Welcome to the 'Challenge Hursty' Blog!

The Adventures so far!

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Pendle 'Dark Dash' Fell Run

The Pendle Hill 'Dark Dash' was my first night time fell run. Thankfully organised by Rossendale & Pendle Mountain Rescue Team and well supported by them so it didn't feel such a totally insane thing to do! It was very well supported by a couple of hundred runners which for the time of year was incredible.

A 6 mile round trip run in total. Setting off from the Lancashire village of Barley at night time by head torch, it was a one mile ascent in the dark up to the summit and trig point (which because of the fog I didn't actually see!) and a 5 mile steady looping descent along very boggy paths around Pendle Hill before returning back to the village hall in Barley.

Once again for my running events so far this year, conditions weren't great with the fog making it quite eerie in places. Fortunately the route was very well signed though with lots of the MRT volunteers marking the way to avoid folk getting lost on the moors.

Here's a copy of a tweet from the Mountain Rescue Team organisers following the event...

"Last Night saw our 2nd Dark Dash event at Pendle Hill! 200 runners took part in in what was a brutal night with poor visibility, wind and cold! Everyone had a great time and everyone finished safely"... I think they could improve on their marketing? That doesn't really sell it does it ;-)

Roll on Summer! :-)

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Chester Ultra Marathon 52 mile run ~ £641 raised for the RNLI :-)

The 52m Route
After running the Liverpool to Manchester (L2M) 50 mile ultra run over Easter in 2016, and despite thoroughly enjoying it but saying ‘never again’, here were Dave McDonald and I at the Chester Ultra Marathon as ‘Team Dave’ less than a year later!? J

It’s the first of GB Ultra’s series of the year and as such, the training took place over the hardest of the winter months. It’s been pretty grueling training in rain, sleet, snow, ice, darkness and everything else Winter has to offer but on the upside it did shake off all the Christmas indulgence!
Start Line @ 6am

Race morning was a very early get up at 4am to get to Waverton Village Hall in Chester for the pre-race briefing at 5:30 and a mass depart at 6am just as dawn was breaking.

The weather forecast all week had been for light rain all day but we weren’t complaining that it hadn’t yet materialised (although we were to find out that it had already done it’s damage over the preceding few days!).

Leaving Waverton we set off along quite lanes and a very well marked and signed course towards the River Dee. The mood and atmosphere were great and the trails a bit soft underfoot but good running! An hour or so running saw us arrive at the first pit stop just as the heavens opened (but a good opportunity to don the rain jackets whilst under the pit stop gazebo). We stocked up and continued along the River Dee into Chester passing the racecourse to the second pit stop in city centre Chester alongside the ancient walls. The rain had stopped so we were able to stow the rain coats in the running packs for the remainder of the day.
From Chester we picked up the canal to head out towards Frodsham, crisscrossing the M56 before heading into Dunham Hill Village and our 3rd Pit Stop (and opportunity for a very welcome hot cup of coffee!). The pit stops on the GB Ultra events are fantastic! So far, so good! The route had been muddy, I’d had a fall, but nothing really holding us up and we’d covered at least 20 miles in under 4 hours.

From Dunham though it all changed! Here was where the climbing started (which was still ok) and the mud became thicker and more troublesome (which was really not ok!)...
The views atop of Helsby hill overlooking the Dee Estuary and the Wirral were fantastic! The mud became progressively thicker, deeper and prolonged! At our slowest point we trudged just 2 miles through plowed muddy cornfields in 50 minutes. It had stopped being fun and was becoming a bit frustrating.

A brief respite as we dropped off Dunham hill into Delamere Forest followed before the final 10 miles or so in the worst of the mud, the pace and progress really slowing. A final, six mile trudge along the canal in the dark to return to Waverton just about finished us off! That was our quietest darkest moments. A couple of miles from the finish and my wife Karen and our dog Ollie appeared unexpectedly out of the darkness!?! Karen had been ‘live tracking’ our progress and had come to give us a morale boosting cheer on… Priceless! J

A final couple of miles and we hit a hardcore path and were finally able to run again.
The frustration turned to elation as we crossed the finish line at 7:25, 13 hours and 25 minutes after we’d set off! We finished joint 159th out of 250.

