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Champs Racing in the Sunshine

 

The past few months have seen Sheffield hit by some gorgeously hot weather. But all of that comes with extra challenges when racing and training. The high temperatures can create havoc as your body tries to compensate and ends up losing excess water and salts. It is especially difficult when the warm weather arrives suddenly and your body doesn’t have the chance to adjust before a big race.

My first challenge in this hot weather was Barnoldswick Weets, an English Champs short in absolute scorching conditions. The weather had come out of nowhere so I hadn’t had chance to train much in the conditions. I made sure to hydrate well the day before the race, utilising electrolyte drinks as well as plenty of water.

The race was only a short so we were not carrying kit or water. I felt like I was hydrated adequately although, like everyone, I was losing a lot of water during the race.

I felt like I had a good race – managing to stick ahead of some good ladies.

Smiles all round as I finished 2nd U23 and 13th lady – my highest overall placing in a champs race to date!

Post race I made sure to take on a lot of water (thanks dad for pouring loads of my head) and even found a nice little stream to cool off in with some of the other U23s.

*

The next championship race (both British and English) also fell on an extremely hot day but this time my body had had a bit of a chance to adjust to the weather! Off we went to Tebay for a medium race in the beautiful Howgills. Again I had made sure to hydrate in the few days leading up to the race.

As this was a medium race, we were carrying kit. Most of us made the decision not to carry water and were reliant on friendly spectators to give us a sip of water every now and again (thank you thank you!).

I also made the decision to have a gel at about 40mins and I think that helped to give my legs a little bit of extra energy to tackle Heartbreak Hill!

Despite the heat I thoroughly enjoyed myself and managed to run through the field and was still picking people off near the end. 3rd U23 and 16th Lady in a very strong field – again my highest overall placing in a medium champs race. It was also nice to have a good run in a similar field to the inter-counties where I hadn’t had such a good run!

Thanks as usual to my coach Stuart for helping me train right and advising me on hydration in tough conditions. Also thanks to inov8 for providing such fab kit and the only shoes I would chose to race in!

Here’s to summer!

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Cortina Skyrace 2017

I’ve always loved the way that racing challenges you to get out of your comfort zone. Whether that be due to the physical demands or strains on mental resolve.
I got a full throttle reminder of this at the recent Cortina Skyrace.

Situated in the Italian Dolomites, the Skyrace starts out from the centre of town in a carnival atmosphere along the main street. Quickly, it’s out onto the smaller streets on the outskirts of town…then the race really begins!!

7 miles of climbing spread across two sustained efforts with perhaps a mile of undulating terrain in-between to ‘recover’. With a mixture of very steep gradients and hot conditions, this was a super tough challenge.

Up until this race, I’d always been sceptical about the need to ever speed walk in a race. No longer! To give you an idea of the steepness, my heart rate was still in the 170s even when walking fast uphill.

Having crested the summit of the race among the ski lift stations high up in the mountains, the descent was a combo of every type of descent challenge – fast and gravelling, steep with tree routes, and full on grassy ski runs.

Happy enough with 4th place. Work to be done on descending to really challenge for the win in this type of terrain though.

Through racing, I’ve visited many beautiful locations. Cortina is certainly up there with some of the best. Fantastic race and astoundingly beautiful. I’d highly recommend anybody to come, race, and then spend the weekend. I certainly will next year.

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Round Sheffield Run (RSR) Race Report.

 

The Sheffield Round Walk is a picturesque 14 mile walk situated in the South West of the City.  In 2014, by coincidence, a couple of different event organisers developed the idea to use the route for a running race.  One was Trail Rush by Ourea Events (of Dragon’s Back fame), the other was Round Sheffield Run (RSR), from the more locally based Kandoo Events, headed by a Mr. Doug Banks.

Doug Banks of Kandoo Events

There was one main difference between the two.  ‘Trail Rush’ had runners competing over the 14 mile route in its entirety, non-stop.  RSR offered a format ‘borrowed’ from cycling endure events, where participants would complete the route in sections, resting in between, with parts of the course reserved for walking or resting only.  Something of a novelty.

