Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Monarchs Way 2019 Day 7

This is the one when one of the runners decides to run a local 5 whilst in the race! Yes it really did happen!

The front and back of the field are still pretty spread out with John Stocker, Bob Wild and Jon Rowles all storming off in front and Ellen and Peter a little way behind but still ahead of last years pace by half a day plus.

It's incredible how much faster they are this year, as the trail markings improve and the race route gps track gets redined every year the speed improves. Runners also learn from the blogs and posts from previous runners and attempts.
As knowledge improves they get faster and strategies improve.

All the runners are doing great and they are in a routine now of come in and either go to sleep and eat when awake or eat now and sleep and wake and eat and sort feet before leaving.

Most of them still have a sense of humour and are still having fun and cracking jokes. Some feet are showing signs of determination now and it's really about how we can manage them to ensure they don't fall apart too much and ruin the race for the runner. Really bad feet or another injury could end a race quickly.

All are through Bristol at varying times today with the leaders very early and the later runners into the evening and Peter 1st thing the following morning.

So as Peter was walking through Bristol early in the morning he sees lots of runners walking around heading off to the town centre.
Apparently there is a lica City Sunrise 5k on this morning and it has just started. 

So Peter decides to rock up the the Sunrise city 5k in Bristol and pay his £20 for entry on the day and jog out a 28:47 5k race before cracking back on with his Monarchs Way. Epic stuff.

He even has the medal and t shirt to prove it....


Sunday, 26 May 2019

Monarchs Way 2019 Day 6

The day's are starting to blur a bit now, not just for the runners either.

The runners have all had a great day and are strung out over around 50 miles or so now, from the Codrington CP (6) through towards Nettwood Farm where runners could again get a shower. Nettwood Farm was also the 315 mile mark so the runners were now just over half way.

All the runners were in good spirits and apart from expected aches and pain and a few fun blisters most were in pretty good nick.

The race crew have now been on the road for 6 days too, snatching sleep in 2-3 hour sections just like the runners. Between sessions of fixing feet, putting up tents and cooking. Then taking it all apart again and starting at the next location. It's a very small team consisting of me, Bruce and Maxine.
It's interesting and there is a lot to learn as well as the fact it's rewarding helping the runners to get as far as they can or if possible to the finish.

This means cooking copious amounts of beans, sausages, pasta and rice or any combination of all of those, all while endlessly watching trackers or catching up on sleep.

The runners have been smashing in food not just at the Checkpoints but on the route as well, depending on if they have gone through areas with shops or takeaways that are open at the right time.

I think John Stocker has missed every opening time along the course and been resigned to licking a few cereal bars and whatever he finds at the bottom of his bag.
When he does get into the CP he usually smashing in a bowl of rice and tinned Chilli con Carne and 2 porridge pots when he awakes and leaves. Washed down with Tea with 2 Sugars.

Ellen Cottom is all about the Rice and Butter at the Checkpoint washed down with a cup of hot chocolate. The rice and butter again in the morning/ leaving time after a sleep. After CP 6 she has progressed to double portions of rice and butter. She has also scoffed the odd burger or bacon butty on the trail.

Jonathan Rowles is not eating anything on arrival to the CP but scoffing a massive bowl of pasta and sauce with cooked sausage. Then washed down with a mug of coffee and whatever he can find on the trail as well as supplies from his pack.

Bob Wild, well where do we start? If it's not nailed down he will eat it, twice with butter on it! He is eating a big bowl of pasta or similar food and then will smash in 2 big bowls of Pasta leaving the CP washed down with 2-4 cups of coffee and a flask of Hot Soup to go. He can then be seen on facebook eating everything he can get his hands on.

Peter Bengtsson is also trying to eat his way round Britain with everything from ice cream to full breakfast's in strangers houses! Yes you read that correctly!
Some strangers outside a farmhouse took pity on him when he looked like he was tired and struggling and they took him to their house and sorted him out with a slap up breakfast!
It's great to see generosity like that.
In the Checkpoints he is eating pasta and drinking coffee mostly when not staring into his bottomless bag for no particular reason.

The weather is still being kind to us and there has bee no rain yet but it is scheduled for Monday/Tuesday. That should make it fun.


Ft Long or 6in?



Cheese on everything

You're second burger Ma'am

The poshest Lunch I have ever seen

Nice Pizza

Ye Peter Really did get invited to breakfast!
Can I order a Pizza?

