Ultra Marathoning – Trials and Tribulations

I wake up and roll over. I momentarily wonder why my left achilles is throbbing on every movement, and why my legs want to tell me a story of pain and non-paid overtime. My mouth is dry and my head is taking longer to process anything and everything. Then I remember I ran my most mentally and physically demanding trail race for over a year the day before, where once again I was shouting at myself that I would never enter another ultra marathon again. Roll back three weeks and my legs are telling me how much they enjoy being part of my life. Barry and I are tootling along South down the I5 heading towards Olympia in Washington to compete at the Capitol Peak 55km / 50mile trail race. I was feeling some what relaxed and in good spirits, which considering I had crashed out and ‘bonked’ at the 32km mark in my last Ultra Marathon on Orcas Island, was somewhat surprising but welcome. I had done the right race-prep, I had had a good solid run 4 days earlier where everything seemed to be in working order, but most importantly I was ‘in the right place’ mentally. With the ghost of Orcas Island sitting squarely on my shoulder, I wanted to run the Capitol Peak 55km with the aim of ‘just finishing’. I had no goal, no timeframe, no body else I knew running to pull my competitive brain along to uncomfortable zones (Barry was undertaking the 50mile option), and was actually looking forward to just getting out there, taking my time and enjoying the race as much as I could. I had also learnt a lot about fuelling and food / body management since Orcas, and was going to be strict with myself to stop at every aid station to relax and refuel. People have called ultra marathons an ‘eating and drinking competition with running thrown in’ and this was a mantra that I’ve slowly had to comprehend and learn. Your body burns up around 400-600 calories per hour while ultra running, and unlike shorter races you just can’t run for 5+ hours without taking food on board during the run – your body just can’t sustain that calorie deficit and keep on moving. And thus one of my goals at Capitol Peak was to learn to eat and drink properly during a race, and not feel rushed past the aid stations. The race started well, I was running at a comfortable 5-6min per km pace depending on terrain and elevation, and was happy tootling along listening to the conversation of 2 other runners who had camped up behind me. The first aid station came up at only 8km in, but I was strict with myself and against everyone else’s race schedule, stopped, drank some water and ate a few carbs before carrying on. This was a schedule I kept to for the rest of the race. Being a very symmetric kids-drawing-of-a-mountain elevation profile race, the first half of the run was all uphill, but against all long distance races I’d competed at before, I reached the top of the climbs at 31km and was feeling good. Not just, ‘good for 30km, but actually pretty crap’, but just ‘good’. I had enjoyed the infamous ‘grunt’ that we had been warned about at the pre-race talk, I had even ran up some of it and passed a few runners in the process, posed for the photo at the top, before whistling down the other side chatting to a Belorussian runner from Minsk (post race analysis would show I was actually 2nd fastest up that section from the 20 or so runners who had uploaded their run onto Strava).    With the rest of the race net downhill, by the time I got to 35km I knew I was going to finish. I felt confident in myself, my running, and my body that we were going to drag ourselves through the next 20km...

Sun Run Time

My life in Vancouver has definitely taken a running turn over the past year, as I’ve thrown myself into the running scene and enjoyed, gritted, pushed, found limits, jumped over the figurative running wall, stubbornly succeeded, un-stubbornly failed, and tried to find that elusive escapism that pounding out miles with just you, the trails, great friends and the elements can give you. However, as much as the enjoyment factor is a large part of the scene, my competitive nature and constant search for targets, times, goals and numbers has found me standing toe-to-toe at the start line of a surprising number of races and distances over the past 18 months in Vancouver. I found myself competing at the 48,000 strong 10K Vancouver Sun Run two weeks ago, along with the just-hoping-to-finish 55K Capitol Peak ultra marathon a week later; both races as far removed mentally as their distances were physically. The first would find me in ultra competitive race mode, where as the other would both humble and surprise me. Coming into the Sun Run I knew I was probably the most race fit and fastest I’d ever been for the distance, and thus was excited to have some clearly defined time goals in mind, each of them becoming more hopeful than the last. A korfball friend back home had recently finished her 10K in an astounding 37:05; closely following her speedy shoes was my buddy Big Nick (who organises a local 8k run back home in Birmingham) who had a PB of 36:40; and finally there was the quite possibly craziest distance runner I’ve ever known, local running friend Barry, who had a blisteringly fast 36:06 PB from a year ago. The Sun Run is one of the largest road races in North America, and...

