Wednesday, 3 April 2013

He paused for breath, so I sat down and Quizzed Jon Steele ....

I've noticed recently that a few members of the ultra community are putting big markers down in the sand. Was it ever so? Jezz Bragg has just run from the top to the bottom of New Zealand, Stuart Walker recently ran from Vienna to Nice casually traversing the Alps for charity, Nicky Spinks breaks records for fun and Lizzy Hawker strides the world stage. Coupled with these outstanding performances, our local ultras are now full to the seams and if you don't buy a number early then you aint in. I've only knocked around the circuit for a few years now but even I've seen the increased participation and interest. Most recently, the Runfurther series has seen new involvement with a fresh website put together by Mark Barnes and also the addition to the team of Jon Steele; he of Hardmoor fame and so i thought it high time to pick up some tips and ideas for my further involvement, improvement and general progression in the sport. It was, after all, the runfurther website which got me hooked into the long distance stuff.

So, I finally sat Jon down after his brave crack at the Viking Way and asked him about his running, his personal choices and the circuit in general:

M: Jon, I've noticed you've been out most weekends so far this year, seen much TV lately?

J: Yes, quite a few runs, as well as the usual races etc. I have been busy reccing the Hardmoors 26.2 Race series routes; Marathon/Half Marathon/10k and changing them, so then going back out to run them again, then signing them before the event etc a tough job but someones got to do it!. I`ve also been trying to fit in some speed work on the treadmill (intervals etc) as I have a lot of long slow mileage in my legs, I need some speed!. I hit the weights intensively 3 times a week with one of my clients, we get pretty competitive too (all upper body) then try to fit in core work and stretching. I manage a glance at the TV on a night while I`m doing Hardmoors Series administration on the laptop, usually music channels unless Shirleys watching Eastenders.

M: So what brought on the 52 ultras in 52 weeks last year?

J: Mid life crisis!, No seriously, I have no real idea what brought it on. I guess I just wanted a challenge for 2012 and enjoy Ultras, especially the social aspect, and with Shirley away working in Saudi I thought it would stop me moping around the house. Then, before I had even thought it through, I`d emailed a selection of my running friends about it (I suppose to put myself in the position of not being able to change my mind) ...

M: We do share an admiration for the North Yorkshire Moors and it's Coasts, how long have you organised the Hardmoor and why did you start?

J: The first Hardmoors Race was the Hardmoors 110 in 2008. So this will be the 6th year, the first Hardmoors 55 was held in 2010, the first Hardmoors 60 was held in 2011 and the first Hardmoors 30 was also in 2011. 2013 is the first year of the Hardmoors 26.2 Trail Marathon Series. 2014 will see possibly 2 new races, both moving away from the North York Moors and maybe also a special edition of the Hardmoors 110 (still undecided about this, but would be quite a challenge to both organise and for competitors to run) ...

I started the Hardmoors Race after running the Cleveland way over a couple of days while Bivving on the Hill tops and a bus shelter in Sandsend and developed a love affair for the route and wanting to share it with other like minded runners. It equals the West Highland Way and any of the other magical routes this country has to offer, and is hidden away in a quiet corner of the UK. It has everything, moorland, hills, cliff tops, small fishing villages, the odd seaside resort and of course the sea. A run of two halves! ...

I couldn't have put it better myself

M:  Is the 26.2 mile series a new idea and a way to get people into the ultra scene?

J: Ha Ha Secretly! Most of the Trail Marathons are Ultra distance and even if they weren't they are as tough as an ultra. No, I think again it was away of bringing people into beautiful areas plus it was a chance to develop my own routes. The Hardmoors 60, 55 and 110 are predominately the Cleveland Way with maybe one or two little bits thrown in and I always felt a bit of a cheat calling it something different from the Cleveland Way Race. The Hardmoors 30 again was an adaption of the Cleveland Way. The 26.2 series is all about developing new routes that make sense and are a real challenge. It was also a chance for Ultrarunners, training for the 110/55/60, to be able to get out and run on similar terrain to these events. In my own training I take part in a lot of 20 plus mile LDWA events for both enjoyment and to get the weekly distance in my legs ready for the 100 milers ...

M: And, do you have a favourite race?

J: Wow thats a hard question, I can give you a list if thats ok?. UTMB, West Highland Way, Hardmoors 110 (ok maybe thats biased but I had a fantastic race in 2011 - I finished 5 hours quicker then I anticipated) Hardmoors 55 (when every checkpoint you get to is marshalled by your friends it makes a fantastic race). Glenmore 24, Lakeland 100 (although my feet would not agree); Swaledale Marathon, Osmotherley Phoenix, Lyke Wake Race, Wadi Bih (Oman), Woldsman, Frostbite 30, Rombalds Stride, Picos des Espadanas Trail Marathon, Highland Fling. Sorry I know that wasn't one ...

But it does show what fabulous opportunities we all have to see the outdoors

M: Would you have any kit recommendations and why that choice?

