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Team Accelerate Create A Heatwave in the Cold North

The first weekend in November some of Team Accelerate headed north to race in the Wooler Trail Half Marathon. The latest addition to the team Paddy sums up the weekend.

I don’t need much persuading to travel to new places, so when a trip to Wooler Trail Half Marathon was suggested, I immediately put my hand up. Five months later, I’m on my way to the far North East of England with Team Accelerate, racing in Scott kit for the very first time, with teammates Harvey, Chris & Hugh.

Over the years, I have been on many away days and weekends playing rugby so I knew to expect some banter from the lads! Light hearted shots were fired before we even got on the road, team bonding had begun.

How much kit and pairs of running shoes would 4 people require for a simple 3 day trip and race? I had guessed at 2. One pair to train/warm up in and another to race in. How wrong was I?! Between Chris and Harvey there were 10 pairs with enough kit for every possible weather condition. As for food, we had enough pasta and rice to feed EVERYONE racing on Sunday! Genius move of the weekend? Harvey brought his coffee machine!

With all our bags shoehorned into the back of Chris’ Land Rover and some new age punk playing on the radio, we hit the road for the 4hr journey ahead. The weekend had begun!

I have been training alongside Harvey, Chris and Hugh for a few months now, under the wise tutelage of Stu. I began this journey wanting to find out if there was still opportunity to improve in my early 40s. I regard Stu as the best Coach I have met over the years and as a Coach myself I wanted to learn more about how I can improve the Coaching I provide, whilst sharing my own knowledge and experience with the Team.

I firmly believe in living everyday like it is a blank page and being willing to learn, change my mind about opinions I have formed over the years as an Athlete, Trainer and Coach. Many training sessions and a few races later, my confidence has grown.

I know I’m not completely there yet, but I also know I am now in a place where I can run well, run happy and begin competing at the front end of races again. Being part of a team that encourages and supports you on your journey is key. Travelling to Wooler to race as part of Team Accelerate made me feel proud of what I had achieved so far and actually took all the pressure off how I might perform on race day.

Harvey was returning to Wooler as defending Champion having made the journey North alone a year ago. This time he came with friends, and it seemed to provide an extra layer of confidence from the second we set off on our recce of the route. Despite the route having been marked out ready for the weekend, with a big yellow arrow directing us along the road, Harvey was certain we were to go off to the left along a well trodden footpath towards the woods. Apparently, he hadn’t read the race info that stated there was an alteration to the publicised route due to tree felling in the woods. We found our way to the route thanks to the little yellow flags and arrows put out by the organisers, checking the first 3k and the final descent where a discussion about vaulting gates would give us food for thought over the next couple of days. Shoe choice? The ground was still relatively firm and with the finish now a longish stretch of road would it be plausible to change to carbon road shoes to finish in? Fortunately, that was a decision we didn’t have to make as out of all the shoes we had brought, those weren’t on the list.

Route check complete, we went to find our accommodation for the next few days. Driving out of Wooler into the middle of nowhere, overlooking the very hills we would be racing on. Cracking job Harvey! Now to settle in and relax, with only one tricky decision ahead of us. What film do we choose?

We had decided to go to the route again on Saturday to watch the leaders of the marathon descend to the finish. It also served as a little leg stretch ahead of Sunday. It was definitely going to be a fast one with the ground firm and overhead conditions looking good.

There are many similarities between Northumberland and the Peak District. Sleepy towns, rolling hills and runnable trails that can take you anywhere.

We all certainly felt very much at home in our surroundings and even though we hadn’t dedicated much racing to off-road this year, we all felt quietly confident about performing well on what appeared to be a fast course.

Race day!

The weather was set to be kind to us which was a relief. We arrived at the race HQ, Wooler YHA at 7.45am. Numbers collected, mandatory kit checked and plenty of time to warm up and prepare our bodies and minds for racing.

