Monday, 23 September 2019

Sports Massage, Stretches and a Last Minute Half Marathon

Week 18 - Peak Phase
w/c 16.09.2019

Recommended mileage: 60 miles
Actual mileage: 35.2 miles

On paper, this was to be the toughest week of the training programme.

The final 'Peak Session' with a recommended mileage of 60 miles, after which, I would start to taper.

I woke up Monday morning feeling exhausted. The boys had slept through, I'd had a decent nights sleep but yet I was tired, lethargic and drained of energy. My legs were heavy, my knee ached and the thought of running another mile filled me with dread.

I had plans to go into the Birmingham office in the morning but traffic had built up on my road due to an incident on the M42. Instead, I worked out of my home office to catch up on a few emails and print some documents I needed for work, only to find the printer had run out of ink - great! Bromsgrove town centre is just over a mile away and although half of me was tempted to jump in the car, I reluctantly grabbed my running trainers and had a slow, steady jog into town. In fairness, the slow 2 miles acted as a bit of a recovery run and I felt the benefit in my legs almost immediately.

I'd booked a sports massage on Tuesday with GD Health in Redditch. I've been going there on and off for the past 3 years and find it really helps with recovery. Luckily for me, they do evening appointments and I managed to secure a last minute appointment after work. The sessions last for about 45 minutes and as I can testify, if you leave it too long between sessions, it bloody hurts! You think a foam roller is bad? Then you've never had a sports massage!

Prior to the massage, we'd discussed my knee pain and after an initial assessment, it was confirmed that the route of the problem was down to tight quads putting too much pressure on the patella. I was given some stretches to do which would alleviate the pain and felt reassured that the injury was muscle related rather than a more serious knee issue.

I woke up Wednesday morning feeling instantly refreshed. My knee was still aching but the legs felt a lot lighter. I dropped the boys off at before school club, stretched then headed into the office. I usually leave it 48 hours after a sports massage but as it was a 60 mile week, I decided to go for a short run post work. I stayed local and did an enjoyable yet hilly 4 miler on fresh legs.

Average Pace: 08:51 min mile
Elevation Gain: 236 ft
Mile 1 - 09:23, Mile 2 - 08:51, Mile 3 - 08:48, Mile 4 - 08:24, Mile 5 - 08:39

Thursday night was club run but once again I sacrificed this for a solo run up the Lickey Hills. I miss club runs. I miss the people and the social side of running in a large group but I'm also aware of the need to replicate race conditions in training. I needed to be running up and down hills on trails as opposed to tarmac and canals.

I'd planned to run my normal 10k loop twice, covering approximately 1700 ft and elevation and using my head torch to light the trails. Again, useful training for LiaD. I left at 6:30 pm and enjoyed a steady 12 mile run in and around the hills.

Average Pace:11:24 min mile
Elevation Gain: 1,683 ft
Mile 1 - 11:37, Mile 2 - 09:45, Mile 3 - 12:12, Mile 4 - 09:29, Mile 5 - 09:37, Mile 6 - 12:18, Mile 7 - 13:13, Mile 8 - 12:39, Mile 9 - 12:25, Mile 10 - 10:12, Mile 11 - 11:49, Mile 12 - 11:58

Sunset over the Lickey Hills

I find it eerie yet relaxing running at night

Birmingham City Centre

I worked from home on Friday and went for a short 4 mile run after swimming with the boys. I'd missed last weeks session so I was looking forward to seeing how they'd progressed. I wasn't disappointed.

Average Pace:8:40 min mile
Elevation Gain: 230 ft
Mile 1 - 9:07, Mile 2 - 8:41, Mile 3 - 8:37, Mile 4 - 8:14 

I had scheduled to do another 18 miles up the Malvern Hills on Saturday but as it happens, I got offered a place at Trailffest Half Marathon in Wales from a club mate who was unfortunately injured. It's a race that's always been on my bucket list but I'd never actually got round to doing it. It didn't disappoint and turned out to be one of my favourite races of the year - you can read the full race report here...

I'd also scheduled to do another long run on the Sunday, either a 20 miler around Kings Heath with some club mates or a local hilly race in the Wasely Hills; the Wasely Wobbler. As it transpires, I did neither as I overslept! I was physically exhausted all day Sunday so I put it down as a rest day and wrote it off!