The thick, clay-like or liquid mud slowed people’s progress to a walk and there were several falls and quite a few DNF’s. The last of the days runners finished in 18.5 hours which is an indication of just how tough the conditions were.

GB Ultra’s organise superb events, and other than the mud which was outside of their control this was no exception! The team and volunteer marshals really couldn't be more helpful and attentive! Absolute starts every one! Definitely worth doing and glad I have another Ultra under my belt (All thanks to Dave McD for spurring us on!) J

Saturday, 10 February 2018

25m Anglezarke Amble Fell Run

As part of the training for the 2018 Chester Ultra Marathon, Dave McDonald and I decided to take part in the Anglezarke Amble. It’s a Long Distance Walking Association event with a choice of two circular loops heading out of Rivington Village Hall in Bolton. Runners are made welcome too (but start an hour after the walkers). We took the longer of the two routes of 25.5miles climbing over Rivington Pike, Winter Hill, across Moorlands to Darwin Hill and Tower and then looping around to take in the ironically named Great Hill (which really isn’t!) back to Rivington. The time of year adds to the challenge. As we had the pre run briefing in the Village Hall we were warned that Snow had forced the move of one of the pit stop check points as the four wheel drive couldn’t get to the original location! Nice!

We started at 9.00am in rain that turned to sleet and fog as we immediately started to ascend to
Rivington Pike. The mud under foot turned to slippy ice on the climb. The summit was shrouded in mist so not a great deal to see other than the pike monument.

From there we continued to climb up to Winter Hill which at 1500ft was the highest point of the run and really was bleak in the conditions.

A few miles of steady descent across snowy moorland saw us catching up with first Harold from work who was walking and then Stuart (who previously joined us on our #BikesBoatsBoots adventure). A quick hello and then on around Turton and Entwistle Reservoir (whose dam was once the highest in Britain).

The first pit stop was very welcome before making the long but
gradual ascent along undulating and boggy tracks to Darwen Moors and the ascent to Darwin Tower. I’ve worked over in Accrington on and off for nearly 19 years and the Tower is visible on my commute from the M65 but this is the first time I’ve seen it up close! Again the weather meant that the views out to the Irish Sea were obscured in mist and sleet!

From Darwin Tower a short descent took us to Roddlesworth Woods. Another Pit Stop at Slipper Lowe fortified us you for the climb  over Great Hill. This really was a climb through bog land mire! Walking was slow and laborious, running seemingly out of the question! At last we reached the ascent and then a slippy and muddy descent down White Coppice saw me lose my footing falling head over heels through mud! Fortunately the soft mud broke my landing and saved me from any injury but I was covered in it!
A final pit stop at White Coppice Cricket field and the undulating trek back to Rivington to finish in 6 hours and 18 minutes.
The LDWA events are extremely well organised and great value for money… Where else can you get pit stops and a meat and potato hash with mushy peas at the end!

Sunday, 1 October 2017

A wild, wet & windy Abersoch RNLI Cycle Sportive!

The 40mile route (anti-clockwise)
My third time of riding the Abersoch RNLI Sportive in support of the crew that came to my aid in 2007 following my Sailing Accident, and the toughest outing of the lot so far!

 I met up briefly with friends from Nefyn, Mike and Fran beforehand but with different start waves ended up riding pretty much the whole ride on my own.
The top of Rhiw Hill
A very wet, cold and windy day saw only about 50 entrants which is a real shame as even in these conditions the 40 mile loop with 3,067 feet of climbing around the Llyn Peninsular is stunning!