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Monarchs Way 2019 Day 5

Day 5, doesn't time fly when you are having fun.......... Said no runner in this race ever!

Today saw the majority of runners between leg 5 and 6 which is heading towards Stratford upon Avon racecourse campsite CP which is posh and has showers and toilets! Proper plumbed in ones! And then onto Chedworth Roman Villas CP.

Runners will have covered a total of up to 226 miles so far in these 5 days and might be feeling a bit tired now.......

On the plus side it's around this day that they resign themselves to their now shitty life of run/walk and eat and sleep in a 1 star CP!

The route is stunning and they do take time to smell and see the summer flowers. But they are also focused and wanting to cover enough miles as quickly as they can without burning out and trashing their feet. Doing that with enough buffer for the real hard sections to come where that buffer will be eaten up quicker than Bob Wild will eat a Posh Salad is hard. 

Today was a sad day as we lost Victoria at the end of the day, she is one tough cookie. She pushed as hard as she could but was just too tired on the night sections and needed a little more experience running at night to be comfortable with the long nights. She is very fit and tough and capable physically, with a little more experience she will be able to crack it. 
Hopefully she will come back.
She should be proud of what she did.

That leaves 5 out there. 

Essentially shaken out as:

John Stocker - determined physically and mentally strong and driven hard by his determination. Leading at the moment and faster and stronger than last year. Feet holding up well so far this year.

Bob Wild - very much a wild card (pun intended) and I have seen him be determined on the Thames Ring 250 and he is steady and stoic and relentless in his consistency, mostly eating his way round fuelling with anything he can purchase or we can make him. He should be fat but he is wafer thin!

Jonathan Rowles - The quiet dark horse of the event. I have seen him succumb to the sleep monsters at Thames Ring and this race last year. He has gone away and worked really hard and I even wrote some coaching plans for him which he took on board. He is really doing well so far with better sleep and Navigation. He has a few minor niggles to keep on top of but he is way ahead of last years pace.

Ellen Cottom - One tough SOB as they say in the good ol' US of A.
She got so close to the finish last year she could smell the fish and chips, or maybe that was 12 days of sweat! Who knows.
She has a plan and is executing it perfectly so far and like Jon is miles ahead of last years pace. She is determined and strong.

Peter Bengtsson - The silent comedy genius. If there is an adventure to be had on course of funny happenstance it will happen to Peter.
He has a Swedish sense of humour which is good as he is from Sweden! He has gone for the smart look this year in honour of Chris Yeo who finished last year dressed immaculately all the way through. Again he is ahead of his time last year despite a few hours lost due to feeling ill during the heat of the day and having an extended sleep in the woods overnight.

As we head towards the 300 mile mark in the next day or two we will start to see the real event emerge. 
A proper blood and guts fight by 5 strong runners to push beyond the ordinary and even slightly extraordinary of regular ultra distances. 

They will have to dig deep and nothing is given or guaranteed. The route and distance does not care and will smack you with a hard day as easily as reward you with stunning views and stories.

Those eyes..... 

Well it is a race... 

WTF am I doing?

Race, what race? 

Where did all this stuff come from? 

Why don't my legs work. 

Fine I give up, I will sleep like this! 

Friday, 24 May 2019

Monarchs Way 2019 Day 4

So day 4, well in summary some epic running takes place and some food is eaten!

But its a little more complicated than that.
The field is starting to spread out again and the leader, 
John is out in front and heading towards CP5 (Chedworth Villa) in good shape and pushing hard but is in much better shape than last year. He is managing his feet better and testing more often. This is meaning he is fresher and stronger when he is moving.

Bob, Ellen and Jonathan Rowles are putting in great time and only Vic is a little slower at the back but in great spirits. She is a tough woman and has had a very steep learning curve this week with long distance stuff. Especially night running and bivvying out!

Bob continues to run well and walk even better, he seems to be stopping plenty of times each day to top up food and generally have a party or some sort of picnic! His strategy of good sleep and eating plenty on the route is paying off with a good performance and excellent progress as he too powers through CP4 onto CP5 

Jonathan Rowles is having a great run and almost a full day ahead of his previous pace. He is resting more than last year and getting good sleep and looking after his feet. A strong performance this year. He is mot far behind the first two. 

Ellen is her usual tough woman, focused and determined and keeping herself well inside the cut offs and building a big cushion of time so she can slow down or have a bad day on occasion! She has a plan and knows how to stick to it and is executing it perfectly. She powers through Stratford and on towards Chedworth. 