I'll get out next weekend for my final long run before I taper.











Trailffest Half Marathon 2019

About to board the train to the start line

What a brilliant race!

The Trailffest Half Marathon is billed as 'one of the most scenic you could hope to run, with dramatic changes of scenery and terrain the whole way to the finish line',

I wouldn't disagree.

Everything about this race, from the steam train which takes you to the start line, the narrow trails which snake their way down the mountain, to the stunning landscape made this one of my favourite races to date.

Don't get me wrong, it was hard, very hard in fact and a lot more technical than I had expected, (or needed this late into my training plan) but I loved every mile. The course profile is a little misleading, with the race starting at an elevation of 710 ft and finishing at sea level you'd expect it to be mainly downhill, but we still managed to climb over 1,535 ft - for every technical downhill, there was a tough uphill just around the corner. 

I only found out about Trailffest two days prior to the race. A couple of club mates had posted on the club Facebook page that regrettably, due to injury they'd have to pull out at this late stage. The race had been on my radar for a while but I'd never actually got round to running it so I gratefully accepted the place together with Kate, another friend from club who took the remaining place.

As it was such late notice, there was no time to organise accommodation so I decided to drive the 6 hour round trip to Porthmadog, Wales. Registration was between 8am-10:40am; so another early start. I'd agreed to car share with Kate so we met up at 6am to make the long journey to race HQ.

We arrived in Porthmadog just after 9am, allowing plenty of time to register, grab some breakfast, soak up the pre-race atmosphere and meet up with fellow club mates Abi, Rebecca and Claire. We were also handed our goody bag consisting of a technical t-shirt, a bottle of ale from the local brewery and some protein bars.

Pre race photo with Kate, Abi, Rebecca and Claire.

The start line was at Blaenau Ffestiniog which lies at the foot of the Moelwyn mountain range. To get to the start line the organisers had thrown in a steam train ride (for runners and supporters) which takes just over an hour and adds to the charm of the race. The views on the way up were amazing and every now and again we'd pick out race signs within the landscape depicting the route we'd soon be running back.

Once at the start line we were ushered into a start pen and there was a short pre race briefing and head count. It was a relatively small field, approximately 150 runners and before we knew it the race had started to the sound of the steam train whistle; another nice feature!

I had planned to take this race steady, simply enjoy the terrain, take in the views and just have a great day on the trail. The weather was gorgeous with clear blue skies and we were greeted with amazing views of the landscape.

The first 4 miles we found ourselves running trough rugged slate mines, mostly on single file tracks. There was also numerous stiles and gates to navigate which led to some congestion in places. Not a problem for someone enjoying the view and catching a breather but I did hear a few groans from fellow runners which I thought was a little out of hand; each to their own I suppose! The slate was also tricky underfoot and the technical aspect of being mindful of each foot placement meant it was pretty tough going in places and difficult to maintain any rhythm and pace.

Between miles 4-8 the terrain changed again to more woodland trails. This was my favourite section of the race, jumping tree routes, ducking under branches and running along small trails under the tree canopy. I also passed the train at mile 5, which was stationary and full of supporters who gave us an resounding cheer which was a real boost.

The pain is real. Looking up to yet another hill!

Miles 9-11 were mainly though farmland areas and again I found the terrain difficult to navigate. Making our way though farm tracks or grassy areas with hidden boulders or pot holes made it quite tricky and I found myself constantly scanning the ground in front of me rather than enjoying the views. There were sections I decided to walk rather than run in fear of turning an ankle or worse. This decision was later justified when I passed a lady who had unfortunately fallen and was being attended to by the marshals. 

The last couple of miles were mainly on road and were relatively flat. For the first time in the race I felt I could open my legs and maintain some speed. As a result, I found myself overtaking quite a few runners on this section which was testament to where I am in terms of my training plan. The last mile we found ourselves running next to the train line adjacent to the sea wall with the finish line in the distance. It was also very well supported and we were cheered home to a personalised tannoy finish - another nice touch! 

I finished in 64th position in 2:28 but in all honesty, the time and placing was irrelevant.

I finished injury free and had an amazing day on the trail.

Would I do it again?

In a heartbeat!

The view from the start line

Our ride....








  






Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Working Away, Night Running and a Return to the Malverns...

