Day 37: Wednesday 26th October  "Once again the forecasters got it right and we had a lovely run in the autumn sunshine.  We did get caught in a couple of heavy showers but we survived.
I had no support runners today, though Peter Macgill accompanied me across the Tamar Bridge, and Nicky and Sally accompanied me at various times up some of the hills.
Made really good time initially as we ran downhill into Plymouth.  The downhill was so inviting that I did not do my usual warm up of miles of walking.  The team was terrific in seeing me through the busy streets of Plymouth.  We had the odd hiccup and misdirection but nothing that delayed us to any great degree.  Somewhere in all of this was a mightly climb with a gradient of 17+ degrees - a hill that seemed to go on forever.  I think it is on the hills in particular that the Nordic poles are such a boon, helping me power along.
After Plymouth, the Tamar and Saltash, we moved off the cycle tracks and pavements into a rural environment such as we had experienced in the days before in Devon.  Doc tells us that in Cornwall we are of course in another country - the only thing missing being the passport controls at the border. (We are down to our last 4 ordinance survey maps out of large box full).
Usually when i am running, I complete the second half quicker than the first.  Not so today,  when both took something in the order of three hours, about which I was mildly disappointed.  I put it down to the long hills in the second half of the run, with particular reference to the nasty little creature coming out of Notter Bridge.  I had just passed Doc and his cafe/campervan and had been handed one of his super rolls but I quickly handed it back throught the Volvo window when I saw what was ahead of me.  I reclaimed it when I got to the top of the hill.  
At the end of the day, we fininshed down another country lane where the encampment we set up for the finishing line caused a deal of consternation for the local domestic traffic but little problem for the TNT wagon that simply folded in its wing mirrors and went sailing by with an inch to spare advising the troops that I was hard on his heels.
After that, it was into the campervan and back to Liskeard Premier Inn and our experience here of staff and food is far better than we have recently received. 
Alan Le Poidevin re-joined us late this afternoon, so for the last few days we are now a team of 6.
I had a long interview with BBC Radio Guernsey after today's run and that should hit the airwaves tomorrow around lunchtime.
Another food parcel has been received for which many thanks Amanda.
Thank you for your cards, emails, texts, tweets and facebook things.  All are very much appreciated.  Sorry I am not able to respond to you individually at present.
For those of you who have only recently received the daily updates, the older ones are on the website  Please follow the links 'Daily Updates' on the left hand side, if you have time.  A satellite tracker also follows me live on the website.
best wishes

Day 38: Thursday 27th October  "After our experiences on Dartmoor we were better prepared for tackling the wet weather elements that we experienced today. Though it was very wet, it was not cold or windy.  I started out wearing a base layer longsleeved top and leggings, shorts, T shirt, running top, showerproof top, waterproof trousers, serious long waterproof coat with hood, cap underneath the hood, and gloves. To ensure a better fit with the shoes, we have Doc’s taping of the toes and other support strapping to insole and heels along with two pairs of socks.  Thus prepared we set out for a wet morning’s running. And it really was very wet for the first 15 miles, with drains overflowing in the roads and some hug puddles forming minor lakes that we have to make our way through.

Also the route today took us on to some very busy ‘B’ roads.  This was a complete surprise after the preparation work done the previous evening which tries to avoid the sorts of problems this throws up.  It has become apparent that some of these roads are used as ‘rat runs’ and they are too dangerous to run on.  As a consequence today I got into the back up car and we motored for half a mile to safety, which is why those of you following the run on Endomondo will see that we have gone further than usual today …  we added the mileage whilst I was in the car to the end of the run.

Another serious issue today was that of the safety of the campervan.  The ordinance survey maps are terrific in the amount of detail they give apart from advising on precise road widths.  Doc, Alan and Peter found themselves down a little Cornish lane on a steep gradient with no way out but forward and with literally millimetres to spare they made it.  Very stressful for all concerned.