Only got lost once at the summit of Rhiw Hill (after someone had moved the route signage!).
Managed to pick up the official route again around Porth Neigwl for the return run in to the Vaynol pub at Abersoch!
A damp but never the less rewarding ride J

Sunday, 14 May 2017

The second annual RNLI #ThreeShires Cycle Sportive! ~ £10,504 raised for the RNLI :-)

In May 2017 we ran another outing of what has now become the annual RNLI #ThreeShires cycle sportive!

With John, Phil and the rest of the team from the Crewe, Nantwich and South Cheshire RNLI, along with friends from Sandbach Sunday Cyclists, Sandbach Rugby Club (who once again were kind enough to provide the venue) and friends, family and volunteers from around Sandbach we put on another event to be proud of, showcasing Sandbach and Cheshire as a great place to cycle!

This year by popular request we had four routes heading out of Sandbach Rugby Club...
- 100km: Cheshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire loop
- 37km: Intermediate Cheshire loop
- 6km Family fun ride!
- The Triple Crown Challenge (all 3 routes back to back)

The ride was started by our guest Mike Davies who is the coxswain of the Porthdinlaen lifeboat on the North Wales Llyn Peninsular.
 As a keen cyclist, Mike also then cycled the 100km route!

The range of rides once again attracted a range of all ages and cycling abilities!

Our youngest riders at just 4 years of age! :-)

We also had a guest appearance from 'Challenge Rich' on his Penny Farthing who rode with us as part of his training for his Guiness Book of World record attempt at the quickest Penny Farthing cycle from Lands End to John o Groats!

The weather was once again fantastic and added to the pre and post ride carnival atmosphere!

A combined team from Sandbach Sunday Cyclists and Nantwich Cycling Group were our first riders back completing the 100km at breakneck speeds.

Thankfully our 550 riders all returned safely and had what seemed a great day out!

Just as importantly, between us we raised another £10,504 for the RNLI's vital life saving work!

The 2018 date has already been set for 20th May 2018... We'll aim to make it an even bigger and better family day out!

Watch this space!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

50mile L2MUltra run from Liverpool to Manchester ~ 9 hours 59 mins 58 Seconds!! (& £741 raised for Macmillan Cancer Research)

L2MUltra Route
The need to continue to try and push my boundaries and see what I can achieve lead me to take on the challenge of an Ultra Marathon.

An ultra is loosely defined as anything over the standard 26.2 miles but this run caught my eye as being a great candidate for a first ultra run with it's relatively flat topography. Once again I was joined by my mate & adventure challenge partner in crime, Dave McDonald, who true to previous form, decided to join me on this having never done any real distance running... Not that you'd ever know! (Dave and I have previously done the #3PeaksByBike and also canoed, cycled and hiked coast to coast across the Great Glen in Scotland).

Dave McD and myself at a pre dawn start line
Ultra runs generally take place over undulating trails and hills, with runners usually choosing a slower than normal running pace, walking up hills or very technical sections, running on the flat sections and doing a mixture of both on the descents.

A friend who ran this race last year told me that the trouble with the L2MUltra route was that you can in fact run it all as it's pan flat! So we needed a strategy! After much research, and trials on our own training runs, we adopted a 25 minute run / 5 minute walk strategy which seemed to leave something in the legs as our long runs got in to the upper 20 mile regions. We also invested in specialist running back packs with hydration and nutrition pockets and space for the runs 'essential items' of waterproof jacket, head torch, map and space blanket, as well as room for gels, etc.

We did a bike reccie of the route a few weeks before hand which was great to know what to expect but was quite hard cycling in itself! Our training runs took us respectively to around 30 miles (never thought I'd see the day where I went on a 30 mile training run!?), with lots of 20+ mile runs and 10 mile runs becoming bizarrely easy!?

Despite that, we knew that once past 30 miles we'd be in unchartered territory with 20 miles to go and would have to undoubtedly dig deep to finish this. These sort of things are often 80% training and 20% bloody mindedness on the day just not to give up!