Week 17 - Peak Phase
w/c 09.09.2019

Recommended mileage: 55 miles
Actual mileage: 40.3 miles

I was fortunate enough to be working in Cornwall this week but only managed to get in a couple of runs due to work commitments. Both were circular coastal runs; one from Cardis Bay to Hayle and the other slightly further afield from St.Ives to Hayle.

Cardis Bay to Hayle was an enjoyable, if somewhat difficult run due to the elevation and nature of the terrain. The weather conditions were favourable; overcast with light drizzle and the trails were a mix of grass, gravel and sand. As it was a circular run, there was also a large section on pavement once I came off the coastal path. I ran for just shy of 5 miles.

Average Pace:11:10 min mile
Elevation Gain: 489 ft
Mile 1 - 9:33, Mile 2 - 09:27, Mile 3 - 09:58, Mile 4 - 13:17, Mile 5 - 14:35

Lovely coastal run from Cardis Bay to Hayle



On Thursday evening I decided to run the slightly longer section, from Cardis Bay to St Ives, whereby I'd join the coastal path and head towards Hayle, returning back to Cardis Bay via the country lanes. Luckily, I'd packed my head torch which was essential on the cliff top trails.

I enjoy night runs. There's something quite peaceful about running on trails with just the glow of the head torch lighting the way. It's eerie yet calming. I took it nice and steady, walked the hills and clifftop sections, gently ran the rest, covering just shy of 7 miles. It was also good practice for the LiaD, where if all goes well, I'll probably be covering the last 20 miles in the dark whilst trying to navigate! 

Average Pace:12:58 min mile
Elevation Gain: 823 ft
Mile 1 - 10:07, Mile 2 - 10:05, Mile 3 - 12:46, Mile 4 - 17:32, Mile 5 - 15:30, Mile 6 - 11:05, Mile 7 - 13:45

Dark, eerie but surprisingly peaceful 

Hayle in the distance 

Despite the lack of running, I did manage to fit in some stretches and core work, something I've neglected over the past couple of weeks, and boy, did I feel it! The old expression 'one step forward, two steps back' comes to mind and I struggled with 10 reps each of the Dirty Dozen exercise plan.

I travelled back to Bromsgrove on Friday and unfortunately arrived back too late to take the boys swimming; something I like to do when I work away for the week. The A30 was crawling out of Cornwall and the M5 was pretty much stop/start; your average Friday commute which took me over 6 hours. I had no desire to go for a run in the evening.

I had no plans for the weekend but knew I needed to get some long, 'back-to-back' runs in as part of my training plan.

I made the last minute decision to go to the Malvern Hills on Saturday, leaving at 7am for an 8am start. The Malvern Hills are a range of hills in the English Counties of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and North Gloucestershire, covering approximately 9 miles from North to South.

I've run the hills before, parking at North Quarry car park and running the 9 miles to Hollybush before turning around and retracing my steps - 18 miles in total with approximately 5000 feet of elevation. Its a tough run and as I don't have access to the Lake District on my doorstep, it's the next best thing without travelling too far.

I took the run steady, with the main focus on time-on-feet and climbing the maximum amount of elevation possible. In my mind, I wanted to hit 6,000 ft (nearly half of the elevation of LiaD) without running up the same hills repeatedly.

I failed. Although I did manage to cover over 5,200 ft of elevation 18.6 miles in just shy of 5 hours. I walked the hills, jogged the flats and downhill sections - pretty much my race plan for LiaD.

It was a great day on the hills and made me a little more confident for the challenge ahead.

Average Pace:15:56 min mile
Elevation Gain: 5,213 ft
Mile 1 - 17:53, Mile 2 - 15:52, Mile 3 - 13:37, Mile 4 - 14:44, Mile 5 - 13:54, Mile 6 - 16:27, Mile 7 - 14:44, Mile 8 - 17:32, Mile 9 - 13:37, Mile 10 - 17:05, Mile 11 - 12:43, Mile 12 - 19:10, Mile 13 - 15:58, Mile 14 - 17:18, Mile 15 - 15:14, Mile 16 - 19:52, Mile 17 - 19:43, Mile 18 - 15:09, Mile 19 - 09:52

Views from the Worcestershire Beacon - the highest point of the Malverns




It's very rare that I listen to anything whilst out running but as it was a long, solitary run I borrowed Ruth's bone conducting headphones to keep me company.  I've been listening to a lot of podcasts recently whilst in the car and two of my favourites; the British Ultra Running Podcast and the British Trail Running Podcast have now come to an end (and I've caught up with back catalogue), much to my disappointment.  Looking for an alternative, I stumbled upon Trail Running Women and decided to give it a go. The first few episodes were informative, funny and focused on the average runner and not just the 'elites", as many podcasts tend to do, which I liked. I'd downloaded a few episodes and started listening to them back-to-back. It was an interesting listen until I came across a couple of episodes focusing on 'running whilst breastfeeding' and 'running with periods'. As interesting as it was, I don't think I was the right target market!