By 2016, Trail Rush had closed shop, with Ourea’s slate pretty much crammed full of much tougher, longer, more adventurous races.  Leaving RSR to establish itself as Sheffield’s premier trail running event for those ‘dipping their toe’ into off-road competition, along with some very capable club runners from the local area.

2017 was my first time taking part in the RSR, having raced in both of the Trail Rush races previously.

For those who don’t know, the route follows a roughly circular route from Endcliffe Park, via Forge Dam and Porter Clough into Ringinglow, then down the Limb Valley, on through Ecclesall Wood, before crossing Abbeydale Rd and heading up through Beauchief Golf Course, Chancet Woods, Graves Park, Lees Hall Golf Course, Meersbrook Park, Brincliffe Edge and into Endcliffe once more.

I’d previously completed the route starting and finishing at Graves Park (as was Trail Rush HQ), during recce, then race and subsequent training runs from Endcliffe Park.  All completed in one go, without stops.  How would it be to keep pausing throughout?  Would the rest stops enable me to go quicker during the timed sections?  Would it become more and more difficult to will myself into a sprint, when I’d gotten used to resting along the way?  Would I become over confident and run too hard – too soon for the illusion of recovery up ahead…?

All would become clear.

June 25th (race day) and I arrived for registration, 7.30am sharp.  I found an ideal parking space, strolled through the park and wondered briefly whether or not the race was still going ahead.  That was short lived, as I reached the race HQ and found a veritable race village in situ.  Registered, I liaised with runners and marshals alike.  I spoke with some of our customers, also taking part.  One by one several friends of mine made an appearance, as they too were having a go.  It seemed that as long as you were from Sheffield, you were in Endcliffe Park that Sunday.

Come the start, I was anxious.  Too anxious.  I hadn’t raced anything since September ’16 and my nerves were causing me doubts about my ability to complete the route, let alone perform at my best.

The race began for me at 8:30am – with the Elite runners away first.  Myself amongst them, simply because I’d entered late and it was the only slot left.  Gulp.

And they’re off!

In what qualifies as a stupid build up to any race, I’d already run every day that same week.  Twice on Monday and Tuesday, then the once on Wednesday.  Twice more on Thursday and Friday, with Friday’s second run being a recce up and over Wincobank Hill.  Saturday was Wincobank yet again, leading the group run already recced.  Not what you’d call a ‘Taper’.

So off we all went, from Endcliffe Park – running the first of 11 timed stages.  I set off gently, but trying to maintain form and a pace that didn’t seem too timid for my part in the ‘Elite’ pack.  I was cheered by a friend in the crowd as we left the race HQ and we slowly left the park all together.  It felt as if I ought to be moving a little quicker, but my mindset was very much that of an ultra runner.  I was happy to plod and see who slowed down on the sections to come.  It seems that I might have missed the point entirely of this event however, as most of the people racing away from me, were still stood still when I reached the road crossings and checkpoints along the way.

The trick it seems with this event, is to bust a gut running at a near sprint for as far as you can manage, but shy of a blow up.  Then stop as soon as you have the opportunity, whether it be a road crossing or a fully stocked aid station with food and drink.  People were exploiting the rest at every stage.  I just kept on jogging for a few of the recovery sections and began to run a lot sooner than necessary, but I didn’t feel it made sense to just keep stopping in the middle of the race.

About half way round the course and after the same guy had blasted past me over and over, I finally decided to make conversation.  It turns out that he was the record holder and that he was indeed looking for a new personal best this time around.

Warming up as we leave Ecclesall Wood

 

From that point onward, I started walking and talking with people every time there was a walk.  There were plenty to go at.  We’d run just over half a Kilometer and get a 10 minute rest!  It was insane.  But I enjoyed it a great deal.  I came to the conclusion along the way, that if I’d been a little more strategic, I might have finished a tad quicker, but I really didn’t embarrass myself in the end.  I held form.  I felt strong throughout.  I managed to hold a sprint for the final stage of 400m through the park and into the finish funnel.  It was actually a load of fun.

