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Thunder Run 2014

Thu 7th August 2014

I have once again returned from Thunder Run. My blog post about Thunder Run 2013 was quite well received, and served as a reference when planning for this year’s for at least a couple of my friends, and myself. I thought I should do the same again, but I’ll try not to repeat too much of what I said last year!

The event was, like last year, excellent. The overall setup was pretty much identical. The course was almost identical, give or take a slight adjustment at about 9k, to take you along the east of that bit of the campsite (rather than the west, which was a bit too boggy last year). The vendors by the start/finish were largely the same (Buff, Adidas, ice cream van, fish and chips, cycling accessories), with the addition of an “Alpine” food stall selling tartiflette, hot chocolate and mulled wine(!!). The staff in the main food tent seemed a little green to start with, but were fairly well drilled by the end of 24 hours of serving hungry runners! I also heard that they ran out of jacket potatoes and pasta with meatballs in the middle of the night, but this didn’t seem to be an ongoing complaint, so I assume they rectified this.

The nutrition stand were there again, though with Osmo hydration and Honey Stinger energy bars (rather than Clif bars). They still did the unlimited refills of hydration powder, which was excellent, and there was even a choice of bottle this year 🙂

parkrun

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/551377976

LRR Thunder Runners at Conkers parkrun (thanks to @runbeckrun for the photo)

The nearest parkrun to Thunder Run is Conkers parkrun. As parkrunners tend to like a bit of tourism (visiting other parkruns around the world), it’s become a bit of a tradition for parkrunners who are in the area for Thunder Run to visit Conkers on the Saturday morning. I went last year, but for some reason didn’t write about it in the blog post.

This year there was a much larger crowd of us (2 packed cars) which made for a very fun and social parkrun (we stopped for a lot of photos, especially with the sign-holding volunteers at Conkers). It’s a lovely park and well worth checking out if you’re in the area on a Saturday morning.

Lap 1

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/551377994

At 2pm, it was hot! I tried not to go too hard, as I knew I had lots of running left ahead of me, but probably went up the first hill a bit too fast, then definitely went down the first descent too fast!

Stopped for a drink at the water station, then continued running. Second half of the lap was probably a bit cooler (more tree cover provided more shade), but I was still slower, due to the drink stop and having gone out a bit hard in the first half.

Embarrassingly, I fell over on a completely flat piece of ground, just past the 4 mile mark. Now it was through one of the forests, so I guess there might have been a tree root or something, but it didn’t feel like tripping on something that hard. I think I just got lazy with my feet, didn’t lift them high enough and clipped the front edge of a dip in the mud. One thing’s for certain: for the rest of that lap my feet were exaggeratedly high! The kind runner ahead of me stopped and called back to check I was ok; as I rolled onto my back and sighed, I yelled “I’m ok thanks” and realised I should get up and running. I overtook the friendly runner not long after and thanked him again: I had a little scuff on my left knee (I normally do, I’m a goalkeeper) and was covered in dusty mud, but other than that I was fine.

Lap 2

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/551378017

By 8pm, the weather had cooled a little, with a little more cloud cover. The organisers announced that anyone going out after 8.20pm had to wear a head torch. I took mine with me, but it was still light enough to easily recognise the course.

An absolutely beautiful shot of the Thunder Run campsite. (Thanks to James Saunders for the photo!)

This was probably my most comfortable lap of the weekend: not too hot, good light, I was beginning to anticipate which bit of the route was coming next and I wasn’t too tired yet. I kinda knew this was my best opportunity for a fast lap, as I was less tired than I would be on Lap 4! I pushed a little harder than Lap 1, and did end up going faster by 45 seconds, though it felt harder than that. I’ll put this down to lack of endurance training (or any training)!

It started raining lightly towards the end of the lap, which was nice and cooling, but also meant my clothes that were drying on the gazebo got wet again!

Lap 3

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/551378037

My third lap was my only one in total darkness. Despite only about 4 hours sleep, I woke up pretty easily and prepared for the lap. It definitely took half a kilometre or so to get going. I’d done some dynamic stretching, but should probably have gone for a little jog. Head torch was good, didn’t have to adjust much. It was still quite warm (I wore a t-shirt rather than a vest). Uneventful lap, really.

Lap 4

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/551378064

Feeling fatigued by now. Chest felt tight (in a muscular, rather than breathing way) for the first half a mile, presumably because my arms and shoulders were tired.

Took the first few hills relatively easy, though was still overtaking.

Was exhausted by 5km, so decided to walk to the water station and then up Conti hill. From there I ran the rest, but not quick. It was not as hot as Lap 1, but I was just knackered!

It was quite a nice feeling to finish this lap, have a shower and get some food, knowing I was done for the day. I was pleased to have completed one more lap than last year.

Shoes

Last year, my major mistake was not taking a suitable pair of trail shoes. I assumed the weather would stay good (because it was summer), but the torrential storm created a running surface that my Vibram FiveFingers Trek Sports just couldn’t handle.

I did a bunch of research into minimalist trail shoes and went to Thunder Run 2014 with much more appropriate footwear.

Fellow Brontophobic and blogger, Tamsyn. (Thanks to James Saunders for the photo!)

Firstly, I was given a pair of Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 for Christmas. These have some proper lugs on them, almost the size of football boot studs, and more of them! I ran at a couple of very cross country parkruns on New Year’s Day (Lloyd Park and Roundshaw Downs). I am very confident I would have survived last year’s Thunder Run with these. Unfortunately I didn’t get an opportunity to wear them this year, as it barely rained!