Today’s food and water intake was pretty much as needed.  A banana after an hour and a half, half an oat and date slice as a reward after a tough hill about 15 minutes later, the other half in the car after fleeing the B road, 2 small ham and tomato rolls after about 3 ½ hours – one eaten on the road and the other eaten during a pit stop to change sodden shoes and socks.  I had an energy bar about half an hour from the finish and a banana and another oat and date bar when I finished.  I drank 2 litres of electrolyte drink during the run, but it would appear that this was still not enough.  When Doc checked my blood pressure after the run, it was unusually low and we put this down to a loss of salt due to excess perspiration from wearing the well-sealed waterproofs.  Consequently I have been given another litre of electrolyte drink to finish by the morning.

This evening we were reviewing the routes for the last 2 days.  Hard to believe that we are so close to completion. 

Best wishes


Wednesday, 26 October 2011

40 Marathons in 40 Days: Days 34-36...

Day 34: Sunday 23rd October  "Once again it was the foot clinic with Dr Andrews at 7am.  Two new blisters developed yesterday caused by wearing shoes that are too big now that there is less bandaging required for the protection of the toes.  Unfortunately we cannot use the original shoes as they are too tight, so we have reverted to the Innovate despite the lack of arch support.  Doc gave me more arch support today and when he has finished with me there is a lot more white tape visible than foot.  In fact he started a new roll today and said he had used 10 metres of zinc oxide tape to date on the toes alone.
Today was a really hard day.  Running with so much company yesterday was great, but it really took it out of me.  Today was very hilly through and beyond Exeter and it was seriously hard work. 
Heather ran with me from the start, but she had a problematic hip and stopped after 5 miles.  Peter joined me at that point and ran with me for the next 12 miles.  Then I asked him to leave me but rejoin me for the last 4 miles.  I needed to be on my own to concentrate on the hills because sometimes all you can do is simply grind them out by thinking about your breathing and your posture. Nicky also worked some hills towards the end specifically to help with the breathing a posture.  She has to be careful because when she was with us last time she did too much and she has a suspect knee.
Peter's run was more than we expected him to do and we hope he is fit and well in the morning.
As ever, the help and support of the team, including Dick McIntosh and others back at base, makes the whole thing possible.  Regular water and food intake is essential and at the end of each day we know exactly where we are with calorific and liquid consumed.
My weight is consistent every morning at 78kgs, as is my blood pressure and temperature. Because I am using Nordic walking poles, it is really helping my balance, helps me power up the hills and I carry them when i am running because they are so light and and they help with my posture ... too bad they can't mend the feet too!
Today's weather was good - cloudy to start but brightened up and becase quite warm - about 20C at times.  The forecast for tomorrow is grim with potential flooding in this area and high winds expected.
Pleased to be able to say today that it is the last Sunday on which I will be doing a marathon.  This time next week I expect to be driving to Portsmouth to get the boat home.  A few tough days ahead across the moors before that.
Best wishes, Stuart"

Day 35: Monday 24th October  "Well I don’t know about you, but I thought with 6 days to go it would all be plain sailing.  Wrong!

Today was one of unremitting toughness with the weatherforcaster getting it absolutely right when he said there would be high winds and heavy rain in the area with the possibility of flooding.  We had it all.

We had the usual sort of start with Nicky working on my feet and then Doc applying tape to the toes and strapping to the instep of one foot and the heel of the other.  While all this was going on I had a bowl of porridge with honey and fruit and wrote up my diary of the previous day’s events.

We drove to the start at Crockenwell and Peter and I set off with waterproof trousers and tops but by mile 10 we were soaking.  By mile 12 we were starting to get quite cold and by mile 14 we decided that we had to stop for a complete change of clothes and to warm up.  Because the roads on today’s route were so narrow, Doc did not follow us on to the routed this morning.  He went off to reorganise our accommodation as we had a very disappointing experience at the restaurant adjoining the Premier Inn Exeter last night.  It was a shame since it had been reasonably good the evening before.

