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Ultraman Blog

Ultraman Blog

Ultraman Blog
11 September 2013

ShortList’s Andrew Dickens is taking on one of the world’s toughest races: the Two Bays Trail Run in Australia. Follow his preparation, pain, humiliation and probable vomiting here, on his modestly-titled Ultraman blog.

Marathon Man 18/11/2013

So, in my first blog I mentioned that I'm doing this ultramarathon, even though I've never run a marathon. Well, that's all going to change on Sunday in the gorgeous Basque town of San Sebastian:

Not one to leave things to the last minute, this is my qualification race for Two Bays – two weeks before the cut off point. So, this week will be carb-loading and (almost) no drinking, as I need to finish in under four hours. I'm hoping, seeing as I did a 22-mile training run in 3h20m, that this is doable. Just as long as my dodgy knee holds up.

I'll write a report on it after the event – hopefully with good news – but for now I'd very much like to thank the race organisers and the Spanish Tourist Board for helping me out with flights, a place to stay and free entry to the race. I don't know what I would've done without them.


E-mail: [email protected]

Hallelujah! 15/10/2013

No, I haven't found religion. I've just had the best news of my preparations so far: I've been donated flights to Australia. And not just any old flights. No, siree. These are business class flights on Singapore Airlines – consistently rated as one of the world's best airlines. I've had grown adults weep with envy at my news.

Okay, so I'm a blagging journalist, but getting these flights is important for two reasons:

a) I can't afford flights to Australia, let alone business class ones.

b) It'll help enormously with my preparations. Not only is the food on this airline extremely good and extremely nutritious, but as I'll only land in Melbourne three days before the race, anything that will combat jet-lag is invaluable, and a flat bed will do just that. I find it nearly impossible to sleep in chairs and, having had DVT from a flight before, I'm at greater risk of clotting, and being horizontal helps with this.

Here are a few of the other benefits I'll be making the most of...

London Duathlon 17/09/2013

There are few things in my sporting life that have made me proud. A couple of cub scout league triumphs probably sums it up. However, this weekend I was genuinely proud after I finished the London Duathlon – about an hour after I finished. That's because this was the point when my dad, Eddie – aged 70 and a bit - crossed the finish line.

I'd done the duathlon last year and, despite my poor showing, my dad was somehow inspired to enter this time around. And, of course, that meant I had to, too.

Not that I minded; the duathlon is a great event, especially for anyone who, like me, fancies doing a multi-sport event, but doesn't fancy imbibing freezing cold pond water. It's run-bike-run, with a choice of distances. We chose the 10km-21km-5km distance, which is plenty (though I could probably enjoy the 10-42-5 distance).

Pumped up by DJs and a crowd willing to ignore some mixed weather, we patted each other on the back and set off together, before I trotted ahead, safe in the knowledge that my mum was tracking us both on the event's website.

After a comfy 10km and reasonable bike (I'd barely pedalled since last year), I shod myself for the final 5km. If you've ever gone from biking to running, you'll know exactly how I felt for the next couple of kilometres. It's like you're learning to walk again, just without anyone to catch you.

Getting back to the change area, I tried to track my dad on my phone, but was scuppered by a lack of signal (Vodafone, seriously, I was in London not the Sahara). Not to worry, though, as a couple of minutes later my dad appeared on his bike. I gave him some words of encouragement and my spare running shirt, then watched him toddle off for his 5km run.

Having killed time, I headed to the finish line, where I had a word with one of the volunteers handing out medals. As my dad crossed the line, I was given a medal to hang around his neck, which I did with a huge smile and hug. I was truly proud.

So, itch scratched, right? Not at all. My dad wants to do it again next year – along with my brother-in-law. Give it a few years and my nan will be taking part. She's 93, you know...

If you'd like to join us next year, you can sign up now:

Up hill and down dale – 8/9/2013

Yesterday I completed my first trail race – the Lakeland Trails Derwentwater 15km Trail Race in Keswick. It’s not Australia, the Lake District, but there was no better place to get my first taste of trail running.

I’d not had the best preparation; a virus had robbed me of three days’ training and I was still feeling rough as a badger’s behind when I arrived on race day. This hadn’t been helped by the NINE HOURS I’d driven on Friday night to get to the beautiful farmhouse I was staying at – Aikbank, near Kirkby Lonsdale (seriously, if you want some very splendid isolation, rent it out).

Looking around me, it was a mixed bag of runners, but I immediately clocked those who I wouldn’t be getting anywhere near – the breed of hardcore trail- and fell-runners that look as if they’ve been carved from the rocks they like to skip over. I put them out of my mind and concentrated on psyching out the middle-aged women.

The race itself was also a mixed bag; a collection of paths, bridges, single tracks, grass, loose rock (proper ankle-breakers) and bogs. Yes, bogs – shin-deep blends of mud and water. I’d been given some tips by top trail runner Andy Wilson before the race, and one was to look 20 metres ahead, plot your route and don’t look where your feet are landing (they should look after themselves), but this was harder than it sounds. For one, the stream of runners made it hard to look that far ahead; secondly, when you’re trying to work out which bit of grass doesn’t have any solid ground underneath it, you don’t want to wait until your feet have 'adjusted'.

Another tip from Andy was that, at some point, you need to walk. Some climbs are so steep that the effort spent and lactic levels reached aren’t worth it, because they’ll scupper the rest of the run. And boy was he right; I thought I’d need crampons at one point. I also use his technique – walking upright and using my glutes – as opposed to the received wisdom of placing your hands on your things and using them to push yourself up. Looking at the people using that technique struggling to breath, I think he’s right.

