weekend double


This post was going to be one of two alternatives - laid up with a cold for the weekend/week I spent a (full) day disassembling, reverse engineering and hacking a £20 Chinese MP3 player based on the ATJ2127 SoC (system on chip) with moderate success and thought a tech write up might make a change.

So option #1 was to be a detailed description of that little project, or option #2 a quick summary of the previous weekends running.

In the end I decided option #2 would be the more interesting read, since I hadn't completely succeeded in my mp3 project. Time for an overview of a weekend running two very different events, and with very different goals instead.

I had a place in the London marathon this year, but due to other priorities in the calendar wouldn't be trained and able to target a PB, so wasn't really sure what to go for.  Since I already had a slot, there wasn't any point in dropping out  - after all that wouldn't mean anyone else would be able to get a space instead, places are obviously not transferable and I wouldn't get a refund.... on the other hand it seems a shame to have a place in the London Marathon and not make the most of it in some way.
Good For Age

I needed to get in not just a hard run, but a long run, one idea was to just go for distance on marathon day, either running to or from the marathon as well as the race. However, this would have meant running proper-slow (relative to marathon race pace) and since I had been given a GFA (good for age) space, it just felt wrong..... second idea, run back to back races over the weekend.

The AAT events Fox Ultra is the day before, and given the focus this year is on endurance and recovery the idea was to run the Fox, then run London the following day. That way I'd still be able to race both, and put in a respectable performance at each.


The Fox Ultra has three sections in a loop around Godalming up and over the downs, and can be run as an ultra, marathon or half marathon...


We'd been talking about doing the Fox Ultra as a family team for some time, unfortunately the ultra and relay choices have an 18 year age limit, so the idea of running it as a team with Hugo wasn't an option - also running the 'official' marathon part of the race just didn't work logistically (each distance has a different start on a loop, and at the moment Hugo can't drive).
Looking at the course map, though, checking the distances and subtracing the half marathon distance from the end I worked out if I ran the first two legs, then I'd have run a marathon (* - this didn't quite work out, more later!), Cara could run leg 3 for a half marathon and Hugo could run the half marathon distance on his own.

So that was the plan, a double marathon weekend would be a good session and I should be able to still put in a respectable performance at each.

So, I'd have a 7am race start, Hugo a 10am start, and Cara at whatever time it took me to run the first two legs. Off early for a cycle over to Redhill, train over to Guildford and then cycle down to Godalming for the start. Logistically and timing wise, everything went to clockwork.... apart from getting briefly lost in the Godalming one way road system.

Signed on and felt a little glum, seeing most of the others preparing for the full run, with just a short list of relay runners on the start list. I wanted to do the full ultra.
Glancing around there's the usual look and mix of odd-balls and different kit/bags/styles at an ultra start like this -didn't recognise anyone I knew, and as always hard to see who's going to be fast.

Usual Rogues

Off at 7 in the middle of the pack, and trying to work out the pace of those around, the legs felt good and this is my sort of terrain, so....
Moved on up through the pack, and decided to drop the hammer from the get go and see what happened. Over the first few miles there was a little group of four of us shuffling places occasionally taking the lead for a bit of fun. Managed to keep this up to about mile 9 m but then there is a long long drag up over the North Downs, and then the level of fitness of the group around shone through, I just can't keep that power up over a long climb and dropped back watching the pack continue running upwards as I switch to "speed-hike" mode.
Oh well that was good fun, but with a gap forming as the terrain drops and then levels I'll never pick up enough speed to close up again.
At the midway point at Clandon (and relay swap point) slight confusion and mixed messages from the marshals "can I just go straight on", "no you need to go down there", pointing.... start running off down towards the station, then "no no no" you're going the wrong way. sigh. right. so I could have just kept running. oh well.

Quick call in to Cara to see how they're getting on and let them know where I am, standard "what the hell are you doing" conversation. Er. racing? Having fun? Hey I was in the lead for a bit! etc. I swear I can actually hear eyes roll.
Try to put a positive spin on it... I'm trying to get to the half marathon start as quickly as I can so you don't have to wait around? I think there's a tut.

Oh well. I'm feeling good and having fun, experimenting with hydration (little) and nutrition (none) given the hotter conditions and faster pace.
The terrain gets a bit easier over the next few miles and I crack on.... until mile 19.
I run past a couple on a bridge over the river coming from the right, I say hello. They completely ignore me. lovely.
I go straight on. After about 1/2 a mile, I wonder that there are no signs, although they've been pretty sparse on this section so far and this trail is just straight on, continuing up to a junction there's no marker. Ok. Turn around and head back.
Nearly back, pass the couple from earlier. say hello again. Ignored again. and back to a bridge.... just as I can see two runners closing in.
aaand there we are. The woman had been standing right in front of the direction arrow...
More annoyingly they'd been coming on the path from the direction of the route, so they *must* have *just* been passed by other runners, why on earth didn't they say "hey it's this way". some people are just weird.

