Tag Archives: Matt Claydon

Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra Marathon, Saturday, October 28, 2017

38 Miles

Matt Claydon

So after my reasonably successful bash at a full-distance triathlon, I decided to try and delay the inevitable slide towards couch-potato-ism by finding another foolish endeavour to undertake. I’ve never attempted to run past marathon distance, and I have never finished a marathon thinking ‘ that was good, but I wish It went on for ages more with some big hills in it’, but everyone seems to be pushing the boundaries these days, so I thought I’d give it a crack. Hello Jedburgh Ultra.

Another early start, 4.30am alarm, long drive up the A68 in the dark. Arrive still yawning at the car-park next to the abbey. It’s not yet 7 am, still pitch black and happy people in hi-viz direct me in. Collect race number from a happy person, have chip attached to wrist by another happy person. Have a wristband put on my wrist by happy person that says ‘Rule #1: don’t be a dick’. Happy people and not being a dick become themes of the day.

A quick kip in the car, coffee, race briefing (don’t be a dick), a jolly warm up to YMCA and we’re off.

This race is awesome. Solid tracks and trails up from Jedburgh to Melrose, through woodland, fields, along river banks, up over the Eildon Hills (three peaks), through a children’s playground where you are made to tackle the rickety bridge, climbing frame and slide (or you’re disqualified), and back. Beautiful scenery throughout. I planned to take some photos from the hilltops but 50mile-an-hour winds nearly blew me off so I didn’t want to hang around up there, this ropey effort from distance is all I’ve got:

It’s inevitable that regardless of the distance I’m running, by the time I’ve reached the last quarter of the race, all my optimistic plans of finishing times and pace have gone out of the window and I just want to get it over with before my legs fall off; it’ll happen at parkrun next week. The thing about this kind of distance is I still had 10 miles to go when I reached this conclusion, and the scenery doesn’t help much in this regard. That said, if you reckon you have it in you (I barely did) I sincerely recommend this well organised (drop bags at check-points with redistribution of ket from the discarded bags), well signed (no need for map and compass), lovely friendly (got a hug from a giant squirrel) race. The tech T-shirt is emblazoned with Peace, Love, Run, Beer. I just wish I could have stayed on for the post-race pub party.

Northumberland Coastal Marathon and Half Marathon, Alnmouth, Sunday, August 13, 2017

Matt Claydon

Another fantastic, scenic, sensibly priced race from the North-East Marathon Club. The full distance takes you from Alnmouth Beach along the coastal path passing Boulmer, Craster, Dunstanburgh Castle and Low Newton Sands up to Long Nanny Bridge, where after a short run on the beach the course returns to Alnmouth along the same route. The half marathon follows the same route to Craster then returns back to Alnmouth.

The beautiful setting can be deceptive as this can be a tough run. Last year I undertook the marathon with the hope of bettering my time of 3.52 from 2010. After a solid run for the first half I fell apart on the way back finishing an hour later than planned. The sand can be particularly energy-sapping when soft underfoot and the paths provide a mixture of surfaces, often undulating and occasionally littered with rabbit holes. It is easy to take your eye off the path at the wrong time to soak up the landscape and come a cropper. That said it is one of my favourite.

I arrived a couple of hours before the race started and was rewarded with a fantastic view:

Anna, Catherine and Alex had entered the full distance and set off an hour before me. So early that the tide was too high to begin at the usual place and the start line had to be moved further up the beach. This year I opted for the half as it was soon after Outlaw. I hoped it would be a breeze by comparison, but this is rarely the way of things. Shorter distances require a faster pace and are thus more exhausting, but with a PB in mind (dreamland) I set off with the front runners. The ridges in the sand caused by the retreating tide were surprisingly uncomfortable to negotiate and it was a relief to get up on to the path and settle into a rhythm. Within the first couple of miles three of us were maintaining a very good pace and had broken away from the field. Although I knew I couldn’t possibly sustain the pace for the duration I was hoping they would tire also. One of the side effects of Outlaw is a real sense of ‘I can do anything’. Although often a false hope I have adopted this positive approach to all endeavours since and enter races with the intention of trying to win them, or at least PB, however improbable.