When we called Doc for backup, we were unable to get a mobile signal so headed for the nearest pub according to the map, which was about 2 miles away and had a great welcome at the Kestor Inn in Manaton. We rang Doc from there – fortunately he had a signal – and then had hot drinks and a cream tea generously provided by the Inn, so we put the cost in the donations pot.

We had already had a route problem as we were diverted off the agreed route by Sally and Nicky so they could pick up something for our lunch in Chagford.  They misread one turning on the way out (signposted to somewhere not on their map) and we found ourselves running back into Chagford from a different direction.  Sally and Nicky told us to turn around and run back they way we had come (up a big hill) whilst they unsuccessfully asked for directions from locals who appeared not to know where they were.  In the process, their map was soaked and almost disintegrated and had be dried out on the dashboard.

When we left the Kestor Inn, Peter retired to being a passenger, but he lent me his waterproof trousers which were drier than mine, and I headed off back into the miserable wet with the Volvo close behind.  As we re-started at Manaton which was not on our original route, we lost the protection of the valleys and were out on the exposed moor, which was appalling – windy and misty with driving horizontal rain. 

We met up with Doc again on the moor.  At one point the Nicky told me to run in front of the car, which was very difficult.  I did not realise at the time that this was because even in my high visibility gear I could only be seen from about 20 feet away.

I just had to knuckle down and get on with it.  I had a great sense of satisfaction at the end, but it was a very tough day.

We got back to our new accommodation at the Sportsmans Inn in Ivybridge, where the place looks like a Chinese Laundry with clothes drying all over the place, including the radiators in the corridors.

Tonight’s meal was great and we are pleased not to have to pack up tomorrow morning as we are here for 2 nights.  We have just heard driving rain outside and hope it will all pass over by the morning.

Best wishes, Stuart"

Day 36: Tuesday 25th October  "The weather looked promising this morning.  A beautiful autumn morning, very clear and fresh rather than cold, although we did know that showers were forecast.

Despite the lovely weather, I felt a bit leaden this morning. I was unsure as to whether that was a residue of yesterday’s efforts or from having eaten a delicious but late breakfast at the Sportmans Inn in Ivybridge.

The first five miles was uphill again so I walked.  I used my Nordic walking poles.  I was quickly warm and cast off the extra clothes I wear at the start.  Running was difficult because of the gradients of the hills – very steep up and down.  Up to this point we have been fortunate in that we have had a steep gradient going up and a gentle descent making running an easy option, but not so today. 

After about 6 miles Nicky joined me on the bike, Peter being hors de combat and hoping to join in the exercise tomorrow.  Despite pumping up the tyres of the bike, the front wheel must have a slow puncture because shortly after we had to leave doc because of narrow lanes, it became clear that it could not be ridden and Nicky had to push the bike for a couple of miles tackling the hills on the way and it took her an hour before she was reunited with the campervan.

I think I have said before that we look at the route each evening and plan the following day’s run.  Despite this it is often the case that we have to alter things depending on the real conditions as we meet them when we are running.  This proved to be the case today. An innocent little road that appeared to be quite minor proved to be very busy and dangerous for running on and we had to change our plans.  This impacts on what we do because it means that we are left with little option but to use the tiniest of roads that make access for the campervan virtually impossible.  The back up car and team are always about but linking up with the camper is reduced to perhaps two or three times during the day. 

Shortly after the midway point of the run it started to rain and the wet weather gear was quickly reintroduced!  It was the normal wet weather gear – not the serious fleece lined clothing I had to wear yesterday.  For the next 5 or 6 miles the weather closed in and I got pretty wet, but it eased over the home straight and I just kept going as quickly as I could to stop myself getting cold as I knew I was on the verge of this happening.

But the real killer today was the steep hills.  Over the last 5 or 6 miles when I am already quite tired, the hills down into and up out of  Ledstone and Loddiswell were difficult.  Nicky rejoined us between the 2 villages and accompanied me up the hill out of Loddiswell as she could see I had lost the rhythm of my breathing and my stride pattern.