The short walk to the start line helped settle any nerves that we had and with the relaxed starting process of ‘I’ll count you down from 5 and you can go!’ we were off

Harvey took the lead and it is fair to say no one was going to catch him. Chris settled into a solid position, I eased into the race keeping myself controlled having not raced over this sort of terrain in a while, giving it the respect it deserved focussing on keeping my effort even and sustained. Hugh was sticking to his race plan of staying easy.

By the time I got to the turn around point, Harvey had opened up a sizable lead and as we passed each other on the hill into the checkpoint he was looking strong. A simple cheer of encouragement both ways was appreciated especially as I still had to come back up the hill I was descending. Chris had settled into 3rd and as I reached the checkpoint I found myself in 7th with 8th place trying to close the gap. Hugh was showing his versatility on the trails as I saw him in 9th place as I began my ascent.

Now the ascent! Up to this point the uphill sections had been, relatively speaking, a breeze. This final climb would prove the most challenging. Time to dig in and sustain the effort. If you are feeling it, then those behind and in front are too! Once at the top there were some free flowing trails to stretch out on, an opportunity to get the effort level back up and keep the legs turning. There was a short hill up to a final gateway and as I climbed it I allowed myself a quick check to see how far ahead of 8th I was. It gave me the kick I needed for one final push down the descent and onto the finish I needed! There was no way I was giving my place up now! A shout of ‘Focus, keep the effort up’ and ‘You’ve got this’ from Stu was the extra bit of encouragement to stay ahead. Time to empty the tank, which is exactly what I did down the hill and onto the road. By the time I had got to the finish the gap had increased. Seventh place was mine, greeted by Chris who had given all he could give only to be pushed back from 3rd to 5th in the final stages. Still a positive result for him having had his build up disrupted through illness and a niggle. Harvey was looking pleased with himself and after congratulating me for a strong run, he was pleased to announce he’d continued on for the win in under 90 mins breaking his own course record in the process. Hugh was next across the finish line in 9th having hardly broken into a sweat. The wonder of youth!

All in all, a fantastic weekend building relationships as a team and putting in individual performances that we can all be very proud of.

What a team and what potential we all have to look forward to reaching together!

As for The Wooler Trail Half Marathon, Trail Outlaws have put together a great race. A challenging, but manageable route for all abilities with some really fast sections to get your teeth stuck into. Thanks must be given to Scott Sports for their continued support of Team Accelerate, it was certainly a proud moment for this 41 year old to race wearing their kit. Thanks to Stu & Debs for their support on and off the course and for everyone at the APC for support with niggles of body and mind.

See you next year?

Ps…Our films of choice for the weekend? It had to be James Bond Skyfall on Friday & Spectre on Saturday!

Race to the stones 100k – Virtually

On July 6th 2020 Accelerate community member Simon headed out what can only be described as a monumental challenge both physically and mentally. Keep reading to hear what crazy feat he attempted.

 

The alarm goes off and I rush to silence it because I don’t want to wake my wife up: not at this hour. I creep through to the bathroom where I find my running kit piled in the corner ready for me and then I make my way downstairs to grab a quick bite to eat. I unlock the front door and in the porch I pull on my trail shoes and look out at the weather that awaits me. It’s raining, not enough to need wet weather gear on a normal day… but this isn’t a normal day. I put a rain jacket on and dig out a pair of waterproof trousers that I’ve never even considered running in before. They are far too heavy for the job but the clock is ticking and I need to be on my way. Already, momentum is everything. I quickly add a pair of gloves and a fluorescent beanie hat to complete the look and at 04:54 I push the start button on my Polar watch as I head down the road on my way towards the Redmires reservoirs. I look at the sky and am amazed at how light it is already – despite the gloom of the weather – and I hope it is still light when I finish… whenever that may be. As I begin my journey down the lonely street, I have time to think about how I ended up here.

It was probably about a year before that I signed up to do the 2020 Race to the Castle, a 100km event from Kirkharle to Bamburgh Castle. I’d run a couple of marathons previously and managed

to run/walk the Dig Deeper 50km as the sweeper back in September 2019 but this was a chance to go beyond double figures! I convinced myself, as I often do, that it wasn’t as far as it sounded. ‘It’s only a 10km run done ten times, isn’t it?’, I would say to anyone who asked. I began training in earnest under Stu’s eye at the start of 2020 and everything was on course until Coronavirus hit. It was inevitable that an event involving over 1000 participants would be cancelled and so in early April we changed the plan and settled down to a more ‘routine’ form of training.