More recently, I bought a pair of Vibram FiveFingers Spyridons from Sport Pursuit. My mistake was that I did not make it to any CC6s or RR10s this year (mostly due to injury), so did not wear them in before Thunder Run. I ended up wearing the Spyridons for every lap of Thunder Run this year (I wore my Trek Sports for parkrun), so I ended up with a blood blister on my second toe, despite covering my toes in Vaseline. The Spyridons are a lovely minimalist trainer. While they felt a tad stiffer and heavier than my other FiveFingers, they had a bit more protection on the sole, so tree roots, stones and even bits of half-buried brick were no problem at all. Grip wise, I was happy enough as I had no problems with sliding sideways or down hills, though the ground was 95% dry for all of my laps. I think they would have coped with a bit more rain, but I have no evidence of whether they would have survived last year!

Nutrition

I followed a fairly similar approach to last year: cook lots of pasta on Friday night, and save the rest for mini-meals after each lap. I also had cereal bars, malt loaf, peanut butter, bananas and jelly babies as energy snacks in preparation for a lap. I never felt short of energy, though I think that’s more to do with lack of stamina meaning I never dared run too fast.

Also, as I was feeling a bit more comfortable with Thunder Run as a whole, I ate some of the catered food before and during the event (last year I wouldn’t have dared, as it was untested). A late night tartiflette, following my second lap, did a very good job of warming me up and filling me up 🙂

Fitness and Performance

I didn’t train for this Thunder Run. In fact, I’ve barely been training at all. I still don’t feel confident that I’m over my injury. I seem to have got past the glute medius problem, though that might just not be being aggravated because I’m not running very much. However, my the front of my left hip still gets tight when running, which I understand is linked to having very tight adductors. I try to stretch every day to improve this, but it’s slow and uneven progress.

Lordshill Road Runner soloists Jim and Rob.
(Thanks to James Saunders for the photo!)

My training recently has consisted of 1 x Run Camp, 1 x parkrun and occasionally 1 x another run each week. No long runs, no track sessions, no hill work. I want to get back into my training, but I’m worried about getting re-injured. Also, now I’m out of the habit of going to certain training sessions, it’s hard to find where to fit them back in (even though I don’t seem to be doing anything particularly important with that time).

Nevertheless, I’m still happy with my performance at Thunder Run this year. All of my laps were under 60 minutes, and I did 4 of them. That was effectively my goal last year, which I failed at massively due to lack of preparation for the conditions! Now I’ve had a simple, straightforward, successful Thunder Run I can start planning ahead to a more daring goal next year. 5 laps? 4 laps under 50 minutes each? Who knows? I’ll see how training goes!

Reflection on tips from last year

My Thunder Run blog post last year had some tips for myself this year. Stupidly, I didn’t listen to all of my own advice!

I didn’t take 4 of everything to cope with all the laps. I had enough technical t-shirts and vests to have a new one every lap, but I only have 3 pairs of running shorts (so took them all), 3 appropriate pairs of shoes, 2 base layers and 1 towel. To be fair, the multiple shoes is only really required if it’s raining a lot, but in the heat my base layers and shorts got very sweaty, which meant trying to rinse and dry them between laps.

I didn’t take a clothes horse (too unwieldy to carry) and forgot to take coat hangers (I don’t have many spare). I hung things from the gazebo, but got caught out when it started raining while I was out for my 2nd lap and everything got wet again (it was almost dry when I headed out).

I didn’t take enough cash. There were many more Buffs that I wanted to buy, and they didn’t even bother bringing a card machine this year! I had enough for any food I wanted to buy, but I still felt like I was having to be careful about what I spent, which is a distraction from running!

I also failed to acquire a camping chair, but there was nearly always someone not sitting at any one time, so there was often a spare. This is a bad thing to rely on though, so I’ll sort this out next year.

Tips for next year

These are additional tips for myself, as I failed to heed my own advice from last year and I wish I had done the following:

  • Take coat hangers
  • Take more cash
  • Get a camping chair
  • Get more base layers
  • Get more shorts
  • Get another towel
  • Go for a short jog before each lap.

Of course, last year’s tips still stand true:

  • Take 1 of everything that you need for each lap you hope to do. Ideally this would include:
    • base layer
    • vest/shirt
    • shorts
    • shoes
    • socks
    • towel
  • Figure out a way of getting things dry, even when it’s raining. Maybe a clothes horse or a few coat hangers if your tent is tall enough.
  • Have good trail shoes. Try them out in the CC6 races to make sure they’ll be adequate.
  • Cook up your night-before-race meal (e.g. pasta) and have enough left over to snack on after each lap. Other pre-race snacks (e.g. energy bars, cereal bars, jelly babies, peanut butter sandwiches) are handy as well.
  • Take some cash for food and gear at the site. Some of the vendors have card machines, but mobile phone signal was appalling so they didn’t work!
  • Camping chairs and gazebos are very useful.
  • A tent you can stand up in is great.

And some I didn’t think to add last year, but might be useful to someone who has never been before, or may not camp very often:

  • Some way of transferring water in bulk from the water tanker to your campsite. A couple of the 5L bottles from the supermarket work nicely.
  • Get a good head torch, charge it well before going.
  • Have another torch for moving around the tent and campsite at night (so you don’t run out the batteries in your head torch).
  • An inflatable mattress is helpful.
  • A fairly light sleeping bag will do. It’s summer, so is still quite warm at night. Having a jumper, hoodie or towel close by can come in handy as extra warmth if it happens to get unexpectedly cooler while you’re sleeping.
  • Take your parkrun barcode #dfyb!

Next year I’ll rewrite this as a checklist.

Overall

Great Thunder Run. Thanks to all my Brontophobics team mates, and to my fellow Lordshill Road Runners. It was an excellent weekend away, and I can’t wait till next year! I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys the social side of running, though I think it’s best if you can go with a team who have some experienced Thunder Runners to help you settle in.

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