Anyway, I got over the finishing line in something around 6 hours 40 minutes which we thought was fairly creditable bearing in mind today’s conditions and terrain.

We are spending a second night in the Sportmans Inn in Ivybridge where Sally and I have been upgraded to the master suite which has a bath .. last night I had to forego my cold bath.  Tonight I was so cold the doctor advised against it and I had a fabulous long, deep hot bath. 

The folk at the hotel are hugely hospitable.  The food is great in quality and quantity, with a very generous host who in his earlier years has done Lands End to John O’Groats by bike.

Thank you to everyone who has sent us messages to which I am sorry we do not have sufficient time to reply.  I will be in touch in the weeks to come.  Apologies to those friends who were inconvenienced by our changes of route and hotels.  From tomorrow, we are sticking to the scheduled hotels though for the reasons indicated, the route may change daily.

Best wishes, Stuart"

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Running Man: Days 29-33 (The End is Now in Sight..!)

Day 29: Tuesday  "Today we started off by going down the Severn Way from Tewkesbury and then on to the Gloucester / Somerset Canal.  We went through the centre of Gloucester passed Gloucester Cathedral and Gloucester rugby club.  The Cathedral and the Rugby Club are both old and impressive and the centre of Gloucester is new and impressive.  I did not realise that Gloucester docks were such an important feature of the old city.

The Severn Way was slow, like the majority of the other off road tracks we have used.  There were no made-up tracks and the path went over styles and through woods - very scenic but very hard work.  Today's marathon was consequently slow taking 6 hours 50 minutes.  On these off-road tracks you can't get a rhythm going to your running or walking.

Guthrie cycled with me all day.  It was glorious weather and the scenery was fantastic.  You could see across the Severn to the Welsh hills.

I had a visit from my friend Barry Griffin from Guernsey along the route, and stopped for 10 minutes to chat with him.  Lovely to see him.

We finished just south of Gloucester on the canal, just short of Sharpness which was our scheduled stopping point.

We spent the evening in the good company of Tony Richards, the Regional Co-Ordinator of the Wooden Spoon and he is going to walk a few miles with me tomorrow which I am looking forward to.

Best wishes

Day 30: Wednesday  "The big news today is that injury unfortunately struck again today, but Doc says it is nothing that will stop me progressing - just a painful plantar fascia problem under the arch of my left foot.

Tony Richards of Wooden Spoon joined us from the start of the route today.  We walked for 6 miles and then he cycled for a further 3.  It was really good to see him and to spend a couple of hours with him catching up on news.  The weather was great at the start and then w were caught in a shower and after that it dried up and there was a mixture of clouds and sun.

The route was not on the Severn Way as we had originally intended but on the B roads close by it.  Again we were running/walking though some very picturesque countryside.

Guthrie took over at the 9 mile mark and cycled the rest of the way with me. At the 9 mile mark I was aware of a bit of a foot problem.  At 18 miles it had become pretty painful so I stopped for Doc to have a look at it. 

Basically, the Innovate shoes I have been wearing (these were the ones I bought in Fort William) have insufficient arch support.  So I have reverted to the Mizuno shoes  I bought in Glasgow.  Unfortunately both these pairs of shoes were bought under extreme duress in that I needed a pair of shoes there and then in order to be able to continue, and they were the only ones available at the time that did the job I needed which was to give sufficient room for my toes.  Fundamentally the shoes are too big for me, other than in the toes, where they did accommodate the swollen, taped toes.  The swelling is now improving I'm pleased to say.  The size of the shoes caused the big blisters on the insides of my heels.

My feet did feel better after changing shoes at the 18 mile point, and running is more comfortable for me than walking at present.  I finished the 26 miles today in 7 hours.

When we stopped at the 18 mile mark, Jannine noticed that the front tyres on the Volvo were completely bald, so had to immediately go into Bristol to get that sorted out.