J: This can, and does, change on a monthly basis! Currently running in Salomon Sense Mantra for hard packed trails, Inov-8 x talons for technical ground and Brooks pure project Cadence for road. I tend to overpronate and find that if I go for a low heel lift 3-6mm it seems to work best for me: Keeps me running on my mid foot rather than heel. If I go for minimal, 0mm drop, then i suffer when I hit hard surfaces (14-15stone pounding down on my feet needs a little support/protection). I ran last year in Hokas for a while, which were great, but I found being so high up and then overpronating meant more pressure on my knees (second to none for going over Rannoch Moor on the West Highland Way Race or parts of the L100, I imagine they would be awesome in the UTMB or Tour des Geants). My Current pack is the Salomon 14+3 skin set: I find this really good, I got all my gear in fine for the 'Viking Way Race' and it`ll be perfect for the Lakeland 100 and would be a good UTMB pack too. I will also use this for shorter LDWA events as well, for me it is much better than the slab 12 version as the bottle holders will take normal size bottles, the only down side is the strapping is pretty much a faff to use. I use x bionic compression tights, which are really good, if you pay full price though they are very expensive! and I will look at their shorts for when the weather improves. I always use compression shorts or tights (force of habit I expect) I'm possibly looking at a new jacket to replace my OMM Smock (which has been ok, my waterproof jackets include a North Face Paclite, a Berghaus Paclite and of course the OMM smock, during the very very wet 2012 West Highland Way race, I went through all 3 jackets, the most expensive jacket lasted the longest in the rain, keeping me dry that is. then the Berghaus and lastly the cheapest the OMM jacket) hearing great reports about the Montane Minimus jacket, so may be tempted by the smock version.

M: Turning to Food and drink for ultra eventers, you have well publicised dietary requirements: What`s a recommendation diet for ultra / prospesctive ultra runners and what does the general restrictions of your diet mean?

J: Yes, I am a coeliac, so checkpoint food is a no no. For anyone who doesn't know what a coeliac is, I basically can't eat Gluten, foods such as bread, cake, pasta, pizza, cereals, beer,oats etc etc . No LDWA broken biscuits or flapjacks etc. Even most broths/soups contain this.

So I rely on what I carry which is usually gels and 9bars, sometimes Hammer nutrition stuff such as sustained fuel and perpeterum, and also fruit nuts and seeds.

I currently follow a Paleo diet which suits me as too many Carbs make me hold a lot of water and feel sluggish. I follow the Paleo diet for Athletes which allows you to consume carbs before during and after a training session/race. So the Carbs you intake are used to fuel you through your workout not laying around unused. The diet or should I say way of life avoids processed foods, which includes grain, dairy and a lot more. I have lost about 3/4 of a stone since January plus built some lean muscle; am currently stronger then I have been in several years and my recovery rate is fantastic. Sometimes I go off the diet when away abroad and its not so easy to avoid processed foods and I notice the difference. If I start to eat carbs then I start to feel hungry all the time and my energy levels dip. I am not saying this is right for everyone but if you are having trouble with weight etc, then have a look at the Paleo diet, it may just work for you, plus a lot of people are Coeliac or Wheat intolerant without knowing, cut out the bread, the beer, pasta, cereal and see what happens, don't say you can't cut out the beer! you have the will power to run distances, surely you have the willpower to cut out gas and water?

M: Well said!, I too followed a Paleo style regime early last year and have never felt better than at that point - I followed the Dukan diet for a period and lost a load of rubbish weight and all that sluggish feeling too - actually managed a couple of pbs`. I`ve also noticed very recently that Ultra Stu is an advocate of the Paleo diet and he's just done a 1.20 half marathon which is a shockingly good improvement for him. For me, have decided to revisit the Paleo as it did work and I have to admit I lapsed from that way forward. Thinking about it, it's high time I sorted that out.

Obviously, my next question is ... Your favourite runner

J: Shirley Colquhoun! obviously :)

Plenty I admire for what they have achieved. I have read numerous books (Feet in the Clouds, running high, running for my life, Dean Karnazes books, Running on Empty, Sharon Gaytors book, The clock keeps ticking), plus tons more.

In 2006, I picked up Mike Cudhay's book in an old book shop for about £8 in Thorton Le Dale (Near Helmsley) 'Wild Trail to Far Horizons' and he really inspired me. Before that, Ronald Turnbull books 'Welsh 3000, Long Days in Lakeland, Lakeland Mountain Challenges, Across Scotland on Foot etc, full of mentions of people such as Martin Stone, Helen Diamantides, Mark Hartell, Joss Naylor, Billy Bland etc. So at the time these where my favourite runners, now some of my favourite runners aren't Killen Jornet, Scott Jurek etc, but the people I meet at the races I organise or enter, people who come first, last or dnf. The real characters of our sport. I love them ...

M: So no favourite athlete generally?

J: No, I Don't really have one as i don't watch much sports. I know that sounds odd. I don't like football, I may watch a bit of the Olympics. I suppose it goes back to the last question for me.

M: I agree with that, I used to play senior Rugby Union but that was many years ago and since the running then I too have little interest in armchair sports - much prefer to participate at any level than waste time.

M: Running music or sounds of the great outdoors?

J: Sounds of the great outdoors unless its the second night in an ultra and I need a boost then the iPod comes out. Or of course if I`m on a treadmill :o))

Lastly, I did ask John when he and Shirley were going to tie the knot?

J: Depends if she will have me ;o)) Top secret :0)) ....

And with that he was off, probably on some more Hardmoor work or admin or recce running or circuit training or ....

Cheers Jon, much appreciate your time with a mid packer!!! You're always welcome to join us back here.

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