 

However, as lockdown continued and I ran my regular route round the reservoirs I kept hearing that voice in my head saying ‘It’s only this 10km run ten times, isn’t it?’ By late June it was no longer a question of IF I was going to try this, it was WHEN… and then Threshold Sports announced their Virtual Race to the Stones. The running stars had aligned and I had to break it to Stu what was going to happen. In fairness he took it well and within the week I was starting my first of what was planned to be ten laps of Redmires.

 

The first lap was uneventful, other than losing a glove on the way round, but I realised that the mix of a head wind, my height and the wet weather gear was going to be a problem… it was like running with a parachute on. On the second lap I decided a fast walk in to the wind was more efficient and used the wind to help me on the way back… I also found my glove! For each lap from then, it was always a fast walk out and as much running as I could manage on the way back… which was very little after about 60km!

My porch served as basecamp between each lap, with a box of provisions placed there the night before. The routine was to write up my time and distance on a backboard, take a photo to send out on social media, plug my watch and phone in to recharge and then eat and drink what I could. Bananas, apple juice and chocolate featured highly and I aimed to get through all this and back on the road in under 20 minutes, which I usually achieved.

 

I was out of the waterproof trousers after lap four (a marathon in those!!) and after lap six I had a change of socks, shoes and top. I also switched to my road shoes which were kinder on my tired feet when I hit the tarmac but I felt every stone through their softer sole on the off road sections of the route… ouch!

As time passed, so did the kilometres and before I knew it I was well beyond my previous experience. I felt worst on lap eight but by then I had a few running friends joining to keep me going and for laps nine and ten I had quite the posse along… all socially distanced of course. In the end lap ten didn’t need to be the full 10km, as each previous lap was actually 4-500m longer than planned leaving me only 6km to do, so I never made it round the reservoirs the tenth time.

I passed the 100km mark just before I got home, making it back at just after 21:30, 16 hours and 44 minutes after I started… and it was still light! I had done it.

Running and walking 100km on limited training may not be easy or even sensible but it isn’t impossible. It’s amazing what we can achieve if we put our minds to it… and have friends helping too. Fancy doing 100km? Want my advice? Go for it… it’s only doing a 10km run ten times after all!

Scott Supertrac 2, Making the fast, faster!

Accelerate-Scott Team member Harvey has been lucky enough to get his hands on a pair of the new Scott Supertrac 2’s and over the last month has been putting them through their paces. Keep reading to hear what he has to think about this iconic shoe from Scott.

When I initially heard Scott were updating the Supertrac i was very sceptical as they have easily been my favourite trail and fell shoe for the whole 2019. Weather it was racing or training, short or long it worked for it all. Thankfully Scott follow along the lines of if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. And wow, I think they nailed it. Everything I loved about the Supertrac 1 has remained with some very subtle tweaks to push it to the next level.

Straight out the box and I knew that they hadn’t changed too much. The main changes are an update to the outsole and a redesigned upper and lacing system.

Redesigned – The Upper
The biggest and most prominent change has to be the update to the upper, it now uses Schoeller’s Coldback fabric for better breathability, heat protection and increased comfort. Something I found with the Supertrac 1 was that the upper always felt a little tough and restrictive. Now however the Scheoller fabric hugs your foot allowing it to move but still maintaining a lock down feel you can trust. This could also be due to the update on the lacing, with an extra eyelet to help when using a runners loop to further lockdown your foot. Perfect for those steep technical descents where you need to be able to trust in your shoes. In terms of longevity with the new material, I have done just over 100 miles in mine and they aren’t showing any signs of wear.