We kept together until around half way, but as we opened and shut the many gates for each other along the path I had a moment of indecision and after leaving a gate open for the next runner (some distance behind) I ran on, had a change of heart, and ran back to close it (the Country Code was drummed in to me in childhood). This was sufficient time for a gap to open up between myself and the leaders that I could never close. It also meant the 4th place runner had gained on me. After unsuccessfully putting in a few surges to try and claw back some ground I accepted defeat and settled down to run my own race and try to ensure I didn’t lose a podium spot. I passed the place where I had collapsed with agonising cramp in last year’s marathon and grinned to myself- it felt good to still be going strong and be so close to the finish.

Over the last couple of miles I inevitably tired and he reeled me in. Others were also catching me but I made it to the line in 4th and luckily 1st M40.

Nottingham Outlaw, Nottingham, Sunday, July 23, 2017

2.4m swim / 112 miles bike / 26m run

Matt Claydon

Eighteen months ago I was sitting on the sofa 3 stone heavier with a cake in one hand and beer in the other and had a sudden realisation that something needed to change. I needed to do a Thing. A Big Thing. I decided I liked the idea of a full ironman-distance triathlon. I think I may have had several beers by this point.

Over the next few weeks I deliberately told many people of my plan, so I couldn’t bottle out. One of these people was Neil Sleeman, whose enthusiasm for the idea was considerable (and who’s help and encouragement was hugely appreciated throughout). After discussing the idea with Neil, and a friend from work, Helen Drinkall from Durham Tri, I settled on the Nottingham Outlaw, regarded as a friendly and well organised event (and a fair few quid less than a well-known alternative). Helen decided to sign up, and Neil’s wife Corrina decided he would sign up too (doubt this would be a welcome surprise in many households!).

The training started slowly – it was a long road ahead. I concentrated on the running for the first few months, to try and regain some basic fitness and lose some weight. Looking back I was amazed to see the sum total of my ‘competitive’ running in 2015 comprised just 2 parkruns. It was here that I began, trying to find the motivation to drag myself out each Saturday morning. I signed up for Raby Castle 10k in May 2016 and managed a respectable 42.26, which lifted my confidence a bit, as did Hamsterley 11M (1hr.24) in the July. A disaster at the Northumberland Coastal Marathon in September was a wake-up call as I collapsed with cramp 4 miles from the end, eventually dragging myself over the line in 4hr.51. I had never suffered from cramp before, but it was a useful lesson in nutrition and hydration.

By the autumn I had shifted a few pounds and was running pretty well. I decided that I would try to use my anticipated fitness to target 2017 to PB in all standard distances 5k-marathon and get into the medium pack for the Harrier League. Over the winter I did manage pretty decent performances in the Harrier League, but not quite good enough – missing out on the medium pack at Thornley 2 by 1 place (and 1 second!). I also managed a handful of fell races (still chuffed to make it 1st strider home at Captain Cook). I had by now actually purchased a bike as well (crucial in triathlons). This was set up on a turbo trainer in the spare room and didn’t actually make it out on to a road until May.

At some point in the spring it was explained to me that there were cut-off times for both the swim and bike. This was a very big oversight as I had been relying on a strong run to get inside the overall cut-off of 17hrs. I realised I might not actually make it as far as the run. The swim cut-off is 2hr, and a further 8hr for the bike. Weekly swim sessions and regular cycling followed. A PB at Druridge Bay Marathon in April (and 1st M40!), a standard Olympic distance triathlon (2hr 52) at the same venue a few weeks later. All felt like it was going well…….

Suddenly it’s 3am on the morning of the Big Thing. I’m in the Premier Inn (very convenient-recommended) 6 miles from the venue at the National Watercourse Centre and it’s time to get up. Gulp.

I meet Helen and Neil in the lobby and we drive across to the centre, having racked our bikes and filled our transition bags the day before. We faffed for a bit and I tried not to think about the fact that I had only lake-swam twice, and only ever managed half the distance in training (even less than half for the bike). The weather forecast had been miserable and I was also concerned about cycling in wet conditions (something else I had avoided in training), but despite a heavy downpour the night before the clouds gradually cleared and the sun shone across the lake.

I necked a gel, a couple of ibuprofen (just in case) and 4 Rennie (I usually feel bloated after a swim from gasping for too much air and swallowing water). Then we were off. The swim course is very straightforward, up the left hand side of the lake, across the top and back down the other side (even I didn’t get lost). I started right at the back and gave everyone 30 seconds head start to give myself some space. There was little breeze and the water was very calm. I knew that when I try to go to fast I mess up my rhythm and panic sets in leading too much spluttering and thrashing about. I set off slow and steady, checked my watch at the turn to make sure I was on time, and knowing I was comfortable, built up the pace a little on the way back. Easy peasy- I actually enjoyed it! Out of the water and there were strippers on hand to drag your wetsuit off, then into the marquee-tented transition. A slow and careful change into my bike kit, another gel and out to the bike rack and on to the next stage.