Oh well. Sucks. but. Hammer down. 24 miles and I'm not sure exactly how much further... get to the A320 to cross, and it's crazy constant stream of traffic in both directions.. over a minute passes and I'm still standing waiting. I expect the runners behind to appear at any moment but I must have pulled out a decent gap by now because I'm still alone by the time I get a gap in the cars.

Then all of a sudden there's Worplesdon station, oh. hmm, that's only 24 and a bit miles. 3h10. Quick relay hand over and a hug and tell Cara to get moving, no pressure but I think she's in the Relay lead at the moment. :)

Quickly down a litre or so of fluids and back to the start to wait.
Back at the start there's no-one back yet, so I decide to make myself at home. There's a "beer kombi-van". and bean bags.

The first three Half Marathon runners get back, oh dear Hugo's going to be annoyed, and here he comes in fourth (1h43m). Muttering about the distance being wrong, as a default I assume this is because he's got lost somewhere, but he insists he didn't and he's just run 14.5 miles. Hmm, that's really not ideal and one hell of an error margin for what's announced as a half. Cara is not going to be happy.
Forest Grump

and we wait.

We clap and cheer, wander around a bit. see the first ultra runners getting back. bloody hell. that's an impressive result from the winner, Charlie Butcher. I thought he looked powerful when he pulled away off up the climb at 10 miles he must have just powered to the finish like that.

more waiting.

we help with an escaping awning.

eat some cake.

wait and clap a bit.

We play our "is that Cara in the distance" game, itemising possible matches or differences we see appearing on the horizon - "no wrong shoes" "no hat" "has a beard" etc.

and then here she comes! not looking particularly happy. we cheer, clap, run alongside. and done.

Cara has a similar distance on her watch 14.6miles (and many other runners had said the same as they'd arrived) and says she'd run out of water a few miles back but had thought she was close to the finish. (it is *very* hot by now)

That really is one hell of an error margin on a half marathon, certainly a trail race is going to be a little bit inexact, and if you're running an ultra distance you really don't care that much (NDW103 I'm looking at you), but when the race is advertised as a half you aim for that and you'd at the most expect a half mile or so at the very most.
Team Hewitt

Oh well.... apparently I'm lucky that Cara didn't read the message I'd sent earlier. ahem.



Right. Day 1. done. *still* drinking fluids, and rest and chill ready for tomorrow.


I get up early and wonder about running in, the weather forecast is looking pretty brutal though. Decide to get a train in from Sevenoaks and run over from Lewisham, that should give me loads of time and be a pretty relaxed start.... although the VLM is always exciting to go to.

Must Smile

Into the Red GFA pen, and feeling really chilled with the pressure really off. The legs are feeling good, I'm planning on running a steady sub 3:30 pace which I thought should be doable after yesterday, but any faster would potentially result in bonking badly or crashing pace.  A very different mindset and feel to last years sub 3hr PB run, jostling for position at the start and getting stressed. I just lie in the shade for a bit, then as the funnel fills up, potter over and wait.
.. and there's not much to add unfortunately!
Started off at a slightly quicker pace, partly to keep clear of getting crowded out, but also the start has a gentle drop off. Then backed off to 3:30 pace and held it, got to 1/2 way and wound the pace up a bit.
Over the second half started to see more and more runners weaving, being helped by others or attended to. Once or twice felt the effects of the heat coming on and drank a bit more, hunted for shade, and a couple of times dropped a few seconds off the pace.
Running a negative split is always a special feeling you just feel stronger and faster as you cruise through the field (VLM stats say I passed 2,174 runners in the 2nd half, most of that would have been the last few miles).

Finally up towards the palace, around the corner and belted down to the line. 3h23m.
Odd feeling. Ok I think I ran that well, solid pacing, and with a goal of 3:30 for the day, job done. Always that nagging doubt though, could I have gone harder? also the 'why run the day before' thoughts, clearly you'd have gone faster.... but I *know* I was nowhere near PB form, so even if I hadn't run, what would be the point?
Realise I'm thinking to myself in the third person and probably need food.


Time for home. Burger and shake on the train.

Food of Champions

Still. Another interesting and worthwhile experiment for lab specimen 'Runner Hewitt'.

Learning every run, and every race. Hopefully, if I keep going like this, I'll get the hang of this distance running at some point.


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