The Mersey with Runcorn Bridge in the background
The run was organised by GBUltras with the route following the Trans Pennine Trail from Aintree in Liverpool to Didsbury in Manchester following a mix of disused railway line trails and paths along the Mersey, Manchester Ship Canal and some other canals and small towns.

We both stayed over in Liverpool the night before the race (Dave with his family and me in a local hotel) and were up at 4:15am for a 5:30am race briefing and a 6am start. The chilly air was soon lost and we were removing layers before we got to the first 6 mile checkpoint.

We tried not to think about the race being 50 miles, instead breaking it into two 25/5 run/walk repeats roughly between each pit stop (with a pit stop every 6 to 7 miles). The pit stops were well stocked and the atmosphere at the stops and with the runners on route friendly and very supportive!

The first 10 miles was done before we knew it, and maintaining a 5mph pace 20 miles was also soon done and saw us on the banks of the Mersey

As we passed under the M6 Thelwall viaduct we tipped the 30 mile mark... The next checkpoint at around 32 miles was were the going got really tough! Psychologically knowing there was another 18 miles to go (even when trying not to think about it) was a big hurdle to get over but we pushed on quietly and without much chat on our 25/5 pacing strategy.

We kept leap frogging the same groups of runners and I think generally everyone was in much the same frame of mind at this point of being tired but battling on.

The mood picked up as we got near Sale Water park and tipped the 40 mile mark! After that we were in single figure remaining miles and once again on the picturesque banks of the Mersey and around Chorlton Water Park.

Sprint finish!
Finally we got to a trail within site of the finishing line with our watches showing around 9 hours 53 minutes!? Unbelievably we were in with a very unexpected chance of coming in under 10 hours!?

As we got into the car park we were told we had to do a 'lap of honour' around the Rugby pitches!?! Thoughts of a sub 10 hour finish ebbed away but as we rounded the final bend with little more than 100m or so to the finish our watches clicked from 9:58 to 9:59! What could we do but muster a sprint finish!! Crossed the line with a whole 2 seconds to spare and a feeling of massive elation!

Finish line bling!
From setting off on my first 10km just under 10 years ago, I never dreamt it possible I'd be able to run an Ultra Marathon of 50 miles!? It just shows what can be achieved with a bit of training and a lot of determination!

I'm now proud to add Ultra Runner to my list of achievements... But not sure where this will take me next!? :-)

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Abersoch RNLI Cycle Sportive

I wrapped up my 2016 events with the Abersoch RNLI Cycle Sportive.

It's the second time the Abersoch RNLI have run this event which takes in some spectacular scenery (and even more so with them having extended the route this year).

Unfortunately it wasn't hugely well attended with only around 50 riders participating.

Hopefully as the word gets around, the event will attract the rider numbers it (and the crew), truly deserve!

It also made me realise just how fortunate we were with our own RNLI sportive earlier in 2016 and the participant numbers we managed.

Definitely a date for 2017 that I'd recommend!

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Ironman Weymouth! 14hours 53mins 16 secs ~ £1,875 raised for the RNLI!

So for a good few years now I'd been slightly in awe of the Ironman Triathlon event. From doing my first 10km run in 2007 I went through what probably everyone goes through, thinking how could you possibly run double that distance to do a half marathon, and then double that again for a marathon!? It just seems impossible!?

Taking that to its extreme, an Ironman just seemed so unachievable!? a 2.4mile swim, 112mile bike and then a 26.2mile marathon run!? How do people do that!? But for anyone who took that step from 10km to half marathon, etc., you'll know that it is achievable because you train for it, and probably because you're so bloody minded to finish on the day that you do it! And that's pretty much the story of my Ironman! It's been a heck of a journey, exciting, nerve wracking, moments of almost overwhelming self-doubt... But also a great journey! I've had some great training runs, rides and swims with some fantastic scenery and people, and also some time on my own for reflection. I've learned a lot about myself and other people! My friends and family I don't think ever really doubted me, even when I doubted myself, and their support has been awesome and humbling and is without doubt the single biggest contributing factor to my Ironman success!