I did a slowish loop of the lake, getting adjusted to being upright and tried to get comfortable on the seat (impossible for me). The course comprises a mix of open rural roads, closed lanes and a relatively short section on a scary-as-hell busy main road. It was all reasonably flat apart from one hill about 50 miles in, and I managed to keep an average speed of around 16mph. The support on the way round was great. The village green of Car Colston was used by many as a place to picnic while waiting for a fleeting glimpse of their loved ones. The first time through it I saw no one (bit deflated) but second time around I passed Neil coming the other way (1.5-2hr ahead?, never saw him again!). Immediately after I passed both families cheering me on – loved it, what a boost!

Coming in to transition was a huge relief as by now the uncomfortable seat felt like a nail pointing somewhere you really don’t want a nail pointing. I was also very glad to be on to a discipline I felt competent in. A smooth transition and I jogged around the lake feeling surprisingly spritely. Again steady was key, and yet more gels. Feed stations every 1.5miles allowed exhausted competitors to grab whatever, whenever. The route took you around the lake then a double loop (like rabbit ears tying your laces) out passed the City Ground and Trent Bridge. I had many childhood memories from these parts which occupied my thoughts on the last few hours.

I passed Anita Clementson coming the other way, and then Helen. It was nice to see friendly faces after the relative loneliness of the cycle (no drafting rules prevent chatting). The support from the marshals was awesome- Thank you all! After 22miles I could feel my hamstrings getting dangerously tight and decided to walk – I knew I would make it. I walk/jogged the last bit. A guy jogged alongside “we have 15min to get the last 1km done and break 13hr 30. Shall we do it?” Hell yes! So Jim and I ran to the line.

As you reach the last 100m Outlaw allow your children to wait by the track for you, and join you to cross the line. This was one of the best moments of my life, I’m very glad to share it.

Chevy Chase, Wooler, Saturday, July 5, 2014

BL / 20M / 4,000'

Matt Claydon

As Aaron explained in last years report ones experience of this race can vary hugely depending on the weather conditions. This year my experience varied hugely all in the same race. Even before the start I felt a certain amount of trepidation having never run a proper fell race and having had limited training as I returned from best part of a year out. This was compounded by the requirement to run with full survival kit including waterproofs, fleece, food, water, map, compass, whistle, flaregun, crampons and a St Bernard. Oh and it’s 20 miles up and down mountains. Well very big hills. Driving up to Wooler through rain and mist did not give me any cheer, although I knew the course had been shortened in recent years when the weather was bad and I admit a repeat of this would not have upset me. Arriving at HQ it was optimistically reported that the mist would clear, which was good as at the time I couldn’t see Cheviot to navigate to.

The distance can be walked or run with the walkers heading off an hour earlier. It was a friendly hustle and bustle at the start where I arrived in time to see some friends off on the walk. An hour later I still felt a little nervous as it was our turn. I ran with a friend who turned up at the start with shoelaces untied and backpack spilling over. I at least felt organised if daunted. I had been a little surprised to see no other Striders at the start, a rare occurrence these days, so was pleased to have some company.

Going over the edge ...

Steady away for the first hour of undulating tracks I began to feel comfortable, even a bit cocky. As we approached the bottom of Cheviot I decided a sub 4 hours was potentially possible and I upped my game. The heavens opened as I tore (trotted) past some of the slower runners and straggling walkers. I caught my walking friends just before the summit fulfilling my threat from the pub the night before ( I left after a nursed pint, they stayed til 1 and hit the shots).

I lost my shoe in the deep peat bogs at the top and spent some unpleasant time retrieving it before charging (sliding) down the other side. This appeared to be an technique underused by the runners around me that I found quite successful. At least you get a rest. As I climbed Hedgehope (nearly as high as Cheviot) the clouds began to clear and I arrived at the summit knackered but dry. I had intended to stop for a rest here, but still optimistic for a good time I took a quick snap of the target in front, framed by a simply stunning panorama, and pushed on.