Nike API PHP Example Feb20

Nike API PHP Example

Recently Nike released their developer site to give people a preview and a glimpse into how they will be able to access and export Nike data through their upcoming API. The problem being is that it’s still in development stage, and for users like me, who aren’t part of (or won’t be part of) their Nike+ Accelerator Program, it doesn’t actually give you access. But it does expose quite a few parts that with a little tinkering, console debugging, and help from the ol’ t’internet you can figure out the core concepts and key attributes and write your own PHP script. It returns the information in lovely JSON format which can easily be used and manipulated to your hearts content. [php] $curl_handle=curl_init(); $data = array(‘appid: fuelband’, “Accept: application/json”); curl_setopt($curl_handle,CURLOPT_URL,’https://api.nike.com/me/sport?access_token={access_token}’); curl_setopt($curl_handle,CURLOPT_CONNECTTIMEOUT,2); curl_setopt($curl_handle,CURLOPT_HTTPHEADER,$data); curl_setopt($curl_handle,CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER,1); $buffer = curl_exec($curl_handle); curl_close($curl_handle); if (empty($buffer)) { print “Sorry, something went wrong here”; } else { print $buffer; } [/php] Simple hey! The {access_token} is a personal ID related to your account, that you can generate from the Nike Developer Site. The URL can take various formats, depending what you want to grab, The URL above: [code]https://api.nike.com/me/sport[/code] Simply grabs an overview of my activity: [code] { “experienceTypes”: [ “ALL”, “RUNNING” ], “summaries”: [ { “experienceType”: “ALL”, “records”: { “lifetimeFuel”: 64631 } }, { “experienceType”: “RUNNING”, “records”: { “level”: 3, “lifetimeDuration”: “29:17:42.000”, “lifetimeGpsRuns”: 29, “lifetimeHeartActivities”: 0, “lifetimeAveragePace”: 348832.2388571808 } } ] } [/code] But you can also use these URL’s to get more information: https://api.nike.com/me/sport/activities 1 https://api.nike.com/me/sport/activities https://api.nike.com/me/sport/activities/%activityId% 1 https://api.nike.com/me/sport/activities/%activityId% https://api.nike.com/me/sport/activities/%activityId%/gps 1 https://api.nike.com/me/sport/activities/%activityId%/gps The last one giving you full GPS data of an activity. A big hats off to WotLabs that basically gave me the last piece of the pizzle, the...

Brain v Legs, The Never-ending Battle

It was only a week before that I crashed out of the Orcas Island 50km ultra-marathon trail race before I found myself stepping toe to toe with the some of best at the start line of the Vancouver First Half Half-Marathon last weekend. The week before I had thrown myself in for only my second (and determinedly not to be my last) 50km trail race, over on the scenic, beautiful, sun-shining Orcas island, only to find myself screaming in agony in an ambulance at the 32km aid station, and thus was a little trepiditious and nervous pre-race only a week later. My calves felt fine and I knew I was in good enough shape to not find myself placed among the DNF’s, but with my local running club supporting along the way (in-fact they organised the whole thing), and a PB of 1:22:59 only 1 month earlier, the usual pre-race nerves were finding themselves in unusual good spirits, unlike my usual joviality and throw-away nature which were lacking in humour. Luckily, as I found out later, resolve and stubbornness were also here for the party, and they were most welcome guests come finish time! I hoped however that as soon as that gun went off I could relax (?) into a good pace and grit on through to a good finish time. I was aiming for somewhere inbetween a 3:40 – 3:45km pace to start, knowing that it would give me a slight barrier for a 3:50-3:55 worst case scenario in the later part of the race and still hit my hopeful 1:21 – 1:23 finishing time. Double check of my shoe laces, re-tie for no other reason than nerves, re-check the watch, settle up behind Barry for the start, triple check the watch, pretend to know the Canadian national anthem, and ‘BANG’ we were off. As with all my races I get a little carried away in the first couple of km’s, the problem being that I can run 3:20 – 3:30 pace for a little while, and so it was after a couple of k, that I found myself on for a 3:35 average pace, knowing I was being a naughty runner, yet enjoying the space, freedom and speed that this pace gives. At mile 1 we passed the start line again and I waved to my adoring fans (ahem?), momentarily ran backwards for the camera (read – Han, Steve, Susan, Julia, David and other PRR members) and woke up to reality. “Ok Nick calm down, relax, being slower is just fine, you’ll appreciate me telling you this later on” noted the reliable, sensible brain. “But I feel fine right now, lets carry on like we are .., wahey look at me go, I’m flying man” responded the amnesic race legs. And so it was for the first 3-4 km that I battled between the physicality of the race, and the mental knowledge of what was to come. By km 5 though one of my fellow PRR running buddies, Barry Young, was pulling away sufficiently for my competitive nature not to get caught up in a race I couldn’t win, and I started to hit that race-pace that I hoped I could sustain for another 16km. By km 7 my hopes of staying in touch with Ellie Greenwood were dissipating as well as her ultra-trail legs pulled her onwards away from sight, and so it was that any runners I knew were gone from my vision and I could concentrate on my own pace, and my own race. A lesson I suspect I need to learn, and one alone that experience will hopefully teach me. The next 8-9km were fairly normal and uneventful (as half marathons go) as I found myself settling behind ‘Mr Light Blue Top’ and probably thoroughly annoyed him as I let him lead me on a 3:45-3:50 pace without ever taking the brunt...