I guess I'd actually been putting this off for a few years. Thinking that some of my other challenges would satiate that underlying desire to give an Ironman a go. Even when I did the Long Course Weekend last year I thought that would scratch the itch, but days after finishing and thinking I'd never be able to complete it all in one day, my viewpoint had changed to thinking I could do this!

Registration confirmation!
It must have been about last October when I decided to up the training just to see how sustainable it was. By January 2016, I pretty much knew I was going to do this but still hadn't admitted it or had the courage to hit the enter button on the registration page (and fork out the £460 registration fee!). That moment came in March! I posted on Twitter at the time that "that's the hard part done" and it did kind of feel like that. A bit of a weight off my mind and I could just concentrate on the training!

So the training became a lifestyle change! I 
ramped up from circa 9 hours/week training peaking at around 16 hours/week. I trained six days/week, resting on a Monday after my long sessions at the weekend. Did early morning swims and runs alternating weekday mornings, some runs in the evening and tried to cycle to work one day a week to Manchester. The ‘Bricks sessions’ came at the weekend of 'long open water swim to bike' and 'long bike ride to runs'. I had a few morale boosting 2.4m swims on a Saturday well within the Ironman time cut off which had been playing on my mind, followed by cycling 40m home from Manchester and then a 3m run. My biggest training session was a 1km pool swim followed by a 124mile bike ride from Sandbach to Pwllheli and a 3.5mile run on the same day a couple of weeks before the event, at which point I felt I was ready! 

We stayed in a caravan in Weymouth for the weekend which was great as it meant I could make my own breakfast on the day at daft o'clock in the morning and also meant as a family we could take our dog Ollie!

Sunrise over Weymouth beach
I tried to remain calm and optimistic about event day. Yes things might not go to plan but any number of things could also go right on the day! And they pretty much did! I made a start on this by getting a good breakfast of Peanut butter on toast and a banana!

Conditions on the day were amazing. Clear skies, warm but not hot, glass calm seas and only a breath of wind!
Swim exit over the shingle
beach... Ouch!
I'd been nervous about the swim. Mass starts can be brutal! There was both the main Ironman and a Half Ironman event all setting off swimming at the same time... 2,800 competitors in total!!! But the organisation was impeccable and amazingly the self-seeded rolling swim start worked exceptionally well! I really enjoyed the swim! I had plenty of space to swim, the sea at 17'c was warmer than the 9'c air temp at 7am in the morning and the water was clean and clear. Being able to see the sandy bottom for most of the swim was a huge bonus. The two 1.2m laps with an 'Australian exit' between times was soon done in a personal best of 1hour 30mins! If you're going to pull a PB, what better time than on event day (and well within the 2 hour cut off to give me a head start on the bike)!

Run from Swim to T1
I'd decided I was going to make sure I was comfortable on the 112mile bike ride by getting completely changed out of wet gear into my cycling gear. I knew this would cost me a little more time in transition but felt I could make up for it being settled for a long day in the saddle on the bike. I think this paid off!

By the time I got on the bike the sun was warming the air nicely! I'd done a lot of training on the steep sharp climbs of the Welsh hills, but the Dorset countryside turned out to be mostly long rolling hills without any real intense climbing and some stunning scenery on route!

Home made Bike food!
My nutrition strategy was to eat normal, solid food on the bike rather than overdosing on gels which tend to give you gut rot after a few of them. I did top up on one gel just to get me going on the bike but for the remainder of the ride relied on homemade rice cakes, homemade flapjack and homemade egg, bacon and sausage 'breakfast bakes'. Also a couple of ham and Philadelphia sandwiches and cereal bars. These were wrapped in parchment foil for easier access! The recipes were from a cycling food book a friend recommended and were excellent (and well tested on training rides!).
Start of the bike leg
I made use of the 'personal needs' bags to be deposited at the 33m/86m feed station so that I could re-stock en-route which seemed to work really well!  