The Outsole
The next change you can see is to the pattern of the outsole. The lugs have been spread out to help reduce the amount of mud that can get stuck in them without losing traction. When you are running this isn’t something you are likely to notice straight away. It certainly doesn’t hold them back. I have taken them on some pretty rough descents and not once did it slip or give me any reason not to trust them completely. Weather it was wet rock, deep mud or long grass they just didn’t budge. Just what you want from a trail shoe that can easily cope with a little open ground and fell.


The Midsole
The finally change they made is to the feel of the midsole, it is, to me, feeling a touch softer than its predecessor. This is due to the grooves which have been added to the midfoot area of the outsole allowing more flexibility throughout the shoe. For me this is no bad thing and I know of a few people saying the 1 was a little to firm at times. With this slight change it makes them feel even more lively when you hit a hard packed trail or road section. They continue to feel responsive, with the advantage of also feeling more nimble through more rugged terrain.

After 100 miles, they are showing hardly any signs of wear, very true to scott.

This is definitely an upgrade for the Supertrac while keeping most of the features that made them the shoes people love. If you liked the 1 then the upgrade is worth a look or if you are after a new pair of trail or fell shoes then these could be a big contender for you.

Get your pair now, Mens here >> Ladies here >>

Movement Matters, A reason to run

Thanks to Laura Hogg for this amazing buzz post, she is a sports therapist for the Accelerate Performance Centre and a keen runner and cyclist. Hear some of her thoughts on the benafits of regular movement.

Like most at the moment, I am incredibly grateful that outdoor exercise is considered essential activity. It’s hard to imagine life without it. But even while we have this luxury, movement matters the rest of the time for the health of our mind, joints, muscles and cells.

Personally, I’m hoping not to slip into sedentary habits whilst working and living from home – even whilst we can run. It’s tempting to think an hour or so of exercise is enough to offset 8 hours of loafing around, but unfortunately not.

Movement Matters is the name of a book by my favourite biomechanist-writer Katy Bowman (I don’t actually know any others). I’ve enjoyed her writing for a while – it’s fascinating and entertaining. Bowman is best known for her book Move Your DNA and her online blog Nutritious Movement.

We might be used to going out of the house for our exercise, and be starting to feel frustrated with a lack of it. But movement more, and more important, than exercise. In Move Your DNA, Bowman explains why your heart and cells needs your body to keep moving in a variety of ways:

  • Blood isn’t only pumped round the body by the heart. Muscles have an important role to play too. The heart pumps blood into arteries, but it is working muscle that draws it into the capillaries through the opened walls of the arterioles (also muscle). By moving, our muscles deliver blood to the tissue that needs it.
  • This blood doesn’t go everywhere in the body though, just where it is needed for the activity. Regular exercise doesn’t guarantee good blood flow to the cells in all of your muscles, only those that are working. For our blood to nourish all of our tissues, we must move often and in varied ways.
  • When we are sedentary, our muscles don’t help our heart. The heart must do all of the pumping by itself – possibly for hours at a time. So by jumping up from a sedentary afternoon at the laptop and heading out for a run, we are asking the heart to work harder than we might realise.
  • Our cells adapt to the way we use our body. Our body responds to the load created by our movement (or lack of it) to create tiny changes in our cells. By standing, walking or running, we create load on our body as it carries our weight. That’s why the bone density of runners tends to be higher than that of cyclists, because runners bodies support their own weight, creating more of a load on the body than sitting on a bike.

I’ve seen lots of ideas recently about how those with spare time in isolation could use it to paint the spare room and read all of the books. But this is an anxious time, made harder for lots of us because our outside hours are limited. Who needs pressure to emerge from isolation with a headstand, a massive brain and a shiny house?

There is loads of moving to do at home, such as standing up from the sofa (that’s a squat, right?!), following pets round the house for attention, hunting for the remote control…

Personally, I’m just trying to not sit for too long, especially on a chair. If I sit on the floor I end up in loads of different and awkward positions, but at least I’m moving! This article about why we sit like we do in the West has a cool image showing different resting postures of the world: https://www.nutritiousmovement.com/your-position-in-life/.

Stay safe everyone!

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