Peter is on his usual holidays and as such seems to take his time when sorting his kit out and making decisions, to be fair it's faster than last year by some margin and he is having his usual adventure. 

The weather has played a massive part in this list of strong performances, it's been warm and sunny mostly and without this weather window we would have seen much tougher going than we have. 

It's still a long way and the race has not really started to bite yet. The hardest legs are to come. 


The magical shoe tree of Stratford! 

A day at the races 

Smile for the camera! 

Vic toughing it out at Pepper Wood

Peter has a new friend 

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Monarchs Way 2019 Day 3

And so the routine sets in!

The runners are now into their 3rd day and the enormous task ahead of them is now becoming clear, they are starting the third day and are either hitting or have surpassed 100 miles and are heading for nearly 140 miles by the end of today. For one or two this is the furthest non stop distance they will have ever travelled on an event. Its not a distance to be sniffed at but its only a 5th of the total distance!

The mental battle this early into the race is to know you have come a very long way in 2-3 days but also to know the task ahead is still an impossible imagination at the moment.
The runners focus on the next checkpoint or some milestone on the way, maybe even listen to an audio book or some cheesy music to occupy their mind rather than think about the massive undertaking in front of them.

I have heard John Stocker listens to Kate Bush songs on repeat! 

So far the weather has been kind, chilly at night but at least warm and dry during the day.

How do you get your head around running 615 miles to just be able to say that you did it!

Most people even runners do not get it on these type of things. It's longer and tougher than most other events of similar distance.

Today the spread got spreadier and everyone but Vic went through CP 3 at Waseley Country Park in good shape. This is the first CP where JOHN Stocker took a sleep! It's at 134 miles or thereabouts. The route gets a bit hillier from here on the next section.

All took on few hours sleep here and then headed off.  John Stocker tried to seduce me with his (Leanne) eyes! 

John had been having dramas with his iphone and had managed to lock himself out of the device and we had to reboot it and sync it. 

This meant singing out loud for a bit and we are glad we managed to fix the ipod rather than having to listen to him sing really cheesy music.
A massive thanks to Wasley Hills Country Park
This event would not happen without the generosity of them and people like them out on the route. 

The route is stunning and we are considering a relay/shorter version next year in order to get more participants. 
Feel free to let us kow what you think. The idea is to get more people out on the trail and enjoying the challenge and views.

Everyone who ran last year is up on time and has got to checkpoint hours before they time they got there last year. Its too early to say if that enough yet but 6 go forward to day 4.

John's bedtime eyes! 

Bob a Job Week

Ellen of the Antarctic 

Camp Waseley Hills 

Gas Mark 5 for 40 mins

John checking if Peter is done yet! 

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Monarchs Way 2019 Day 2

We are now into the second day on The Monarchs Way Ultra.
Leg 2 goes up to Boscobel House and then does a left out towards White Ladies Priory and runs around two smaller loops anticlockwise and back to Boscobel. The reason Charles did this loop was that he was heading for a crossing into N Wales but found the bridges blocked by troops and had to return to Boscobel to make other plans. This is when he hid in the famous Oak tree. It's a very rough loop and some of the planted fields are very hard to cross especially at night. Lots of rough underfoot sections.
John Stocker left the CP1 scout hut and off up the disused railway line focused and determined.
All the runners arrived then left in the next few and left again over the following 16 hours. Most having not slept but eaten and sorted self and kit. Just two decided to sleep, Tony and Vic.
Tony left in the early hours and Vic stayed till 6:45 am.
Today's target was around 45 miles and most of the terrain was easy enough going but some patches of overgrown sections etc.
John Stocker consolidated his league and pretty much worked hard all day. Apart from some dramas with his phone he had a great day. He again had a couple of people out to see him and check on him, I am sure it motivated him well. John worked hard and motivated himself well and he pushed on.
Victoria looking strong as she passes Boscobel House the first time

He worked hard and stayed motivated all day and arrive at CP 2 back at Boscobel House in very good shape. He still did not want to sleep yet but chose to eat and look after his feet and any other niggles. He was already up a few hours from last years attempt and his feet are in better condition than last year. That has made a massive difference along with slightly cooler weather.
Bob Wild was running well with some leapfrogging with some of the other runners from the beginning of the village. He was well motivated as he left and pretty much on John's heels.
Ellen and Bruce

And then there were 5. 