Into the climbs!
The bike leg itself went great! I maintained a steady pace of around 15mph to 16mph and had a good ride on mostly closed roads. The support around the course was amazing! Lots of locals who had clearly been trapped in their own lanes and driveways in full carnival spirit with cow bells, drums, etc.!

The route took us on a circular tour North East out of Weymouth around Osmington, Puddletown, Buckland Newton before turning South West through Godmanstone and around Dorchester back over hills to Weymouth for a second loop. I completed the bike leg in 7hours and 32mins which I was really pleased with at 1.5hours within the cut-off for the swim/bike segment. I had a bit of a twinge from my hamstring behind my left knee towards the end but nothing too drastic.
On the run
So a not so quick change from cycling to running gear in T2 and just a marathon run to go! Four and a half loops of the promenade into Weymouth felt a better way of dealing with it so I tended to focus on the loops rather than the miles.

I felt pretty good still! The atmosphere on the run was fantastic and for the first time that day a proper chance to have a bit of banter to take the mind off the running with the other runners. It was a great feeling of camaraderie! Each loop you were given a wrist band of a different colour. Four wrist bands and then into the finish chute! What could be easier!

I met a few really nice people on the run. I ran a loop with a girl called Tess from Wakefield and I think that helped considerably to take my mind off the niggle in my left knee that was getting steadily more uncomfortable. Another lap I ran with a guy and again all thoughts of the knee went away. The final lap I felt my knee give way slightly and had to stop and stretch a bit. It was frustrating because other than that I still felt really good!

It was here that my support team of my wife Karen, Daughter Lucie and dog Ollie were fantastic on the day! They were up at the crack of dawn with me to get to Transition for 5:45am right through to my finish just before 10pm! It was fantastic to see them popping up unexpectedly at various points of the course around Weymouth.

My top supporters! Lucie,
Karen and Ollie!
"Dave... YOU are an Ironman!"
As the darkness drew in, the atmosphere got better! As I got near the finish chute I could hear the crowd cheering runners through and I finally allowed myself to believe that I had this!

At 26 miles it was just a final trot around the pier and into the finish chute. What a feeling! I'd though that I'd be in tears but they didn't come until later.

It was though an unforgettable experience to hear the commentator say "Dave... You are an Ironman!" :-)

It was even more overwhelming to find out that Karen & Lucie had 'live streamed' my finish via Facebook to family and friends at home, in Italy, Mexico and my eldest daughter Zoe in Australia! It was reading the 100+ comments when my aching legs woke me up at 4:30am the next morning that the tears came! ~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQkpCkU4wa0

Ironman ~ Brag for the rest
of your life!
So... For anyone considering embarking upon their own Ironman journey, my advice would be do it! Ironman have a motto of ‘Anything is possible’ and I believe that! Ironman is 80% training and 20% stubbornness to finish! You’ve obviously got to put the right training preparation in and get the nutrition right but I’ve had some great training days. I have watched what I’ve eaten, lots of carbs before and during training and protein afterwards, cut down on the alcohol but didn’t exclude it completely except for the last few weeks before the event. I burnt between 2,500 – 5,000 calories a week so no matter what I ate I pretty much burned it off (so if I fancied the occasional pie I had one!). I lost 9kg in weight since Christmas where I didn’t think I really had weight to lose. Most of all though, I’ve had huge support from friends and family. Without my family support in particular I don’t know how I would have done it!

A massive thanks to all those who made donations to my ongoing RNLI cause! This year it's going to the Pwllheli lifeboat to aid their new inshore lifeboat appeal. I know they will be pleased with our combined efforts... Thank you!