Tonight we are at the Premier Inn again.  After the generosity of Tewkesbury, we had one free meal last night in Stroud and tonight in Portishead we were given 25% off the bill.  Not as generous as our friends in Tewkesbury but it all counts!

So we have done Day 30 - 3/4 of the days, but only 29 marathons because of the one I missed from Loch Lomond to Milngavie.

Doc and Guthrie are working on my foot and I hope with the different shoes it will improve. 

Best wishes

Day 31: Thursday  "It is amazing how different two consecutive days' running can be.  Yesterday after after I developed my foot problem, it was really hard work.  Today it was a lot easier, I am delighted to report.

Doc strapped the bridge of my left foot, with support underneath, to help the plantar fascia problem.  He also strapped my right ankle.  A combination of that, the ice applied to my foot last night and changing my running shoes has all helped.

We started out at Portishead today then headed south towards the Mendips.  It was bright and clear but very chilly at only 5C on the start line.  Guthrie ran with me initially, and then picked up the bike. We found an easy route through the hills, although we still reached a sufficient height to get a great view over the plain towards Cheddar.   I had 6 miles running on my own and then Guthrie cycled with me whilst I ran the last 3 miles .  We have finished to the south east of Weston-Super-Mare.  It was nice weather all day and I completed today's marathon in the better time of 6 hours 5 minutes.

Tonight we are at the Premier Inn in Bridgwater.  Jannine and Paul's daughter Claire joined us for dinner this evening and it was nice to meet her.  Paul has been doing a terrific job handing out our publicity fliers to anyone passing by.  We were given a 25% discount on dinner again this evening.  Still not as good at the Premier Inn at Tewkesbury ....

I am hoping to have friends and relatives joining me over the next couple of days.  If you know of anyone who might like to run/walk/cycle with me along the remainder of the route, please let them know about the challenge.  All the details are on the website - address below.  It is always lovely to see new faces.  Only just over a week left so not long to take advantage of the opportunity!

Best wishes

Day 32: Friday  "Today's run started near Bridgwater .  Weather lovely again, sunny at first but it clouded over a bit later.

Guthrie ran with me to start with.  He did about 10 miles and then swapped to cycling.  It was so warm in fact that he wore his shorts.  At one point in the run the temperature got up to 20C.

Now that we are away from the canal system, we are pretty much sticking to our original route as published on our website, running along minor roads as much as possible.  Again it was really picturesque today.  The vistas from some of the high points of land are terrific, the weather has been super, the autumn colours are coming out and we pass through little villages with village greens, and lovely local stone and it has been a fabulous experience.

There was one very big hill today it was about a mile long and very steep.  I think I am getting quite good at hills now and I really attack them.

After about 12 miles a local runner joined us.  He was Mike Griffiths, a butcher, who happened to be out running and spotted us.  He did a few miles with us and it was very nice to meet someone new.

Chris Griffiths (of Two Degrees North, in Guernsey), a member of my organising committee and his wife met us about 5 miles before the finish and Chris ran the last 5 miles with me.  The very kindly brought with them the Guernsey Press, some Guernsey Fudge and some Guernsey Gauche in case I was getting homesick from being away for so long.  Only just over a week to go ...

Today's time was 6 hours and 20 minutes.  I was a bit disappointed as I had done a better time yesterday, but after about 20 miles today I was really exhausted.  I know exactly why that was and it was down to eating some of the wrong foods.  It is very tempting to think you can eat what you like when you are burning so many calories but you have to be sensible and eat healthily otherwise your energy is sapped.

This evening we are staying at the home of Tony Richards from Wooden Spoon and his wife Judith.  They are terrific hosts and it is lovely to be in a home rather than a hotel.

We could not get the campervan parked at Tony and Judith's so it is a couple of hundred yards away in a pub carpark.   As Doc was organising that I was left to take the dressings off my feet which Doc usually does as part of the after-run routine.  By the time he came back to the house I was already soaking my legs in the cold bath so it was too late for my temperature and blood pressure post-run to be taken.  However, generally my weight continues to be consistent, as do my temperature and blood pressure. 