Satisfaction and a well earned break on the cards

I got a great looking retro t-shirt and a very fancy medal (which doubles as a bottle opener), plus an immediate print out of my race stats.  There were stalls and seating to enjoy as you watched the runners coming in and there was music being played for all to enjoy.  The weather held up too, with a sunny warm atmosphere, but not as roasting as it had been the entire week leading in.  That was probably what made me feel so much better than expected, given the 7 day running streak and my biggest mileage for any week since September 2016.  I’d run throughout a record breaking heatwave and come out smiling, with a respectable 90min time for 13 miles worth of trail race.

I clapped a great many runners in before leaving for home and have been riding high ever since.  Final result was 169th overall, 64th in my MV40 age category.  The best part was finding out that I was running well again, so I’m looking forward to regaining the stamina for some ultra distance as soon as possible.

In case you’d like to read about the exact route and all its points of interest, here are my previous race reports from Trail Rush:

Rush Job

Rush Job: part 2

A trail that’s well worth the rush.

Trail Rush Race Report – 1 week on.

No point explaining all of the above yet again, but you can assume the difference of setting off uphill, rather than down, moving at a slightly harder pace, but bearing in mind a tough week and return from injury, posed a distinctly different challenge when pacing it out.

 

One mention I’d like to include is the photography by Ben Lumley Photography and Matthew King JS Collective, who have presented some stunning pictures at no charge, but have requested that people donate what they can to Western Park Cancer Charity

 

So that’s that then.  First race since September ’16 and now I have a decisions to make about the calendar for the remainder of 2017.  With a second baby on the way…..

What’s the worst that could happen…?

 

 

 

 

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Why I Hate The Heat

 

It’s not every day you hear that is it?

Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy being outside in the sun – but with the recent heat wave, I just am not cut out to run in hot conditions.

Running last weekend (18th June) in the World Mountain Running Trials only proved this.

Ascending Sedbergh, the heat just left me panting, struggling to maintain a half decent pace.  Finishing last U19 male it wasn’t my best run, however, I hadn’t prepared for the heat.

So, what can be done to help us run in hot conditions?

 

Working up a sweat.

 

Acclimatisation is the best and most effective method.  Adapting to the conditions, so you can perform in them.  Running morning and/or evening to begin with; allowing your body to adjust to the new climate and the demands it brings.  As your body develops, becoming more efficient – you will be able to run in and perform well in the higher temperatures.

Unfortunately for me, the recent heatwave hadn’t been around long enough for me to slowly adapt and I’d not acclimatised prior to my race, which left me nervously hoping for the best.

Other strategies or methods of helping us cope in the heat include staying hydrated.  Consuming enough fluids to replace those beginning lost.  It may also be worth using electrolyte tablets to help shake the feeling of dehydration; my personal favourite is High5’s Zero in the Berry flavour.

One other thing worth considering (by contrast) is staying cool immediately beforehand.  Travelling in a well-ventilated car either with air conditioning or having open windows will help on the build up to the start – preventing you from being affected the heat so quickly (in my experience).

This means that you will be fresher and more capable from the start.  But nothing will replace the feeling of being wet and cold.

 

Whichever of these measures I rely upon in future, I ought to start thinking about it a little more ahead of time, so I can finish further up the field.

Particularly out on the fells, just the way I like it.

 

Jack Crownshaw runs with the support of Team Accelerate and inov-8 All Terrain Running.

You can see his profile here.

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‘The Basics’ – Midsoles.

 

‘The Basics’ – a new regular look at the simple elements which make running gear useful to the runner.  Explanations for those who don’t yet know, along with some facts to cut through the marketing nonsense out there, of which there is plenty!

First up –

Midsoles.

Potentially – the most influential part of your running experience.  Often overlooked, under valued or misunderstood altogether.

Here are the facts.

  1. Feet can’t tell midsole from floor.
  2. The body’s ability to maintain good running form will be influenced by the characteristics of a midsole.
  3. The midsole dictates the life of your shoe.
  4. Midsoles can only make you faster, or go further if you’re prepared to do the work.

How does all this affect you and your running?