On Sunday I got to support Ruth for a change as she was running the Worcester 10k. With the 3 boys in tow (that was a challenge in itself!) we managed to get to a couple of viewpoints to see her run past and she looked strong, which proved to be the case as she smashed her PB, finishing in 57:53. An awesome run!

New 10k PB

High Five for the little man

Reluctantly, I decided to go out for a run late afternoon. Despite feeling exhausted from yesterdays 18 miler, running back-to-back on tired lengths is key to my training plan so I grabbed my gear and did a lovely, scenic 10 mile route around the Worcestershire countryside. Fitness wise I felt ok, but issues with the knee were still niggling away and I was forced to take a couple of Ibruprofen half way though the run. Not ideal but at this stage of the training plan I've resigned myself to just getting through it and sorting out any long term niggles after the ultra. 

Average Pace:09:48 min mile
Elevation Gain: 404 ft
Mile 1 - 09:37, Mile 2 - 09:27, Mile 3 - 09:41, Mile 4 - 09:58, Mile 5 - 09:41, Mile 6 - 09:52, Mile 7 - 09:52, Mile 8 - 10:10, Mile 9 - 09:54, Mile 10 - 09:45











Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Navigation Training and a LiaD Recce


Week 16 - Peak Phase
w/c 02.09.2019

Recommended mileage: 50 miles
Actual mileage: 48.8 miles

Monday came around fairly quickly.

Ruth and I were at the Moseley Folk Festival all day Saturday and Sunday was spent tobogganing for Oliver's birthday - I still can't believe he's 5! I'd rested the knee somewhat in terms of running but I was still hobbling around for most of the weekend and on my feet all day.

I decided not to run on Monday. The knee had improved somewhat but there was still an underlying issue when I put weight through it, more so when I stretched it out or put my full weight on it leaning forward - particularly down stairs. The pain wasn't unbearable, far from it, but there was definitely a niggle which was causing me issues.

The sensible me, and the advice I'd give to others would have been rest, ice and get a physio appointment asap. In reality, I was in week 16 of the training plan. The PEAK phase. I should be recording 50 miles this week and here I am with a dodgy knee! I couldn't afford to take any time off. I could probably get away with reducing the miles but I needed to keep the legs ticking over.

I grabbed my gear and went for a run on Tuesday.

The first mile was uncomfortable and the knee felt like it was jarring on every foot strike. It's difficult to explain but it's similar to that feeling in your fingers when they need cracking (or is that just me?), except the knee wouldn't crack. The more I ran though, the less discomfort I felt. I kept the pace steady and ran a 5.6 mile loop around the streets of Bromsgrove.

Average Pace: 09:37 min mile 
Elevation Gain: 331 ft
Mile 1 - 9:25, Mile 2 - 09:29, Mile 3 - 09:29, Mile 4 - 09:47, Mile 5 - 9:45

I woke up on Wednesday and thankfully the knee felt ok. Not perfect but ok. I'd kind of told myself that after my run on Tuesday that if there was any sign of it feeling worse then I'd have the difficult decision to make of resting and getting some professional help. If on the other hand it didn't feel any worse then I'd grit my teeth and get on with it, which is what I did...

I was off work on Wednesday and Thursday as Oliver had his induction week at school between 9:15 and 11:45. This gave me a couple of hours to get a short run in. With the knee in mind, I kept the run local and decided to do a hills session not far from where I live...again, dodgy knee + hill reps - I'm my own worst enemy sometimes! Nonetheless, it held up well and I actually really enjoyed it.