Eight guys from Garenne Group from Guernsey are joining me tomorrow; 3 to run a whole marathon, 4 to do a half marathon, and one to do 1/4.  Doc's wife Heather  - who ran several times with me in Scotland all that time ago in week 1, including a whole marathon  - and my nephew Andrew also hope to be join us, so it should be a very sociable day.

Tony and I went to find the Garenne Group guys this evening.  We knew they were staying at the Premier Inn in Taunton.  We found out that there are three Premier Inns in Taunton and we went to their one last, and they had not yet arrived.  We caught up with them by phone later and have agreed our rendezvous for tomorrow.

Tonight was our last evening with Paul, Jannine and Guthrie.  They have all been super - helpful and willing to pitch in with whatever needed doing - and I greatly appreciate their support. 

Best wishes

Day 33: Saturday  "This morning we left Tony and Judith Richard's house after a lovely stay to go and meet up with our fellow runners from Garenne Group, and also Heather Andrews and Andrew Hardie ran with me today.
We met at the Premier Inn, Taunton, and went to the start line in Stoke St Mary.  It was another lovely morning, but cold.  I started out with extra trousers, fleece, hat and gloves on.
We started off with 3 runners from Garenne, Andrew Hardie and Heather, and it just seemed to be uphill for miles.  I rather lost count of where it evened out.  Despite this we still managed good time and we were close to a six hour 15 minute pace at the half way mark, where we picked up 4 more from Garenne.  Every uphill has the bonus of having a downhill, but not necessarily on the same day, though today it worked in our favour.
We seemed to cross a plateau at which point Andy Hall joined us for the last 10 miles.  His fresh legs injected some pace, and consequently we made better time in the second half.
Doc did his best to feed the 5,000 and succeeded.  Paul Birtwistle was manning the route, directions, water station, refuelling of personnel, and photographs - normally jobs for a team of 4 - as Jannine and Guthrie had gone to the airport for Guthrie to fly home to Guernsey and to collect Nicky, Peter and Sally who joined for the last week to Lands End.  They all arrived at Broadhembury, about 3 miles from the end, where they had a quick alfresco lunch outside the Post Office in the pretty village centre, whilst waiting for us to appear.
Richard from Garenne and I were not popular for picking up the pace near the end, but it meant we made the fantastic time of 5 hours 48 minutes.  We finished outside the pub in Payhembury.  Sadly it was closed and remained closed despite the keen interest from the thirsty runners!
Unfortunately my schedule means that I cannot hang about at the end of a run as I need my feet unwrapping, a cold bath, then a hot shower and the tender ministrations of a good sports therapist to ease aching limbs and make sure I can move tomorrow.
We had to say goodbye to Paul and Jannine there, and to Andrew Hardie and the Garenne boys.  The guys were good company and they have done a great job in raising considerable funds for the cause.
Tonight we are staying at the Premier Inn Exeter, Countess Wear.  I had a surprise visit from Celia and Tony Meadley, who are Scottish dancing chums from Charmouth, with whom we usually meet up in Brittany when we go to the annual Scottish Country Dancing Ball in St Quay Perros.
Celia brought me some delicious homemade healthy oat and date slices all beautifully individually wrapped so I can take them on the road.  Please don't tell the others else they will all be wanting some!
Tony and Celia were able to stay for dinner and we had a very convivial evening at the adjoining Beefeater Grill - great steaks!
The Premier Inn gave us complimentary desserts and coffee today.  We are very excited about the luxury of staying in the same place for 2 nights running so that we don't have to pack up when we leave for the run tomorrow.  Also our room has radiators and a heated towel rail.  So useful when you have kit to wash and dry.
Tomorrow we are into our last week.  Exhausted this evening.  Off to bed now.
best wishes