Depth:

If you’re moving well and your midsole is too deep (for you) it will cause you to lag when applying pressure (mid-stance).  If you heel strike or over-stride, it can cause instability upon contact with the ground and throw your foot the wrong way, which can be damaging, or simply more demanding when trying to reach the correct positon to push strongly through the big toe.

Structure/Support:

The same can happen when midsoles are too flexible or unstable (often due to channels being formed in the underside to allow too much movement or reduce weight.

Added plastic, inserted for ‘stability’ often causes a permanent and unavoidable obstruction for the foot when transitioning between landing and take off.  ‘Support’ or ‘Motion Control’ shoes have been found to train runners’ to the point where they’ve learned t do the best of a bad job, rather than generating sufficient strength in order to perform the correct movement for the desired length of time.

Busting a gut in a deep cushion midsole will undoubtedly involve wasted energy.  You want to push and move, but that depth of cushion means sinking into your shoe when you wish to propel yourself.

Barefoot/Minimalism:

Too minimal a midsole and there’s a much better push-off when moving well.  But as soon as you fatigue, the form starts to go.  Lack of good form in a minimal shoe (or off-road shoe on tarmac), results in a lot of trauma.  Impact that cannot be absorbed by the body and isn’t therefore dampened by the shoe either, ends up hammering joints, soft tissue, or both.  Ouch.

Flexibility gone mad:

Sufficient depth, without the correct structure can be a very difficult to work with, despite feeling supremely comfortable when first put on your feet.  A lot of modern footwear is designed to act like a pack of uncooked jelly, with segments of gooey material left to flex in all directions for a complete freedom of movement.  the problem for some is that their foot never stay still and won’t allow any consistently controlled movement while under extreme load or again, once tired.  ‘These feel like slippers’ is an over used response in-store.  Would you go for a run in your slippers……?

Life expectancy vs expectations:

Midsoles are designed to resist Impact, absorb shock and take you hundreds of miles before giving up the ghost.  But they all wear out eventually.  Whether filled with tiny air bubbles or moulded from the latest e-tpu rubber for extra wear and extreme return, at a molecular level after all that impact, it dies.  Most current high mileage training shoes will be designed for an intended 500miles of running.  Not walking.  Not gym sessions, cross-fi, or hiking.  Road shoes are not designed for trails or open country and visa-versa where Fell or Trail shoes are concerned.  Despite the fact that we all use a shoe for more than its intended purpose on occasion, you can’t expect it to stay in one piece forever.

If a shoe does go for its respective mileage allowance, while remaining in one piece, with plenty of tread left – it’s still dead under foot.  That midsole will have lost enough structure to allow it to fail.

When air is trapped in rubber, it will compress under load.  The air will re-expand once the load is removed (foot leaves the ground).  Repeat this for 500miles and the rubber is breaking down, just like a metal bar when bent back and forth, over and over.  The ability for that midsole to resist impact and reform is all but gone, which is why you feel every lump of gravel through the shoe all of a sudden.

It therefore cannot be taken as a good sign that your tread is still intact, or that no holes have appeared in the upper, when the simple fact is – at the appropriate mileage, the shoe is no longer healthy.

Finally: – no midsole can make you faster.  You do the work.  The shoe protects your foot while you work.  It can feel comfortable.  It can bounce back to full form in record time.  But it won’t propel you automatically.  You’ll still have to push.  You’ll still have to control the position of your foot during landing, mid-stance and take off – when tired.

Note: When attempting to maintain good form, it is important to understand the body’s needs.  It takes approximately 6 weeks for any influence to affect permanent change on the body.  Anything less than 6 weeks and your body will react to the influence as if it were a temporary setback.  Gradual introduction of workload (including a new style of footwear) will allow you to condition the body, while avoiding fatigue or injury through overworking.  This leads to improved strength and fitness without immediate fatigue or injury through overload.

 

To recognise the needs of the individual and understand the appropriate options in order to try one midsole against another until a favourite can be selected from those which appear successful, that’s where Accelerate come in.

That’s why we have a range as broad as we do.  And the staff team of regular runners, who know the value and the purpose of the shoes we stock.

We carefully match the runner with the product for a more positive running experience.

Keep an eye out for more of ‘the basics’ coming soon…..

 

 

 

 

 

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