Average Pace: 8:54 min mile 
Elevation Gain: 305 ft
Mile 1 - 8:56, Mile 2 - 08:55, Mile 3 - 08:49, Mile 4 - 08:53

I did a double run on Thursday. I'd posted on the club Facebook page that I'd be running my usual 10k route in and around the Lickey Hills on the evening, to which a few people had agreed to join me. That was scheduled for the evening. Whilst dropping Oliver off at school on Thursday, I bumped into my mate Tom who suggested a short run whilst we were 'child free'. Sod it I thought, back-to-back running was good for the training plan. Toms not long returned from injury himself so the pace was steady and we enjoyed a really nice 3.4 mile run.

Average Pace: 11:06 min mile 
Elevation Gain: 135 ft
Mile 1 - 10:12, Mile 2 - 12:02, Mile 3 - 11:22, Mile 4 - 10:21

I met up with the Kings Heath group at 7pm in the Lickey Hills. It had been a while since I'd run the hills and really enjoyed it - although I may have gone a little off piste and got slightly 'lost'. No harm done, although by the last mile it had got dark, not helped by the shade of the tree canopy. Note to self: head torches needed on the next run!

Average Pace: 12:37 min mile
Elevation Gain: 958 ft
Mile 1 - 13:13, Mile 2 - 11:46, Mile 3 - 14:21, Mile 4 - 12:29, Mile 5 - 11:00, Mile 6 - 12:12


Sunset over the Lickey Hills 
Cheers! 

I took Friday as a rest day on the basis of running back-to-back on Thursday.

For my 40th Birthday back in May, Ian and Naomi had enrolled me on a Navigational Training Course with Due North Events in the Lake District on Saturday. The LiaD requires you to self navigate and being a city boy (I got lost in the Lickey Hills yesterday don't forget!) my navigational skills are lets say, not the best!

The course started at 9am in Pooley Bridge which meant an early start. A very early start. I'd packed my things the night before so I set the alarm for 4:30, showered, grabbed my gear and left the house just before 5am. Despite the M6 being closed for a couple of junctions, the journey up was pretty uneventful and I arrived at the meeting point for just before 9am.

I met up with the course leader, Mel (who's completed the Bob Graham Round btw! - legendary status in my eyes) and four other people who were enrolled on the course. It was a great group which made for a fun, enjoyable day. We spent the first hour indoors learning all about map reading, contours, scales, legends etc, then we went out into the fells to put it all in practice. I had an amazing day and can't recommend the course highly enough. We covered approximately 8 miles in the fells, navigating to various points, taking a baring and generally had a great time. It also gave me the confidence to be able to self navigate in the fells if needed during the LiaD.

Beautiful views over Pooley Bridge

Get 'red in the shed'



As I was up North, I'd agreed to stay at Ian's overnight and recce the last 20 miles of the LiaD route - the supposedly 'flat' section from Ambleside to Cartmel (miles 30-50 during LiaD). It was also part of the route we'd most likely be running at night in the dark so some familiarity would be essential. We'd agreed on another early start so left at 6.30 am in separate cars, both driving to Cartmel whereby we left Ian's car before driving back to Ambleside in my car as it was a linear route. We started the run at 9am. Shamelessly to say, I took some Ibruprofen to hide any knee pain and we went on our way... 

I won't go into too much detail with regards to the run as I'll do a full race report when (if) I complete it in 5 weeks time. But what I will say is that as far as navigation goes it shouldn't cause too many issues but it was far hillier than we had both expected; with just over 3,200 ft of elevation.  Plus we ran it on fresh legs. On the day we'd have already covered 30 miles with over 11,000 ft of elevation! Shit! It just goes to show the enormity of the task in hand!     





 




Post Holiday Blues and Another Injury Scare

Week 15 - Build Phase
w/c 26.08.2019

Recommended mileage: 40 miles
Actual mileage: 21 miles

I'm aware that I've not posted for a couple of weeks but I've just returned from a 2-week family holiday on the Isle of Wight and went on a social media sabbatical; which was just what I needed!

I've learnt not to underestimate family time. My boys, James (7), Oliver (5) and Thomas (2) are growing up fast and I recognise the importance of spending quality time together. Training for long distance events does eat into your spare time and as much as you try and fit in early morning runs or getting out in your lunch break, subsequently it does interfere with family life somewhat. Getting the balance right is important and holidays should be about spending quality time with the family.

As a result, I took my running gear with me to the Isle of Wight but managed to keep the runs to a minimum - with 3 runs over the two weeks.