This is the halfway point, which if you think about too hard is quite unsettling. Luckily I have a talent for not thinking too hard about things and my confidence was growing. All downhill from here! There remains a lot of uphill for downhill, like an impossible scenic Esher print. The temperature steadily rose and stints along rabbit tracks, through gorse bushes and across bogs and rocky outcrops took there toll. A stretch along wooded riverside was stifling and I began to rapidly fade. This was around the 15mile mark, and every footfall required attention. As I (briefly) overtook the lass in front I saw her face was covered in blood. A hardy local type, she explained she had cut her lip falling on a rock. Fair play to her, she won a trophy later.

From here it was walk, jog, walk, jog back to Wooler. I did manage to pick off a few that could by now only manage the walk bit. A sprint (crawl) finish for the camera’s brought me home in 66th place sneaking under 4 hrs 30. I’ll definitely take it. Never ever again I thought. This is a blinking hard race, the hills which one assumes to be the hardest bit are actually relatively straightforward as long as you don’t try to run up them. It’s the long drag home you need to be prepared for. After 6 cakes and a coffee my friends trickled in and we enjoyed a pint in a sunlit beergarden down the way. By the end of the beer we had all agreed it was the hardest thing we had done, and that we would all be back next year.

Durham Coast Half Marathon, Sunday, June 9, 2013

Matt Claydon

This was the inaugural Durham Coast Half Marathon heading south from Seaham down to Crimdon Park. A surprisingly scenic run for those like me that had only ever walked the dog at Blackhall Rocks. For most this included a 2mile stretch up and down Hawthorn Dene, unfortunately the first three home apparently omitted this part of the race through no fault of their own. Spare a thought for two of them who had finished on the podium at the Sunderland Half Marathon last month only to find out the full distance had not been covered then either (source: Peterlee Star).

Personally, I would have been quite happy to knock a few metres off the race, but I would have chosen to miss out the steep steps up the side of each dene we passed through. I ran up the first, jogged the next, then walked, then crawled. It was absolutely exhausting. Had I been a little more organised I would have noted these inclines on the map provided and set off at a more sensible pace. As it was I set off at my usual pace, which as usual proved to be too fast. After a couple of miles a peloton of 6 or 7 runners had formed about 50m ahead of me, with the race leaders already out of sight. My aim was to catch them and try to stick with them as long as possible. This proved to be optimistic as they forged ahead, although I managed to catch a couple of stragglers giving me hope. By the time I had scaled the second steep steps this hope hade long faded and I settled down to run my own race.

Company was few and far between with the 200+ runners stretched out along the clifftop. By 9miles I had reached the point where I just wanted it to be over, the inclines having drained all my energy. I was grateful that it was at least an overcast day and not the scorcher that Saturday had been. Small mercies. At this point I was somewhat bemused by a fellow runner having stopped ahead of me to take a phone call. I hoped it was not an emergency, but he helpfully pointed out the route ahead. I felt a little unsure as I reached the top of the sand dunes, and just as I was about to head down on to the beach I was compelled to shout back to him for confirmation. ‘No, sorry, I meant down the steps over there’ he replied. So off I set to try and retake a runner that had taken the opportunity to pass me, passing the missing marshal as she appeared from the bushes. I managed to catch the guy a couple of times as we worked our way to the finish, but he succeeded in the final push. I must admit feeling a little deflated when the substitute marshal also overtook me.

Still all in all I was pleased at the end, I managed a decent time (1.36) on a tough route, and if I manage a PB at Newton Aycliffe next week this will be why. Obviously the organisation needs a little work, but I can hardly complain I had intended to park up at the finish and get the bus up to the start, but was so badly prepared I got the race upside down and ended up at the start. At least I had time for a quick kip.

Druridge Bay 10K, Sunday, May 26, 2013

Matt Claydon

This little race (300 runners) is now in its 7th year, but unfortunately as it clashes with Raby Castle 10k it has never yet received recognition in our reports [Apart from last year. Ed] – so here it is.

I have an appreciation for this event as it was the scene of one of my Greatest Sporting Triumphs, an 8th place back in 2008 (no trophy), so even if it was rubbish I would still be fond of it. It’s not; it’s a great day out for all the family. Start the day with a gentle(ish) massage before enjoying a 10k run around a scenic country park broken up by a good kilometre or so along the beach. Another free massage afterwards, and an ice cream van on standby, and best of all (this year) a beautiful summers day! So perfect conditions for a picnic by the lake and a kickabout on the beach. Although not particularly cheap, it is non-profit making and your money does go to a worthy cause. The mixed terrain prevents any chance of a PB, but this is a run to enjoy and has a good number of fun-runners doing just so. Perhaps next year you will join us?