Ellen Cottom, Jonathan Rowles and Peter Bengtsson all swapped placings throughout the day and arrived at CP2 within an hour or so of each other. All taking a short sleep and some food on board before heading out towards CP3 again. All in good spirits with minor feet issues sorted before going and various items charged in the crew vehicles 
Ellen on a mission looking good

Tony Hewett and Victoria Owens were keeping a more relaxed pace and planning more sleep into their schedules and were looking after the rear section of the race. Victoria had a few minor nav errors and this cost her a little time but she left CP2 determined and confident of getting to CP in good shape.
Tony was having some foot issues and had some blisters and sore areas of his feet and this was slowing him down considerably with Victoria overtaking him between CP1 and 2 despite him leaving hours before her. 
Peter as tidy and organised as usual. 

He made the decision about halfway around the Boscobel loop that he was simply going too slow to stand any chance of completion and making the cut offs so he made the tough decision to stop. He had covered around 70-75 miles. Great effort and a tough decision to make so early into the race but the one thing the race does well is test your feet out. The course is much harder on the feet than many would think. Very varied terrain with wet, hot, dry, mud and dust all to contend with and ground ranging from soft to rock hard ruts.
Bob determined to walk as muach as he can whilst collecting sticks 

Day 2 is harder than day 1 both mentally and physically but the reality his that the run has nit not really started yet and everyone is still trying to get their head around the run and settle into the routine of Eat, Run, Sleep and repeat.
John Stocker looking determined 
Let's see what tomorrow brings........

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Monarchs Way 2019 Day 1

The weather was forecast for good weather and no rain for the first day (Saturday). That is exactly how the weather worked out, it was warm but not as hot as last year.

As the runners ran out of the town the started to shake out into their respective paces with John Stocker and Bob Wild stepping out in front and Ellen Cottom and Peter Bengtsson very close behind for most of the day.

Then a short distance behind leapfrogging each other were Jonathan Rowles, Tony Hewett and Vic Owens. There was not much in it for the start of the day and as the runners slowly stretched out it was clear the lead 2 of Bob and John were inadvertently racing a little at this stage.

The crew of myself and Maxine decided to wait at Chaddersly Corbett to see them through there and top up water if needed. I ran back down the course a few miles from there seeing each runner and having a chat and generally putting a  few course miles on my legs.
This leg is fields and farms for the first half then lots of canal towpath and disused railway line up to Wombourne Scout Hut where CP was at around 47 miles in total.

Mostly very runnable terrain with some really overgrown nettled areas and lots of very thick mature Rape as a crop. Some of that was hard going. Navigation is not too bad along leg 1.
I am sure it was especially fun for Vic in sandals or barefoot.

Yes there is a path here! 

The thing with this event is that as its non stop everyone has a very different strategy and target which dictates their speed and kit and even sleep plans. For example John Stocker does not plan to sleep till CP3 whereas Vic Owens plans to sleep at each CP. There is no right or wrong but it's more about the execution of each plan and how each runner is set up and trained to achieve that target. With 4 of the 7 runners attempting last year they are keen to improve on time and finish this year and have turned up with revised targets and plans. Only time will tell if those plans are right or achievable.

After a bit of place swapping John Stocker came into CP1 first with John only about 8 mins behind him. Both only stopped to eat and sort kit and get ready for the next leg. John was slightly quicker though and left first.

John Stocker 

Bob Wild 

Bob Left not long after.

Then came Ellen, Jonathan Rowles, Peter, Tony Hewlett and Vic evenly spaced out for the next few hours with the last person arriving before midnight.

Peter and Ellen

Peter ready to go sub 90 mins! 

Vic Owens and John Rowles 

Tony Bewett

Most chose to travel on after eating and sorting kit but Tony chose to have a short sleep and got a few hours kip before leaving in the early hours.
Vic chose to get a really good rest and slept for 6 hours and only left at 6:45 am but was very well rested.

All in all the first leg was run by everyone and finished in good condition by all, a few with minor blisters and sore feet which needed a little attention but otherwise all in good shape.
A good start to the event.

Thanks to all those following and supporting on social media and via personal contact with the runners. We had a few people show up on the trail and give support and encouragement which is fantastic and relay motivates the runners who spend quite a bit of time with their own thoughts for company.

You may notice I play around with nicknames on the tracking page, this is a bit of humour based on funny stuff that amuses us on the trail. 

Peter has had "Pudding" added to his name as he had an extra pudding at dinner last night and stopped on the trail and was caught in the farm shop having more pudding. 

Peter Caught red handed with a pudding! 

Everyone else is safe for now!