1) - a 3.2 mile 'campsite tour' with my eldest, James, keeping me company on his bike at a nice relaxed pace.

2) - the Isle of Wight Half Marathon which I completed in 1:45 - you can see the race report, here 

3) - the Medina IOW parkrun which I got around in 23:24, finishing in 63rd position and came 8th in my age category.

Campsite tour with the little man

There were plenty of family walks though to keep the heart rate up!

I returned from the IOW on the 27th and decided to stretch the legs out with a quick run on Wednesday, with a local 4 mile hill reps session. The heavens had opened but it felt good to lace the trainers back up and kick start the LiaD training schedule, albeit on very tired legs still.

Average Pace: 09:14 min mile 
Elevation Gain: 377ft
Mile 1 - 8:53, Mile 2 - 09:07, Mile 3 - 09:21, Mile 4 - 09:29
   
Nice little hill reps session in the rain

I took Thursday as a rest day but wanted to schedule in a long run for the Friday, either before, or post work. As it happens, Friday was a fairly busy day with work and I was struggling for motivation. Some days your heart just isn't in it and running becomes a chore, the complete opposite of why we run in the first place. I'd convinced myself not to go. I switched off my computer at 4pm and was slouched on the sofa just staring at the ceiling. Ruth had taken the boys swimming and the house was empty. It was quiet. Too quiet. Sod it, I'm going for a run...

I threw some running gear on, filled my water flasks and hit the tarmac. My intention was to run my favourite 20 mile circular route, from Bromsgrove to Droitwich Spa via some scenic country lanes before returning via the Tardebigge Canal. Although hilly, it's a lovely route and is a good mixture of road and trail. Plus, if things aren't going well, there are plenty of opportunities to shorten the route if needed.

I set out at a comfortable pace. With LiaD now just 6 weeks away, I'm easing off my pace and using my heart rate monitor to ensure I'm not overexerting myself, trying to stay in zones 2 and 3 as much as possible, at 60-80% of max effort.

The first few miles were comfortable, I was averaging 9:30 mm's which were comfortably within my threshold but by mile 5 I was feeling some discomfort in my right knee. I toyed with the idea of cutting the run short, and in hindsight is what I should have done, but I continued to plod along, hoping the pain would subside as I ticked the miles off. By mile 10, I was struggling somewhat, I was hot, tired and the discomfort in my knee had not gone away. To top it all off I was also out of water.

In my rush to get out the door, I hadn't picked up my wallet so had no means to replenish my fluids. For a planned 20 mile run, this was stupid and I was beating myself up mentally about it! When you're running alone, particularly on a long canal section, you have time to think, to possibly overthink things. The reality was I was 10 miles away, with no cash, no water and a throbbing knee! Was it runners knee? Was it my IT band? Was it serious? Am I making it worse by running on it? How long should I rest it for? Will I make the start line of LiaD? I was overthinking things and rather than focusing on form and posture, all these negative things were going through my mind. I eased off the pace slightly and continued along the canal.

By mile 14 I ran passed Stoke Prior Social Club which backed on to the canal. I refilled my soft flask at the bar and ordered a pint of water. I then sat down for 20 minutes and text Ruth; just to pre-warn her that I was going to be late. As normal with Ruth, she straight away offered to come and pick me up but in my stubbornness I refused. I'd already plotted a route to come off the canal early which would save about 3 miles and by then I'd adopted a run/walk strategy. The Tardebrigge Canal contains the Tardebrigge locks, which the direction I was running meant I was running up them! I'd walk the locks, gently jog the flats.

The last 3 miles home were uncomfortable and I did my fair share of walking, especially on the few downhill sections whereby I was applying more force onto the knee. I got home, bathed, iced, massaged and rested the knee, fingers crossed it would feel ok in the morning...   

It wasn't ok. I woke up Saturday morning and immediately I was struggling to put weight on it. I hobbled around for 5 minutes and although it eased off the more I walked on it, there was definitely an underlying issue.

I came to the conclusion that I'd give it a couple of days of rest and if it's still playing up on Monday then I'd get (another) physio appointment!














  









The Sunset to Sunrise Challenge 2019

The Sunset to Sunrise Challenge had been on my radar for a number of years but had always clashed with other events. Fortunately for me, ...