It probably sounds like I had a terrible time, but quite the opposite. I totally GOT trail racing. It was an exhilarating event – ten times more interesting and stimulating than a road race. After 8km of climbs – during which I did my best to take in the stunning scenery - the final 7km were a joyous hurtle downwards that left me with an almost worryingly ecstatic endorphin buzz for the rest of the evening. If only you could bottle it…

I also learnt a lot. I learnt that trail running is fun. I also learnt that I’ve got a long way to go. Two Bays is going to be four times the distance of Derwentwater and there’s no way I could do that now. Not only that, but looking down the results table, I can see that three 50-something women finished ahead of me. Now that's motivation.

My lovely Asics Fuji trail shoes, before and after

The Pain Begins – 24/8/2013

My first gym session with Steve sees me do a lot of core work, a lot of balance work using a Bosu ball (if anyone has one I can borrow, I’d love that), and a lot of lactate work on my legs. I think he likes to see me in agony, he swears that I’ll thank him when I’m climbing the hills in Melbourne. He’s probably right, but that doesn’t make my legs any less sore.

The next day, he sends me a three-week plan to get me started, taking into account social and sporting engagements and the fact that I’ve got a job that tends to trickle (or flood) into my evenings. This, apparently, is a gentle introduction.

Sun 25th – 45km bike

Mon 26th – 21km ‘half-marathon’

Tues 27th - ‘Rest Day’ - Swim / Yoga

Weds – Interval session for an hour – Run 5 mins ‘quick’, 2 mins ‘slow’ x 8

Thurs - Long steady run- recovery session. 40 min minimum.

Fri- Rest - Yoga

Sat – 1-hour Trail Run

Sun 1st - Long bike 3 hrs- Steady pace

Mon 2nd - Rest

Tues - 90-min steady run

Weds – Intervals / Spinning class – Lactate session

Thurs- Yoga or core session

Fri - Rest

Sat- 15km Derwentwater Trail Race

Sun – rest

Mon 9th - Yoga

Tues - Long 90-min run

Weds – 1k fast : 200m slow treadmill. X 10

Thurs - Core session. Find ice baths.

Fri - Goodwood

Sat - Goodwood

Sun - London Duathlon

Idiot - 23/8/2013

Idiocy is an accusation I’m familiar with, but one that, in recent weeks, has become more frequent; as have sympathetic looks, doubtful looks and the kind of looks I’d expect if I’d been seconded to ShortList’s Damascus office (there isn’t one - yet). The reason being a challenge I’ve set myself.

I am what you’d call a casual runner, a ‘jogger’. I’ve done a couple of half-marathons, but I only started running last year and, while my running is casual, my eating and drinking is semi-pro. In short, I’m more sot than Mobot.

However, next January I plan to take part in the Two Bays Trail Run. Two Bays? Trail? Sound like a picturesque trot through the countryside, doesn’t it? Not quite. The picturesque bit is true; the ‘trot’ bit not. This is a 35-mile trail run across the rough terrain of the Mornington Peninsula near Melbourne, incorporating 1,000ft rises, snakes and – because Australia is upside down – the 35-degree heat of the summer sun. If you think running a road marathon is tough, that‘s merely the qualification for Two Bays (and something I’ve never done).

So why am I doing this? Bravado. Many moons ago, my the woman I was dating told me she was planning to enter the race and, probably in an effort to impress, I offered to join her. The relationship ended, but not before I’d pitched the idea to my editor and lined up a load of professional help. And thus, it’s too bloody late to get out of it.

So that’s the what and why; the ‘how’ will be appearing on this blog over the next four months. But first, some thanks to people who have already pledged to help.

Team Dickens

Steve Halsall – fitness guru and my coach/mentor/torturer for the duration. He’s the fittest man I know, and will hopefully turn me into the fittest me I know.

Singapore Airlines – flying to the other side of the world is not the best pre-race preparation, but if anyone’s going to get me there in top shape, it’s these guys, who have donated me a business class seat so that I can eat and sleep well before landing in Melbourne.

Land Rover - who, quite wonderfully, have loaned me a beautiful Freelander 2 so that I can get to trail races around the country (these are not places with good public transport links). It's big, robust, spacious, luxurious and, most importantly, has a stonking Meridian stereo to get me pumped up pre-race.

Asics – I’m going to be doing a LOT of running, of various sorts, and therefore will need a lot of shoes. The pride of Japan have supplied me with three pairs, including some specialist trail shoes, plus clothing.

Fitness First – I’m not normally a gym user, but there are certain exercises I’m not going to be able to do on the streets of London (without getting arrested). Thankfully, Fitness First have given me access to their swanky facilities – including the exclusive Black Label gyms – for the duration of my training.

For Goodness Shakes / Nectar – training is all about recovery, so I’m grateful for the numerous bottles and sachets of protein shakes they’ve sent me, not to mention the ‘turbo-boosting’ energy gels from Nectar.

Garmin – who have issued me with a Forerunner 610 so that I can track every inch of my training and store it on the Garmin Connect site and therefore blind you with stats.

Yotopia - yoga may seem like sitting down and having a stretch to many of you, but I know better - it's hard - and I've already been told by Steve that it'll be key to my training, so a HUGE thanks to Lisa for donating some free classes at her top notch Covent Garden-based studio.

Two Bays – Last, but not least, I have to thank the organisers - in particular race director Rohan Day, who has let me enter the race in exchange for licence to issue mild pom-bashing abuse via email.

I'll also be tweeting from my personal account - @andrewdickens - with the hashtag #ultraman